Facebook faces accusations of 22 privacy violations

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The social networking site has been hit by a legal complaint that claims it has failed to gain users' permission to distribute their information.

Canadian legal professionals have filed a complaint against Facebook,
accusing the social networking site of 22 separate privacy violations.

The 35-page document from CIPPIC, the Canadian Internet Policy and
Public Interest Clinic, based at the University of Ottawa, alleges
numerous privacy failures. They believe Facebook violates the Canadian
Personal Information Protection and Electronic Document Act (PIPEDA).

"Social networking online is a growing phenomenon," said CIPPIC's
director Philippa Lawson. "It is proving to be a tremendous tool for
community building and social change, but at the same time, a minefield
of privacy invasion."

Lisa Feinberg, a law student at the University, who is behind the
complaint, said: "We're concerned that Facebook is deceiving its users.
Facebook promotes itself as a social utility, but it's also involved in
commercial activities like targeted advertising."

CIPPIC's complaint argues that Facebook fails to inform members how
their information is disclosed to third parties for advertising and
other profit-making purposes. It also argues that the site has failed
to obtain permission from members for such uses of their personal

Facebook accused CIPPIC of making "serious" errors. "We pride ourselves
on the industry-leading controls we offer users over their personal
information," said a company spokesperson. "We've reviewed the
complaint and found it has serious factual errors - most notably its
neglect of the fact that almost all Facebook data is willingly shared
by users. The complaint also misinterprets PIPEDA in a manner that
would effectively forbid voluntary online sharing of information and
ignores key elements of Facebook's privacy policy and architecture. We
look forward to working with [Privacy] Commissioner [Jennifer] Stoddart
to set the record straight and will continue our ongoing efforts to
educate users and the public around privacy controls on Facebook."

Lawson said CIPPIC chose to concentrate on Facebook because it is the
largest social networking site in Canada, but that later it would
probably turn its attention to MySpace. Canada contains Facebook's
third largest user base after the US and the UK.

Canada's Privacy Commissioner will now hear the complaint, and could
take up to one year to report her findings. Stoddart often prefers
negotiation to resolve disputes, but can seek court injunctions if
negotation fails.

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