Landing : Athabascau University

Michael Geist: "Social Media Privacy Fears Are Legit, Let's Act"

The House of Commons Committee on Ethics, Accountability and Privacy recently launched a major new study into the privacy concerns raised by popular social media sites. The study promises to canvass a wide range of perspectives as elected officials grapple with emerging privacy issues and consider whether the current legal framework provides sufficient protection.

Canadians are among the most active social media users in the world, yet the growing reliance on sites such as Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Google+ has generated unease with the privacy implications of massive data collection. I was invited to appear before the committee last week and used my time to identify four areas in need of action.


  • While I consider C-30 a costly and unacceptable intrusion into Canadians privacy I disagree with Geist's third point. Social networking sites as used today are effectively semi-public or public spaces, really little different than the bar with a cover charge. After choosing to share something with the first 500,000 people can it really be private information? If law enforcement or businesses wish to analyze the data consumers provide the social media company I am all for it. Just keep out of regular internet traffic and email unless there is a warrant.

    Eric von Stackelberg June 7, 2012 - 10:14am

  • I think it would be risky to generalize too far how people use social media publicly. When Facebook emerged, privacy was one of its key selling points - even if they've opened it with every successive policy and tech update since. Privacy remains a key resource and principle for much of what happens here in the Landing. Cognizant that the user of for-profit social media services (e.g. Facebook) is the commodity, I think it's still important to conscientiously practice - and exercise the right to - privacy in the use of services that purport to protect it. On which grounds I would oppose the police or corporate surveillance and analysis of ostensibly private social media user content - so much of which is shared in good faith on pretexts of privacy even if it ends up public - as vigorously as I would that of email.

    To translate the point in terms of the face-to-face scene you offer as analogy: I don't want to pay the cover charge to a party only to find the place full of police. I've been there. It's a vibe killer.

    Mark A. McCutcheon June 8, 2012 - 3:03pm

  • I do not believe you can compare the reach of 3K-5K (eg. Landing) versus hundreds of millions (eg. Linkedin or Facebook) of users when talking about privacy. In the F2F scene the expectations of privacy in a private house party versus bar with cover versus big valley jamboree are different. From my perspective the boundaries and scope should be set by reach (eg. target audience) rather than technology (eg. social networking systems) because changing applications of the technology change the requirements for privacy.

    As for specific examples I believe a warrant should be required for the Landing, but not for Facebook or Linkedin not because any are less social networking systems but because of the reach based on the user base.

    Eric von Stackelberg June 9, 2012 - 12:41pm

These comments are moderated. Your comment will not be visible unless accepted by the content owner.

Only simple HTML formatting is allowed and any hyperlinks will be stripped away. If you need to include a URL then please simply type it so that users can copy and paste it if needed.