Facebook’s first duty is to protect user privacy, despite hate speech debate
- Users have a right not to feel like they are under surveillance at all times, and upholding that right is good for business
I am writing in response to “Facebook needs to face up to hate speech” (November 25) by Alex Lo. Mr Lo was reacting to reports that Facebook had refused to give the personal information of its users to the Equal Opportunities Commission for research into complaints of online racial hatred on the official page of Hong Kong Unison, an NGO that promotes racial equality and highlights ethnic minority issues.
Facebook refused the request citing its need to follow the data protection laws in Ireland, where all its data relating to Hong Kong is held. It said the EOC would need to comply with Irish law and its Data Protection Act – and get an order from an Irish court for the social media giant to release the information. Though this move has been met with criticism from many quarters, I support Facebook in its decision to not pass on users’ personal information.
From the user’s perspective, releasing personal information without permission is a violation of data protection. People may not feel comfortable using the social network any more if they feel like they are being watched anytime and anywhere. Loss of privacy will put them off the platform, which won’t be good for the company.
Though some argue that it is unacceptable for Facebook not to help the EOC keep the cyber world free of racism and this refusal indirectly promotes racial inequality and online abuse through its platform, if seen from Facebook’s perspective, it is clear that they have a responsibility to keep users’ personal information private. Therefore, I support their stand on this point.
Kelly Zheng, Tseung Kwan O