With more than one billion active users, Facebook is perpetually innovating to stay in the race. Faced with an increasingly diverse range of social networks, the social web giant must improve the user experience. The following months are going to witness the implementation of various features, each with its share of clear issues.
Whether Facebook is a private or public space has always been open to debate. However, for most analysts, Facebook remained, by default, a public social network, a far cry from its origins when it was restricted to a handful of students. Besides, the innovations of the last few years have only highlighted this fact. The Court of Appeal of Besançon had thus held that “in light of its purpose and organization, this network must necessarily be considered as a public space”. (Besançon, November 15, 2011, 10/02642). With Timeline and Social Graph, it became very easy to regroup information that members could have wrongly thought to be private.
But Facebook seems to have backtracked, as new members will eventually have their confidentiality settings set to private. This will likely allow the courts to clearly assert the private nature of Facebook, as held by the Court of Appeal of Rouen in two 2011 judgments: “it cannot be asserted with absolute certainty that current case law denies Facebook the status of a private space given that this network can either constitute a private space or a public space, depending on the settings chosen by its user”.
Furthermore, all services or websites that allow for connection through Facebook will now be trying out a connection method that is “anonymous.” According to the social network, this will make it possible “to try out an application without sharing one’s personal information stored on Facebook.”
While Facebook is showing an inclination to limit the sharing of data, the social network still wants to know more about its members. Driven by the success of Shazam, Facebook will be adding a new feature that will make it possible to identify a song listened to by a user, and then to share it. Not only will Facebook have an intimate knowledge of the profiles of its users, but it will also be able to identify the musical tastes of each of its members, by region, age group or sex. This of course raises the question as to the use that is made of these data, their destination, or even their real purpose. There is no doubt that the social network is very closely monitored by all competent authorities in that respect.
The social network furthermore wants to bring its members closer. Thus, if two users are “friends” on the website, they could easily question each other on their relationship status by clicking on “Ask”. According to the Financial Times, Facebook is also devising an alternative to the famous application Snapchat. This ephemeral message service raises many legal issues: right to the use of individuals’ and/or goods’ images, right to privacy or even the gathering and admissibility of evidence.
Faced with social networks like WeChat, which is extremely popular in China and which offers various services, Facebook is diversifying. Despite the progress made by the network with respect to privacy protection, there remains the tricky issue of the right to be digitally forgotten. First and foremost advocated by Alex Türk, previous President of the CNIL, it is according to the latter “the implementation of a natural function, the ability to forget, which makes life bearable”.
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