Monday, November 12, 2007

Facebook, Social ads and the Data Protection Act 1998

There has been a lot of discussion centred on the facebook social ads and the likely privacy implications arising from this:

FACEBOOK wants to put your face on advertisements for products that you like.

Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook’s founder, discussed his company’s social advertising plan with marketers in New York.

Marko Georgiev for The New York Times is a social networking site that lets people accumulate “friends” and share preferences and play games with them. Each member creates a home page where he or she can post photographs, likes and dislikes and updates about their activities.

Yesterday, in a twist on word-of-mouth marketing, Facebook began selling ads that display people’s profile photos next to commercial messages that are shown to their friends about items they purchased or registered an opinion about.

Source: Story, L. Facebook is marketing your brand preferences

Question: What about the Data Protection Act 1998?

What is absent from the debate is the extent to which individuals in the UK can use the Data Protection Act 1998 to request that Facebook do not use such information without their consent:

s 11 of the Data Protection Act 1998 (on the Right to Prevent Processing for Purposes of Direct Marketing) provides that:

(1) An individual is entitled at any time by notice in writing to a data controller to require the data controller at the end of such period as is reasonable in the circumstances to cease, or not to begin, processing for the purposes of direct marketing personal data in respect of which he/she is the data subject.

(2) If the Court is satisfied, on the application of any person who has given a notice under subsection (1), that the data controller has failed to comply with the notice, the court may order him to take such steps for complying with the notice as the court thinks fit.

In other words, you are entitled to request from Facebook that your profile is not used for the purposes of the Social Ads.

What about the Data Protection Principles?

There is the question whether facebook is adhering to the second data protection principle under the UK Data Protection Act 1998 that 'personal data shall be obtained only if one or more specified and lawful purposes, and shall not be further processed in any manner incompatible with that purpose or those purposes.' In other words, the user's name or image for marketing is beyond the purpose for which social networking was intended to be used. Further information can also be found on the UK ICO website.

More can be written on the application of the Data Protection Act to social networking websites, but this will have to be another article at some point. So, why wait, start complaining and exercise your data protection rights!

For more on the privacy implications arising from social networking, see also:

No comments: