Social Network Users Rights & Responsibilites largely overlooked by many online

posted 18 Dec 2010, 13:06 by Jess Maher   [ updated 10 Jan 2011, 00:21 ]
At least in my experience, many of us in today's reality do not even read or look at the terms & conditions we are in effect agreeing to anytime someone goes about registering a profile or account on any social medium or other web service. What many appear to overlook is just how real and relevant the fact that by doing so, one is actually signing away rights to thier own information instantly.
While some people may agree to have recognised this fact, usually the assumption is that the primary concern in doing so is that personal information submitted on such sites will be used for marketing or promotional purposes. But the reality is that these kinds of assumptions are largely demonstrating the naievity repeatedly being demonstrated in the behaviour & understandings of many internet and social networking site users worldwide. 
Facebook is again in this respect, one of the worst offenders of the many unethical and unregulated offences which some are experiencing or perceiving in the social media world, this label they have been branded with may be slightly unfair I am coming to find even to my own surprise as I consider this issue more closely. While Facebook straight out and blatantly claim outright ownership over the information and data put out there either about you, to you or from you, and this may not be seen as an acceptable approach by many, at least they are making it clear where they leave you to stand, so to speak. With many others it is very unclear and ambiguous for the majority of the time. 

This is not unlike any other unregulated industry or area of society, this kind of lack of standard process or any agreeable concept or ideas of what would be considered a "best practice" kind of behavior from players. At some point the bounds of ethical and reasonable behavior becomes clouded and murky and the interests of powerful individuals or organisations might not coincide with what is seen as best for the good of the overall community or group. This is not the only time society has had this kind of issue or unresolved conflict of interests, and of course it won't be the last either but that is a little bit of a cop out to not answer just on that basis. 

Sometimes the hardest things in life can be the most rewarding, just as I think we could all find would be the same when we are considering the toughest questions to answer. While no one demands the kind of changes the general public claim to be seeking from social networking sites particularly, then we are going to continue finding conflict or disagreement when hearing about social media related situations or the many issues that can arise when one "signs away their sole" to the social networks so readily without concern for what that might mean later. 
Some believe that as users we should be entitled to some minimum right to claim or control what we put out there online, one way this has been tackled has been through considering the implications of a digital version of the kind of legal restrictions & liability of any given individual online. Kurt Opshal, a writer for the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) who are one of the leading authorities of such issues, vocalized the need for a bill of rights for social network users. In this he described the importance of the role played by social networking service providers to be the intermediaries and hosts of our communications, conversations & connection with loved ones and we let them just decide what they do with what would have in the past been considered our own "personal information" without question. 

In this post, Kurt outlines three key rights as he sees to be most important overall and should be the standard rights extended to all users, being the; #1: The Right to Informed Decision-Making, #2: The Right to Control, #3: The Right to Leave

This again rang true for me in a different way again as I was listening to an interview my Dad had given when he was still alive, although in this context he was talking about businesses and organisational situations & scenarios, does not make the point any less valid in this context as well. When asked about "organisations that do great work" he provided the following insight and advice to the interviewer; "ITS ALL ABOUT ASKING "WHY?" HAVE THE COURAGE TO ASK WHY, WHEN THEY SAY "JUST BECAUSE", KEEP ASKING "WHY?" AND IF THEY CAN'T ANSWER YOU, SEND ME AN EMAIL CAUSE I WANT TO HELP YOU ASK WHY. IF THEY DON"T LISTEN AND YOU THINK ITS FUNDAMENTALLY WRONG, EXERCISE YOUR DEMOCRATIC RIGHT AND JUST LEAVE." (Grahame Maher in interview- see below for more details). 

Surely, the fact that currently there are social networking service providers who do not even respect the democratic right of the community should be something we should all address, as right now, if I was to chose to exercise my democratic right and do what the closest thing to leave is that I could, I was still be there somewhere... In fact when someone passes away, this seems to be the one time where Facebook do delete things apparently rather than just changing your profile access and settings, which in itself doesn't seem to be right some how... 

The fact is that the legal system is of little simple and quick assistance normally in these cases, mainly because there have not been enough of them, particularly addressing some specific issues, that we have been able to establish a clear case law precedent for them. The EFF, where this blog above was found, claim that they are the "leading civil liberties group defending your rights in the digital world" given this, there is great value in the list of cases and law suits they provide on their site when such discussion do appear in a legal context, but they are still not anywhere near binding... 


CASE LIST: EFF Library of Legal Cases,

BLOG POST: A Bill of Privacy Rights for Social Network Users by Kurt Opsahl Sourced from EFF site; 

Originally retrieved from;

RECORDED INTERVIEW:  Great Work by Michael Bungay Stainer with Grahame Maher, CEO Vodafone Qatar & Chairman of Vodafone Czech, forwarded by Jan Mottram, HR Director of Vodafone Qatar (at the time of GM's death and at least a valid descrition still to this date- 10.1.11) Retrieved from;