Facebook privacy lawsuit ‘a jumbled mess’

Parts of a new privacy lawsuit filed against Facebook earlier this week represent a lack of understanding of how social networks such as Facebook work, as well as how best to protect children and adults online, writes CNET blogger and internet safety expert Larry Magid. "I’m especially baffled by the allegation that Facebook violated the rights of an 11-year-old child because he disclosed that he had swine flu," Magid writes. The complaint says the child has a Facebook account that was opened without his parents’ knowledge or consent. He allegedly posted personal information, videos, and photographs, including the fact that he had swine flu. Upon learning of his account, the child’s parents removed the medical condition postings but "have been unable to learn where the minor’s medical information may have been stored, disseminated, or sold by Facebook." "I don’t know where to begin parsing young Xavier’s case," Magid writes. "First, by simply having a Facebook account, he was violating Facebook’s terms of service. And why did his parents only remove ‘the minor’s medical information?’ They should have deleted his entire account. … Facebook makes reasonable efforts to remove accounts of children where there is evidence they are under 13, but it’s not possible to catch every violator of these terms, and its attempts to validate the ages of members are consistent with industry practices. While it could be argued that [Facebook] should be using some type of age-verification technology, an exhaustive investigation of those technologies by the Harvard Berkman Center led the Internet Safety Technology Task Force (of which I was a member) determined that such technologies, at the current time, are neither effective nor necessarily desirable…"

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