-By Leora Jackson, JFCY volunteer and PLE Team Lead

Janine Loves Facebook

Janine is fifteen and uses Facebook to keep in touch with all of her friends.  Since she has friends from school, camp, and after-school activities, Facebook is a great way to be in touch with people.  When she wants to tell something to one of her friends, she posts on that friend’s wall.  Everyone else can see the post, but Janine doesn’t mind.  Last weekend, Janine went to a party at a classmate’s house.  She posted a whole album of photos online from the party.  The next week, there is an article about teen parties in the local paper.  One of Janine’s photos is published in the paper, and Janine gets really upset.  Her parents didn’t know that she attended the party.

What can Janine do to keep this from happening again?  
Was the newspaper allowed to use her picture?
Facebook is a private organization that collects personal information.  As a result, it must follow Canadian law about protecting privacy.  The Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act (PIPEDA) is a Canadian law that directs private organizations in how to protect the personal information of people who are involved with that organization.  PIPEDA applies in most Canadian provinces, including Ontario, and it limits the ways that an organization can use the personal information that you have provided it.
While people choose which information they post on Facebook, they can also choose who is able to see that information.  For example, Facebook has options that allow you to decide which other internet users can see your wall posts, your photos, your notes, and other information you have shared.  Facebook has even worked with Canada’s Information and Privacy Commissioner to improve its privacy controls in response to complaints.
To prevent this from happening again, Janine needs to update her Facebook privacy settings so that fewer people are able to see the information that she posts on Facebook.  She should also think before she posts, because once information is online, it is impossible to keep total control over it – even if it is later removed from the internet!  Facebook privacy settings are found here.
Since Janine took her pictures, she owns the copyright to them, which means that other people cannot reproduce them without asking her permission.  However, there is a “fair dealing” exception in the Copyright Act that allows news reporters to use copyrighted images as long as they cite the source of the image and, if it is available, the name of the image’s creator.  There are other exceptions as well in the Copyright Act. Janine would have to consult a lawyer to find out whether this use of her picture counted as fair dealing by the newspaper, or fits into another exception. 
However, when Janine posted her photo to Facebook, she granted Facebook a license to use the photo according to the Facebook Terms of Use, which means that Facebook can use Janine’s photo in many different ways without requesting her permission. So, for example, if Facebook used Janine’s photo in its newsletter, she would not be able to complain, since as a Facebook user, she has consented to Facebook’s Terms of Use.
Want to Learn More?

If you are interested in learning more about privacy, especially privacy online, check out the Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada’s social networking pages, or their youth site.
If you want to read the laws that we discussed in this post, follow these links: PIPEDA and the Copyright Act.

 A Lesson in Privacy – from the Office of the Privacy Commissioner’s
“My Privacy and Me” contest


Leora is in her first year of law school at the University of Toronto.  She is volunteering with JFCY through Pro Bono Students Canada (PBSC) and will be acting as the Public Legal Education Team Lead until March 2012.