Privacy concerns, as I discussed in my previous post, are plaguing both Facebook and the broader 2.0 web technology ecosphere it casts a shadow over. Now the latest attempts by Facebook to unlock the value in your information is meeting legal resistance.
The Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC), joined by nine privacy and consumer organizations, today filed a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) charging that Facebook’s recent changes to user privacy settings violate federal consumer protection law.
EPIC claims that recent changes to User privacy settings are unfair and deceptive: Larry Dignan covers the details here on ZDNet. This move is likely to be the first serious big scale legal action around privacy and your rights to your information online. The European Union has various pieces of legislation moving through process designed to protect your rights online which are likely to have repercussions on use of your data online by your employer.
In a perfect world you'd grant access to your personal information to an online service or your employer, and be free to revoke it at any time. We currently have the reverse with consumers populating Facebook and similar collaboration work environments and intranets with personal material. If you're laid off from your job and told to leave within 3 minutes, with your work life in a cardboard box, that physical container doesn't hold all the digital assets you leave behind.
You can leave with your Simon Cowell speaking figurine and photographic prints of your colleagues but not the intellectual property you contributed in wikis or the digital photos you uploaded to your workplace environment. Once your user name and password are revoked you've lost access to your online identity at your former employer.
Facebook is a social life equivalent that could go to those extremes if it closed down commercially, but otherwise we assume our artifacts will continue to exist inside our free space within their world. (Although this hilarious Onion skit on folks leaving Friendster like an abandoned civilization for pastures new is pretty much what happens to last year's favorite social playgrounds).
We are living through the golden age of the internet, with free content which used to be both hard to obtain and expensive available within seconds - digital video and mp3 audio being obvious examples. We love this accessibility but get upset when our stuff isn't where we left it or being looked at by other people without our understood permission.
Legislation is usually a few years behind innovation - just look at Microsoft vs European Union as a result of the browser wars. This Facebook complaint could be the start of much deeper legal efforts internationally to protect your online identity and rights at work and play.