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Online Privacy: Facebook building Shadow Profiles, alleges complaint

October 21, 2011 0 Comments

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Ireland’s Data Protection Commissioner is investigating an alleged practice by Facebook of creating “shadow” accounts for non Facebook account holders whose personal info the social media giant allegedly sources from the internet and from other users who are encouraged to submit their friend’s phone numbers, addresses and emails. FoxNews reports:

Facebook categorically denies the allegation, but experts tell FoxNews.com that it could well be true.

Ciara O’Sullivan, a spokeswoman for Ireland’s Office of the Data Protection Commissioner, told FoxNews.com that its audit of Facebook Ireland’s privacy policies was part of a “statutory investigation” that the office anticipates will lead to immediate changes.

If true, and assuming Facebook USA pursues the same policies as its Irish branch, these allegations could have some very serious online privacy law implications. Specifically, a non-member of a shadow Facebook account could have potential causes of action against Facebook for various violations of state right to privacy and right to publicity statutes (e.g., unlicensed use of a person’s name, image or other identifying information in connection with a commercial service). This is not to mention the body of federal online privacy law an unlicensed Facebook account could potentially implicate.

Some complaint allegations:

Facebook Ireland uses many functions that are targeted at getting more information than the actual data subjects are sharing on the [Facebook Account]. Therefore Facebook Ireland collects as much information of [ Facebook account holders ] and non-users as possible. Facebook Ireland is mainly collecting e-mail addresses but it also collects names, telephone numbers, addresses or work information about its users and non-users.

Facebook Ireland uses many functions that are targeted at getting more information than the actual data subjects are sharing on the facebook platform. Therefore Facebook Ireland collects as much information of users and non-users as possible. Facebook Ireland is mainly collecting e-mail addresses but it also collects names, telephone numbers, addresses or work information about its users and non-users.

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