Man's Wife a "Hot Single": Quirky News Highlights Growing Facebook Privacy Concerns

By July 17, 2009

In a story that evokes the narrative of the classic Rupert Holmes song “Escape” (better known to music lovers as “The Piña Colada Song”), a Virginia man was surprised to see his wife’s photo advertising a site for “hot singles.” She wasn’t advertising and he wasn’t looking. Her photo was used because she hadn’t opted out of a Facebook setting that allows advertisers to use your image in their ads. In a more serious but also hilarious case, UK police stormed a man’s 30th birthday barbecue because he had advertised the party on Facebook as an “all-nighter.” "What effectively the police did was come in and stop 15 people eating burgers," said Andrew Poole, who had advertised the party as an all-nighter in case some of his family and friends wanted to crash at his place.

A force helicopter, four squad cars and a riot van arrived to break up the barbeque at about 4 p.m., an hour after it had started.

Because of the wording on Poole’s Facebook, police believed the event to be a rave or an illegal music gathering.

“We weren't even playing any music," Poole said.

Stories like this are amusing, but underline growing concerns over Facebook privacy.

Canada, which has the highest Facebook penetration in the world, became the first country to declare that the social networking site is breaking the law in its handling of user data, especially in regards to how members’ private information is made available to 3rd party advertisers and app makers.

Web users are used to the casual reification of gmail basing ads on our scanned emails or Facebook using our profile information for its 3rd party advertising, but in some cases it is breaching legality. The Canadian government claims that Facebook’s use of user information is breaking four national laws, and is working with the social network to address this.

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