Privacy developments

Online privacy has been a hot topic for discussion around the blogosphere following a verdict in an American test case and the release of FaceBook Connect.

Earlier this year the EU introduced its Unfair Commercial Practices Directive, which banned activity companies from posting false or misleading information about themselves online or paying other people to do so on their behalf.  Those that break the rules face potential civil proceedings and also criminal prosecution. So far no-one has been prosecuted but as The Register pointed out a while ago it is possible that the Office of Fair Trading and Trading Standards will do so if a fake blog gets enough attention. Something along the lines of the  ‘All I want for Christmas is a PSP’ campaign from 06, would probably do the trick.

However, we can still be anonymous and make things up to our hearts’ content as private citizens, a luxury that is looking under threat in the States following a ruling in the Lori Drew MySpace trial.

In 2006, Lori Drew, a 49 year old mother from Missouri,  impersonated a 16 year old boy using a MySpace account and used it to bully a 13 year old girl who she thought had been spreading rumours about her own daughter and who eventually committed suicide. This week Drew was convicted of three misdemeanour counts of computer fraud for violating MySpace’s terms of service. The verdict still needs to stand up to appeal but as pointed out in an article on Marketing Vox, if it does then every site on the Internet has the potential to define American Criminal Law.

We are used to becoming less anonymous online, the normality of the nineties when everyone used a pseudonym has passed with the advent of Facebook, with people now less trusting if real names aren’t used. Facebook founder, Mark Zuckerburg, believes this is only the tip of the iceberg, with the amount of information people are prepared to share doubling year on year for the next two years.

Helping us on the way to sharing more, Facebook released Facebook Connect this week.  This service will allow Facebook users to use their already existing profile on an increasing number of sites, such as Discovery Channel, The San Francisco Chronicle, Geni, Hulu, and Digg. Not only will users be available to avoid the hassle of creating individual profiles on each site but they can share their off-Facebook activity with their Facebook friends, as well as inviting them to join them on the external sites, increasing social interaction on previously less social sites.

So if we’re happier to be sharing so much personal information, attached and traceable to our true identities, does it actually matter that being anonymous is a crime?

Cross posted from Clicking and Screaming

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