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Faculty of Law at Queen’s University in Kingston, Ont., who is
working with the Office of the
Privacy Commissioner to create
privacy guidelines for federal government departments and agencies regarding the collection of
Canadians’ personal information
on the Internet.
“When a company enters a
contract with new companies, it’s
got to ensure they abide by its
Facebook to enter into a binding
contract with third-party app
providers to ensure they don’t
violate the privacy rights of Can-
adian users and Canadian law
compels them to do just that.”
The Wall Street Journal inves-
tigation found that three of the
top 10 apps on Facebook — includ-
ing Zynga Game Network Inc.’s
FarmVille, where the estimated
59 million users can simulate the
growing of crops and other farm-
ing activities — have been sending
users’ IDs and personal informa-
tion about users’ friends to other
companies. One of those, data-
gathering firm RapLeaf Inc., had
linked Facebook user ID informa-
tion obtained from apps to its
own Internet-user database,
which it sells, according to the
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has limited powers under PIPEDA
and essentially uses them to
“shame companies into better
behaviour.” But if that tactic
doesn’t work, Stoddart could go to
the Federal Court, which could
issue an injunction or perhaps a
fine against a company found to
have breached Canada’s privacy
law governing the private sector.
Still, even that route might not
bear fruit since it is unclear
whether the Federal Court can
apply such sanctions against businesses outside Canada, explained
Cockfield, a J.S.D. graduate from
Stanford University in Palo Alto,
Calif., who from 1999 to 2001 ran
an online privacy-technology
company called TechSublime.
com, in Mountain View, Calif.
and San Diego, where he also
taught privacy law at the Thomas
Jefferson School of Law.
“The only way social networks
and other Internet media will
change their behaviour is if they
take a hit to their bottom line,” he
said. “But the user base keeps
expanding and the money keeps
flowing in from ad dollars that are
mainly responsible for their prof-
its, so there’s no economic incen-
tive for them to change...As users,
we have to look at our behaviour.
We hear about these privacy scan-
dals and are upset for a brief per-
iod of time. But most people don’t
delete their Facebook accounts or
stop doing Google searches,
which are recorded permanently.”
In October, Stoddart said that
Mountain View-based Google
Inc. contravened PIPEDA when
its Street View cars “inappropri-
ately” collected (using a code inte-
grated into software used to
gather Wi-Fi signals) such highly
sensitive personal information as
emails, usernames, passwords,
and even names of people
suffering from certain medical
conditions, along with their
phone numbers and addresses
from unsecured wireless net-
works that likely affected thou-
sands of Canadians. She gave
Google until Feb. 1 to implement
her recommendations, which
include designating one or more
individuals responsible for pri-
vacy issues and for complying
with the organization’s privacy
obligations required under Can-
ada’s privacy law.
However, as Cockfield pointed
out in the case of Facebook, its past
initiatives to bolster privacy haven’t,
at times, been user-friendly.
“They’ve come up with sneaky
ways to make it harder for you to
configure their privacy settings,
but make it easier for them to
generate revenues by selling personal or quasi-personal information to third-party advertising
companies...The tension is that
we want stuff for free. Yet the only
reason we’re getting it is that it’s
making money for companies like