15 August 2011

Changes in LinkedIn privacy settings relating to social advertising

I found out today that LinkedIn has changed its privacy settings relating to social advertising without notice. Basically, the default setting for social advertising allows LinkedIn to use the name and picture of LinkedIn users in adverts and promotions. 

You can opt out of this by applying the following steps:

1. In the right corner, select 'Settings' under your name
2. Go to 'Account' and select 'Manage Social Advertising'
3. Disable the box which states 'LinkedIn may use my name & photo in social advertising'

It never ceases to surprise me how sneakily social media platforms such as Facebook change their privacy settings without notifying their users whose data becomes visible to all and sundry until they become aware of this!! Opting out of any changes to the privacy settings of social media platforms should be the default position rather than the converse!

20 July 2011

Beyond RIPA, privacy and hacking: the ramifications of the hacking enquiry by the UK Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee

Yesterday was the day eagerly awaited by all of us following the News Inc phone hacking scandal.
The UK Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee ('the Select Committee') had the difficult task of conducting an inquiry in a case that is still under police investigation. This can, of course, close certain avenues for questioning but could still have been an important forum to ask the key figures caught into the recent phone hacking scandal the key questions. Disappointingly apart from the very good lines of questioning by Tom Watson and Louise Mensch, the rest of the Select Committee failed to pin down the evasive, long-winded answers and the non-answers. But this was perhaps to be expected in many ways. The forthcoming judge-led inquiry and current police investigation will shed more light on the ins and outs of the scandal and whether the current state of affairs is merely the tip of the iceberg or as bad as it will get.

As a lawyer, I am, of course very interested to find out the legal ramifications of any breaches of RIPA 2000 and privacy which will be uncovered in the coming months.  Incidentally, the Guardian provides a quick guide to the RIPA regulatory framework on hacking. Additionally, the evidence given by the Murdochs reveals a wider issue of corporate governance at News International as many crucial actions (e.g. payments of large sums of money, payment of the legal fees of Mulcaire, alleged hacking) fell under the radar of those who are at the very top of the company. To what extent can such vague answers such as 'payments were not within my remit' (a la Rebekah Brooks) or 'I was not aware of this' (in Murdoch senior`s softer tone) or 'this is an interesting question but...' (a la James Murdoch) show that the senior executives at News International exercised the proper level of care required? As much as this scandal has revealed the inextricable links between the various institutions invovled, it has also highlighted that the phone hacking scandal goes much further than RIPA, privacy and Jude Law.

22 March 2011

The right to oblivion in a Facebook world!

I attended the very instructive seminar organised by the Westminster Media Forum today on privacy, social media platforms and the right to be forgotten. The idea of the 'right to be forgotten' has been promoted by Viviene Reding (VP of the EU Commission) recently and has attracted a number of strong and diversion reactions (e.g. Tessa Mayes` recent article on the subject in the Guardian).

There were a number of key actors from different provenance in the hot seat today at the WMF to discuss this very issue such as the Information Commissioner (Christopher Graham), privacy experts such as Caspar Bowden (Microsoft) and Georgina Nelson (Which?), academics such as Dr Chris Pounder, and interested parties such as Jim Killock (ORG) and Tessa Mayes. The full list of speakers can be found here.

Three crucial points emerged from the discussion in my view. Firstly,  privacy (or rather the expectation of privacy) is very much contingent of the specific setting (i.e. the specific SNS) and its technological capabilities (e.g. is the privacy expectation in Twitter the same as the privacy expectation in Facebook?). A second important point emerging from the seminar is the commodification of data and the impact of data monetisation on privacy expectations (i.e. users are foregoing their data for the benefit of enjoying free access to all the services offered by SNS). Finally, the old issue of education surfaced and many speakers argued that a key component of the solution to the privacy issues raised by SNS rested on educating users about privacy issues in SNS (i.e. what should their expectation be? how can they protect their privacy efficiently etc).

CyberPanda thinks that there is a lot of merit in the idea of a right to be forgotten. On a theoretical level, it puts the 'power' (term used loosely here) back in the hands of the users who have more than a mere right to object to data processing and places more evidential burdens on data controllers. However on a practical level, this raises many issues including the old issue of how to enforce EU laws against a US-based company, and also whether the right to be forgotten is enough to deal comprehensively with the whole array of issues raised by SNS (e.g. what is the expectation of privacy for data which the data controller can prove that it needs?).