Careful Communication and Proper Use of Computers

Facebook Champions Social Change Regarding Organ Donation

Facebook has revealed a plan “to encourage everyone on Facebook to start advertising their donor status on their pages, along with their birth dates and schools”. According to organ donation experts, the move could create an informal alternative to motor vehicle departments or online registries and “could, even though it carries less legal weight, lead to more organ donations”, reports The New York Times. Reportedly, Facebook intends to introduce the change in the United States as well as the United Kingdom and “plans to add it in several other countries in the coming months”. Donate Life California chief executive Charlene Zettel reportedly opined that “[i]f people were to declare themselves organ donors on Facebook … it might simplify and hasten the decision for families to approve a donation”, but added that “[w]e do not want people to feel that all they have to do is put their decision to donate on Facebook. We really need to encourage people to go to their state registry”.

The New York Times: Facebook Is Urging Members to Add Organ Donor Status (1 May 2012)
(Source: The New York Times)

Interactive Website Fails to Test for Security Leak
Europe, Middle East and Africa

The UK Information Commissioners Office (ICO) has found that Toshiba Information Systems (UK) has breached the Data Protection Act 1998.  The ICO stated that the personal details of individuals registered for an online competition on the company’s website were accessible due to a security flaw. The information included names, addresses and dates of birth, along with contact information. The ICO found that the measures put in place by Toshiba were insufficient “to detect that a Web design error had been made by a third party developer”. ICO head of enforcement Stephen Eckersley urged “UK organisations with interactive websites to make sure they have suitable checks in place before collecting peoples’ details online”. Toshiba has made an undertaking (undated) which includes “the introduction of appropriate and proportionate data security testing on relevant Web applications before they are launched”.

ICO’s media release (17 April 2012)
(Source: ICO;

Privacy and Data Protection Complaints Against Facebook

The Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada (OPCC) has made available the following findings (all dated 4 April 2012) in relation to complaints made against Facebook under the Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act:

  • 2012-002, regarding Facebook’s failure to obtain consent to use email addresses to suggest friends;
  • 2011-005, regarding Facebook’s authentication practices; and
  • 2011-006, regarding whether Facebook shared personal information with other sites.

Of these complaints, the first was found to be well-founded. According to Privacy Commissioner Jennifer Stoddart, “[p]rivacy must be built in at the front-end, not added after the fact in response to negative reactions from individual users and data protection authorities”. However, despite some failings, Facebook has generally improved upon its privacy considerations over the past few years, said Ms Stoddart.
OPCC’s media release #1 (4 April 2012)
OPCC’s media release #2 (4 April 2012)
(Source: OPCC)

Wall Street Firms Adapting for Safer Use of Social Media

Wall Street firms are beginning to wade into the somewhat choppy waters of social media. In order to comply with securities regulations, most of these firms block their employees from using their personal accounts on social media sites like Twitter and Facebook while at work and from accessing their personal email accounts. However, in order to access the marketing opportunity these sites present, some companies are turning to outside firms to help them utilize these tools while also complying with applicable securities regulations. Companies like Socialware provide software that allows companies within the financial industry to store pre-written content, archive posted messages, and enable compliance departments to review postings. Socialware counts among its clients the insurance company Guardian Life, asset manager AllianceBernstein and the financial advisor Morgan Stanley Smith Barney. It has not been easy for companies to monitor postings on sites designed to distribute information at such a fast pace. Regulators have already brought charges against individuals in the securities industry based on their Twitter and LinkedIn postings. Still, companies are moving forward with using social media as a tool. Banks like Deutsche Bank and Wells Fargo have begun to allow limited groups of employees to communicate through social media outlets.

New York Times: On Wall St., Keeping a Tight Rein on Twitter (21 March 2012)
(Source: New York Times)

Users Sue Google Over “Misleading” Privacy Policy Change

Bloomberg reports that Google customers are suing the company, claiming that they were deceived by Google’s new privacy rules. The complaint reportedly states that the class action represents “people who held Google accounts and mobile phones powered by its Android operating system from [19 August 2004] to until after 1 March 2012] when the new privacy policy went into effect”. The complaint reportedly alleges that the changes in policy “violates Google’s prior privacy policies, which deceived and misled consumers by stating that Google would not utilize information provided by a consumer in connection with his or her use of one service, with any other service, for any reason, without the user’s consent”. The plaintiffs are reportedly  seeking “damages for the alleged deception, as well as for alleged violation of the Computer Fraud Abuse Act and Stored Electronic Communications Act“.

Bloomberg: Google customers sue over changes to privacy policy rules (22 March 2012)
(Source: Bloomberg)