User Agreement/Site Policies- these do cover elements of
potential concern, as it is up to Facebook to enforce the policies.
With the large amount of personal information available on Facebook pages,
the issue of privacy has become increasingly important. On top
of the information listed above, status updates often
communicate more information than their author intends.
Users often post statuses about upcoming vacations or
weekend trips. As a result, other users with less than pure
motives know when houses are left empty. Combine that with a
home address or home phone number being available and the
recipe for a robbery is complete. Facebook has recently
announced plans to further expand its internal messaging
system to include an email platform. Concerns quickly popped
up throughout the internet, with many people questioning the
wisdom of allowing Facebook access to the even more
sensitive information contained in personal emails.
Use of Facebook by Schools and Universities:
1) Schools and universities have used the information found
on students’ Facebook pages as grounds for disciplinary
action and suspension. Understandably, this has caused a
great amount of controversy. Schools assert their freedom to
use information that is readily found on the internet, while
students claim that using private pages made in their free
time as a part of discipline is a violation of privacy.
2) A Chicago-area student was suspended for starting a
Facebook group for people that disliked a certain teacher at
their school and calling the teacher derogatory names. Even
after taking the page down, the school proceeded to punish
3) A Missouri student was suspended for posting mean
remarks about another student that resulted in a fight,
claiming that they broke the district rules against
4) Four New Zealand students were suspended for
negative remarks made about a teacher on Facebook.
5) A similar situation took place in India, where
sixteen students were suspended for derogatory remarks about
a teacher on Facebook.
Use of Facebook for Employment or in Litigation
1. It is unethical for lawyers to gain access to protected
social network profiles through deception in order to gather
information about unrepresented parties (New York City Bar Ass'n
Comm. on Professional and Judicial Ethics, Formal Op. 2010-2,
2. 45% of employers reported using Facebook and other social
networking sites to check out job candidates before making a
While 18% said this helped convince them to hire the
candidate, 35% said some of the content resulted in the
candidate not being hired.
3. Vault.com found that 39% have looked up current employees
4. Lawyers have warned that this could lead to discrimination
There is some concern that Facebook is outing homosexual
users to advertisers.
Some states have laws prohibiting employers from
discriminating against job candidates based on what they do in
their personal time. Source:
Germany has passed a law that prohibits employers from taking
part in this activity.
3rd Party Advertising/Applications
1. Electronic Communications Privacy Act (ECPA): 18 U.S.C. §
Protects electronic communications and imposes penalties for
unlawful access; also prohibits the government from
requiring disclosure of electronic communications with out
undergoing the proper procedures
2. Federal Trade Commission Act (FTCA): 15 U.S.C § 45: prohibits
unfair or deceptive acts or practices.
1. Can apply to the way in which Facebook and third
parties advertise and get sales.
2. Most states have similar laws.
Cases on Privacy
1. Lane v. Facebook, Inc.
Filed in 2008 and
later settled; information about user activity in third party
applications was being published in user news feeds; as a
result, Facebook set up a digital trust fund to study online
Link to settlement agreement:
2. Swift v. Zynga (CV-09-5443)
: Filed in Nov. 2009; class action
suit naming Zynga and Facebook alleging that deceptive ads were
shown in the third-party games operated by Zynga.
3. Graf v. Zynga
(CV-10-4680): Filed in October 2010; class
action suit alleging that Zynga collected and sold personal
information to advertisers and Internet tracking firms in
the group that operates Farmville, Mafia Wars, and FrontierVille.
4. On Oct. 26, 2010, Sen. Jay Rockefeller sent a letter to Mark
Zuckerburg asking for more information about a privacy leak
reported in the Wall Street Journal, which related to the
5. David Cohen v. Facebook
In this case, the plaintiffs argue that there have been over one
million instances where book has misappropriated a minors’
name or likeness for profit. Plaintiffs accuse Facebook of using
information gained from the “like” button for financial gain,
and argue that the company must get parental consent before
using the “like” preferences of minors.