Privacy lost or privacy found? Assessing social media sites

The implications for your privacy of posting personal information on social media Web sites like Facebook will be discussed in a class lecture by guest speaker Janet Lo tomorrow, March 11, from 12:45 to 2pm in Stedman Lecture Hall F.

Lo is legal counsel with the Public Interest Advocacy Centre, a Canadian not-for-profit organization that provides legal and research services on behalf of consumer interests.

In the past five years, online social networking sites have become massively popular. Internet users are subscribing to Facebook to keep in touch with friends and voice political views, teens are signing up to Nexopia to find new ways for self-expression and avatars in Second Life are created every day to participate in a virtual world.

With users posting intimate personal details, the business models of these sites are predicated on the sharing of personal information for commercial data banks and targeted advertisements, prompting critics to ask whether privacy has been lost. The privacy practices of social networks, primarily Facebook, have sparked scrutiny by privacy regulators, who are attempting to bring social networking practices into compliance with current privacy law. Is this a sign of privacy found?

Lo’s work focuses on the consumer interest in telecommunications and privacy law. Her most recent publication discusses Internet tracking of online consumers. In 2008, she published a report titled “Second Life: Privacy in Virtual Worlds” commissioned by the Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada.

Additional visitors are welcome to this regularly scheduled natural science class, but space is limited.