Facebook may strike 20 year privacy deal

Picture of the Facebook logoFacebook has been talking to the Federal Trade Commission in the US about its privacy policies and it looks as though it may be about to announce some sort of deal.

So how come no country except America gets a say in a corporate policy that's likely to affect so many people internationally?
Reassuringly it sounds pretty stringent. Essentially Facebook appears to have agreed to annual FTC inspections for the next two decades, inspections which will take in policies and how they are put into practice.

Diffr'ent strokes for diff'rent blokes

This should satisfy a lot of the people in America who have been concerned with what the company has proposed to do with their information for quite a while now. America isn't the only territory whose Facebook members have had concerns but of course as it's an American company that's the territory that's going to make a difference.

What would be really useful would be some sort of campaign by Facebook or its friends - or even foes - to alert other countries to some of the laws peculiar to the US in terms of data, and indeed some of the practices which are asking for trouble whether they're part of Facebook policy or not.

In terms of laws the Patriot Act is the one to watch most carefully. This means that if there is any suspicion of terrorism, the US authorities may insist on a company handing data over for inspection and evaluation. This is likely to apply to anything you've put on Facebook as the company has its servers in the US. Anyone looking to store any data in cloud computing installations needs to check where the information is going if it's going to be subject to the UK's Data Protection Act, which doesn't allow for this sort of handing over of information. There's a direct clash.

Alarming amounts of people are still putting loads of information online which makes identity theft easy, though, without the help of the Authorities on either side of the Atlantic. Huge amounts of people put their dates of birth, 'friend' their parents and add their location. Home, age, mother's maiden name - you can see how easy it would be to fake some sort of credit card application with those pieces of information.

And just don't get me started about people who Tweet or announce in their Facebook updates that they're on holiday then get home to find they've been burgled.
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