The Muddy Realm of Online Privacy

Apparently, while many members of the United States’ liberal blogosphere were focused on the illegal secret warrantless wiretapping being carried out by the NSA, only a few of its keener legal eagles were paying attention to the possibly illegal public wiretapping of electronic communications being conducted by Facebook.

From the article on —

When The Pirate Bay released new Facebook features last month, the popular social networking site took evasive action, blocking its members from distributing file-sharing links through its service.

Now legal experts say Facebook may have gone too far, blocking not only links to torrents published publicly on member profile pages, but also examining private messages that might contain them, and blocking those as well.

It’s a fascinating article; it touches upon the fact that the law regarding these activities is maddeningly vague and difficult to apply in this case.

Part of Facebook’s defense will likely hinge on how it screens users’ private messages. If the messages are reviewed and blocked in-transit, they might be in violation of U.S. laws on wiretapping; if it happens as part of the client-side preparation of data packets for transmission, then it’s possible that it might not qualify as actual signal-interception.

The article’s authors make a good case for the need to pressure Congress to draft new legislation that deals with these increasingly thorny legal technicalities.

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