You are here

British Facebook users may not ‘like’ lack of legal protection

ICO to probe social network's study of emotion and alleged breach of user privacy

8 July 2014

Add comment

Facebook manipulating the newsfeeds of almost 700,000 users then monitoring how the stories influenced their mood in subsequent posts has sparked a furious backlash over invasion of privacy and data protection breaches, which the Information Commissioner's Office is now investigating.

However, Michael Sandys, partner and head of commercial at Jackson Canter solicitors, has warned Brits not to expect bringing successful legal claims as they must show that the social network has infringed its own user terms.

"Privacy law in the UK is still in its infancy and remains undeveloped," he said. "In other countries, such as France, they have a much more robust system to protect the privacy of an individual.

"If Facebook has gathered data from what people post on newsfeeds which is not restricted by privacy settings then under UK legislation there is probably nothing a user can do unless it can show that there has been a breach of its terms of service regarding data use policy. If this can be established then there may be a potential claim by the user. However, assessing loss may not be easy."

Article 8 of the Human Rights Act of 1998 states that people have a right to a private and family life, but this can only be applied to the Facebook study if certain conditions are met.

"Whether data protection laws have been breached will depend on whether personal details have been used in the study, which Facebook has stated is not the case. Therefore, there is unlikely to have been a contravention of those laws unless specific personal data has been used."

He continued: "If it can be shown that the messages which Facebook gathered for its project were posted to a profile which had its privacy settings turned up, those users would probably have a case. Their messages are only targeted at a specific and defined group of people and therefore there would be a reasonable expectation of privacy. This would be a good basis to build a case from."

Categorised in:

Regulators Funding & Costs