- According to the official Facebook blog, its users now have greater control over how much of their personal information is disclosed to developers of applications that are available on the social networking site, such as games and quizzes. The changes were made in response to complaints from users, civil rights groups, and government agencies. Last July, Jennifer Stoddart, Canada’s Privacy Commissioner, released a report accusing Facebook of violating the country’s Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act (PIPEDA). PIPEDA requires consent to collect personal information and states that such information can be used only for the purposes for which it was collected. The American Civil Liberties Union also has advocated for restrictions on the ability of applications to access users’ personal information. In response, Facebook now allows applications to access only the personal information that users consent to disclose, and users also have the option to completely disable the site’s application function, known as Platform.
- In a lawsuit brought by the family of a student who allegedly was spied on through a school-provided webcam, a group of parents is siding with a Pennsylvania school district in opposition to the family’s motion for class certification. The lawsuit evolved from a Lower Merion School District initiative to provide students with laptop computers as a way of ensuring that they have 24/7 access to school-based resources. The case, filed in February 2010 in the US District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, alleges that the school district remotely activates the webcams in the laptops to conduct surveillance of students when they are out of school. The alleged surveillance came to light in November 2009, when the assistant principal of Harriton High School told a student that the school district believed he had engaged in improper behavior at home, allegedly citing a photograph from his webcam as evidence. The lawsuit alleges that the school district is able to capture and view images of anything that is happening in the room where the computer is located, without the laptop users’ knowledge or permission. In June 2010 the plaintiffs filed a motion for class certification, seeking to represent high school students in the school district and their families who were provided with a webcam-equipped computer from 2008 to 2009. The case is Robbins, et al. v. Lower Merion School District, et al., No. 10-0665 (E.D. Pa.).
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