Over recent years, social networking websites have become increasingly popular. According to (media.of.com, 2012) 50% of adult internet users in the UK alone have a social networking profile. These sites allow people to create their own profiles where they can display personal information, photos and even their current location. Contacts are often referred to as friends or followers. In the past users have been the targets of Identity theft, Sexual predators, Stalking, Unintentional fame and Employment Issues. This has triggered an obvious increase in the concern for the privacy and protection of user’s information. The sudden rise in popularity of these sites has come long after laws and legal framework such as the Data Protection Act was written and therefore includes no special clauses for such sites. In this report we will look at the current and proposed UK legal framework to see if there is enough in place to keep innocent users safe on Social Networking Sites.
The current UK legal framework which social networking sites must work under, are: Data Protection Act 1998
This is the main law that governs the protection of personal data in the United Kingdom. It provides individuals with a way to have control over the information about them. Anyone holding personal data for any purpose is legally obliged to abide with this law. The act outlines eight data protection principles. (ICO GOV, 2012)
In America there is a different data protection act. They and Europe have merged laws which allow US companies to transfer information to their servers. Both US and Europe came together to merge rules to form a “European Union Safe Harbour Framework” which includes the data protection act and the federal data protection act, which is used by twitter.
Computer Misuse Act 1990
This law was designed to frame legislations and controls over computer crime and fraud. It was created to: ➢
Criminalise unauthorised access to computer systems
Deter serious criminals from using a computer to assist a criminal offence
Intellectual Property Law
The intellectual property act briefly states “Intellectual Property (IP) results from the expression of an idea. Intellectual Property might be a brand, an invention, a design, a song or another intellectual creation”. This states that any user which posts their own creation to the site will be protected by the IP act.
Under the laws of most countries copyright is the legal right that protects original works of authorship such as books, music, film and art.
The Defamation Act
Defamation happens when information that is not true or information about someone that is damaging is published to a third party. This law was created to protect individuals or organisations from slander and libel. (LawTeacher, 2012)
Communications Act 2003:
This law outlines Act introduced new offences for ‘Improper use of public electronic communications network’
Malicious Communications Act 1998/Telecommunications Act 1984: This law criminalizes those who send offensive and/or threatening messages via electronic communication to another person.
Enough Protection is offered to Users
Under relatively new law (Jan 2012) all personal data, including photos, can be deleted from a social media site you belong to, at request. This law was put forward by the EU and approved to replace the “outdated” 1995 Data Protection Directive, which was made well before social media and media sharing sites became popular. Although this law was passed to protect individuals’ privacy, companies can still hold and process personal data if they prove that they have a legitimate reason to do so. The BBC (www.bbc.co.uk, 2012) quotes “…people will be able to ask for data about them to be deleted and firms will have to comply unless there are “legitimate” grounds to retain it” An example of when this law might help a person is when looking for a job. It has become increasingly common that...
Links: to these videos can then be posted on Facebook and Twitter for people to follow. The public can also comment on such Facebook and Twitter pages and this can be an important way of the police gaining feedback from a community. This is just one example but this scenario could work just as effectively for other government organisations around the UK such as the NHS and the fire services.
Not enough Protection is offered
Privacy is a highly regarded aspect of social networking websites as issues have been raised with the protection currently offered. Articles have been published about laws revolving around keeping user information protected. Therefore arguments have been brought up claiming that not enough protection is given to users. Facebook and Myspace could be seen as breaching their own terms and conditions as they share information such as user names and hometowns etc. (TechWorld, 2010), meaning that this information can be shared with third party organisations unintentionally. As technology enhances laws have not been updated regularly to ensure the safety of user information, highlighting the problem of data being slipped. (SimplyZesty, 2012). The Copyright law states that the person who has protected their creation that they have published and therefore not shared without consent of the person who originally published it. (Copyright Legislation, 1988) However, Twitter has been known to have cases, as a footballer was shown to be having an affair and that personal data was breached by twitter without consent. (The Guardian, 2011)
On the other hand, although there is not enough protection offered on social networking websites, they can’t be held fully responsible for the issues of privacy, which they bring. It can be argued that the users should be aware of what they are signing themselves up for beforehand, therefore by reading the small print. (ITU News, 2010) If they feel the website does not offer a substantial amount of protection for the personal information they, then should then make the choice on whether they still want to the join the website. Randi Yagi states, “Do members realize the consequences when they allow access to their personal information?” he further explains his estimation that, “800 million members don’t have a clue or don’t care.” (Examiner, 2011)
Websites such as Facebook continue to develop an advanced range of privacy settings which can be accessed on all pages of their website. The problem lies where people disregard adjusting their privacy settings.
According to Alexia, 7 out of the top 20 websites (worldwide) are social networks. The top three include Facebook, Twitter, and MySpace. (Alexia – Top Sites) Users are allowed to join these social networks at the age of 13, at this age users are still quite naïve. With peer pressure children are often swayed into signing up on a social networking website. This could cause them bullying, them seeing unsavoury content, them being vulnerable and giving out too much personally information to people over the Internet, security therefore needs to be overlooked in this area. (BBC Webwise, 2012) Social networking websites have recognised this and now have safe guards; this is especially designed for young children which restricts them from sharing and interacting with adults, which will provide minors with a limited experience.
In conclusion, we as a group feel that social networking websites overall lack sufficient protection for their users personal information. As these websites become more advanced, laws do not develop alongside technology to provide enough protection for users’ information. Jeremy Hunt (culture secretary) states "We need to get into a situation where regulation and legislation is up to speed with changes in technology and that we get the balance right between the rights of an individual and the rights we all cherish for freedom of expression." (The Guardian, 2012) On the other hand, social networks are not entirely to blame. These websites outline the protection that they offer to their users in the terms and conditions. But this is normally a long list of text with lots of technical information and is rarely ever read. Users feel safe that what they are agreeing to is not going to harm them or the devices they are using (viruses), especially if they are well known and trusted companies such as Facebook or Twitter, and also feel that they will keep their information suitably safe. To make improvements these sites could, consider making users more aware about privacy settings and how to protect their profiles, they should also consider raising the minimum age at when users can join their website. This should reduce the number of privacy issues that arise when people use social networking websites.
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