Sangeeta Shastry reports:
Over the past six years, social networking has been the Internet’s stand-out phenomenon, linking up more than one billion people eager to exchange videos, pictures or last-minute birthday wishes.
In Facebook’s case, the social networking tsunami has spread in barely six years from the Harvard dorm room of founder Mark Zuckerberg, 25, to envelope almost half a billion people — enough to be the world’s third most populous country.
That in turn has raised profound privacy issues, with governments in Europe and North America and Asia concerned about the potential for data theft, for people’s identities to be mined for income or children to be exploited via the Internet.
Data protection authorities from a range of countries held a teleconference this week to discuss how they can work together to protect what they see as a steady erosion of privacy, and the European Union too is studying what role it can play.
They may not be able to hold the social networking wave back, but policymakers are looking at what they can do to limit what they see as the “Big Brother”-like role of some sites. A showdown between privacy and Internet freedom is looming.
“We cannot expect citizens to trust Europe if we are not serious in defending the right to privacy,” Viviane Reding, the European commissioner in charge of media and the information society, said in a speech in January, laying out her concerns.
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