Social networking is great. But when you find your personal Facebook photos of your friends staring at you in an ad, that's taking it a bit too far.
CTV, one of Canada's largest television broadcasters, launched a multimedia rich website for the Olympic Winter games being held in Vancouver. On its website are two links to Facebook. One is random on an advertising bar that lets you click on which brings up a pop-up window asking you if you want to invite your friends to use CTV's Fan Page regarding coverage of the Olympic Games. That seems pretty straightforward and allows users to 'Opt-in' at their elective and appears to comply with Canadian Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act (PIPEDA).
But then things fall apart. If a user of the website clicks on the navigation bar on the main website page, say TEAM Canada, on the bottom right hand section of the new page for Team Canada is another FACEBOOK Fan page. But this time it shows 5 different images of people that are users of Facebook. Stunningly, 3 of the images were REAL friends of mine that I link to via Facebook. I was not logged into Facebook at the time of visiting the Olympic website. Did a browser cookie tip CTV and Facebook help the website profile my view of the site? If so, that would seem to fly in the face the key findings report of the Privacy Commissioner's report (CPPIC) and is so new, how did Facebook ignore compliance requirements tabled in section 3, Page 28 of the report?
Three of my Facebook friends appear in this ad. Name and faces intentionally blurred to protect user
I emailed my friends that showed up on the CTV site and asked them if they authorized or consented to their picture and first name being used on CTV's website - the answer from all three was a resounding no. And it gets more complicated. Two of my friends are based in the U.S. and one in Canada. One of is considering legal action and has had enough of Facebook abusing its users.
But wait! That's not all! (As seen on TV!) and perhaps NOT stunning anyone, CTV should have also known better. Their news organization was one of the media outlets that have extensively covered Facebook and how Facebook violated Canadian Privacy Law and misuses customer data as recently as January 18th, just one month prior to the start of the Winter Olympic games and had knowledge as far back as July of last year, when the report was released by the Privacy Commission.
In 2009, Jeniffer Stoddart, Canada's Privacy Commissioner, launched an investigation into Facebook's Privacy policies. Facebook agreed to come into compliance and said it would take up to a year to ensure that recommendations contained it is Finding's Report would be implemented and adhered to.
That was July of 2009. It took into account several complex issues involving Facebook software partners and internal Facebook team education on what impacts it would have on Facebook's services offered to Canadians. Someone in sales appears not to have received the memo and engineering and marketing seem to have not been informed.
I spoke to Ann-Marie Hayden, spokesmanperson for the Office of the Privacy Commission of Canada, and walked through how CTV has set up its Olympic website. Unfortunately, she could not offer specific comment on its use of Facebook. The commission requires an complaint to be submitted prior to it investigating it or the Privacy Commissioner can act on her own mandate. Commissioner Stoddart was unavailable for comment.
Perhaps executives at CTV and Facebook should use Google's Buzz service, that way, they'll be sure to be updated regularly whether they like it or not. It's likely that executives at Google and Facebook will be getting phone calls from north of the border soon. Is my Facebook page something for all to see and use as they wish?