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Legal Issues Pertaining to Social Networks

Essay by   •  July 4, 2012  •  Essay  •  1,545 Words (7 Pages)  •  1,636 Views

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Social Networking has opened up a new way of communication. It provides a great way to stay in touch with the people who may have moved away. As compared to emails and phone calls, it is very easy to just open up the social networking website to write something on their page or to send them a message. Also you can stay updated with where they go, what they do and see the pictures and videos posted by them. All this is great, but the deal with social networks is like you can't have your cake and eat it too. Although, there are uncountable advantages to using social networking websites, there are numerous disadvantages to both, the users and the website owners.

One of the biggest concerns related to social networks is privacy. As the social networking websites grew in the past years, privacy concerns relating to them also grew. The websites that are most likely to suffer are the bigger ones because they have humongous amounts of users. Before getting into the details of the privacy issues, it is better to understand what they are. Security issues and privacy issues are completely two different things. A security issue occurs when a hacker gains unauthorized access to a site's protected coding or written language. On the other hand, privacy issues are those involving the unwarranted access of private information and do not necessarily includes security breaches. Someone can gain access to your information by simply watching you type your password. This technique is known as shoulder surfing. But both types of breaches are intertwined on social networks, especially since anyone who breaches a site's security network opens the door to easy access to private information belonging to any user. But the potential harm to an individual user really boils down to how much a user engages in a social networking site, as well as the amount of information they're willing to share. To give a better explanation of this, I want to give an example. Consider a user with 1500 friends and about 200 group memberships as compared to a user who has like 50-100 friends and barely uses the website. The first user is much likely to have more privacy concerns.

There are various reasons behind the privacy concerns posed by social networks. A big reason is the careless attitude of the user. People just post whatever they want without thinking about the consequences of their actions and also a lot of people are unaware about these issues. Another reason for the lapse of privacy on social networking sites is simply the amount of information the sites process each and every day that end up making it that much easier to exploit a single flaw in the system. Also, third party-applications pose a great danger for the leak of information.

Another issue posed by the social networking websites is the liability issue. Social networking websites enables users to publish content. Users post all the kind of content related to intoxication, nudity and abuse. They don't consider themselves as content publishers, although they are. Some other issues that can be created by publishing of content are defamation and copyright infringement. User's who publish content should be completely liable as compared to the liability held by the publisher or a famous magazine or newspaper. They often tend to think that they have some degree of anonymity for their statements and actions, and in some cases, try to hide their true identity. However, they forget that their true identity can be easily revealed through legal processes. They can also face adverse consequences due to their content on the social networking websites such as school discipline, foregone job offers or employment termination.

Not only users face issues that arise from social networking websites, their owners also get a part of the action. If users post content that violates some law, usually its copyright infringement, would it be fair to blame the social network site vendor? They shouldn't and they are not. Congress protects these vendors from the liability issues arising from user's content. There are two really important laws related to this issue. Section 512 of the USC Title 17 removes the liability for copyright infringement from websites that allow users to post content, as long as the site has a mechanism in place whereby the copyright owner can request the removal of infringing content. The site must also not receive a financial benefit directly attributable to the infringing activity. This creates an interesting problem for most site owners that allow users to post music, photos or video. For instance, several content owners have sued YouTube for copyright infringement and it has claimed section 512(c) defense. Since YouTube is a subsidiary of Google, its future business plan most likely involves



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