Tuesday, July 17, 2007

And more facebook..

So what does everyone think of this story?


Leaving aside whether Oxford should or should not have conceivably antiquated rules forbidding students from celebrating (oh f'heavens sake!), who is most in the wrong here?

Should the girl who has been caught have checked to make sure her Facebook "privacy" settings actually stopped everyone seeing her pix of drunken devastation? One assumes, as my colleague Technollama has pointed out, that she did not necessarily reasonably have to know she was under surveillance - if she had joined the Oxford University network, then anyone else in that network (which I suspect, though do not know for sure, would embrace anyone who signed up with an ox.ac.uk email address, student or staff)would be able to see all her posts, contacts, photos, etcf etc - even if they were not known to her as a "Friend". To exclude that surveillance, she would have to have taken explicit privacy steps which anecdotally few people (particularly maths and philosopy graduates:) on Facebook seem aware.

Or to look at it another way; were her "reasonably expectations" of privacy met?

Should Facebook themselves have offered privacy to my-Friends-Only as the default, not leaving it up to the sense of people who think sparying each other with champagne and flour is the height of wit?

Should info gathered on Facebook in such circumstances be regarded as de jure "private" and therefore inadmissable as evidence (like evidence gathered in private houses when police break in without a warrant) - or is that as silly as saying that if the proctors had seen flour battles in the street they shouldn't have been able to use the evidence of their own eyes? Should evidence from facebook be not used, rather as insurnace companies have been asked not to use evidence of genetic testing? But what about a comparison to the case of people who are sacked from their jobs because they say daft things about their employers on their blogs? it seems difficult to disticnguish the two types of case.

If pictures existed on her site which showed the flour/champagne battles, is it so res ipsa loquitur that to talk of privacy and evidence and default settings is just silly and she should take her lumps?

Is Facebook a "private" or "public" space??

I think this is going to be my paper for the Berlin Law and Society Conference next week.It's meant to be on privacy and security but hell, I'm sure I can twists it round :)

1 comment:

Andrew said...

The Internet Crime Forum published a paper on the public/private boundary on the Internet in September 2005. The context of that was various offences such as ticket touting that can only take place in a "public space" and also what regulatory requirements applied to police investigations. But the survey of the legal situation is more general. See:

The conclusion seems to be that in the US the situation is reasonably clear (and not favourable to the student - p.23) but in the UK it's likely to be left as a question of fact for the jury.