Social networking: privacy and other issues

Yesterday I attended a really interesting seminar hosted by PLC with Lilian Edwards Professor of Internet Law at the University of Sheffield School talking for about why Social Networking Sites matter and some of the privacy issues raised by the use of these sites.

This was a really interesting talk which looked first at the changes Facebook made to its Terms and Conditions as reported by the Consumerist Blog. Basically under the new Terms and Conditions Facebook could do anything with the content you create on Facebook including if you ever left or deleted your account. The fact that they can do whatever they want with the content you can create isn't new but being able to use it even if you don't have a Facebook Account was and unsurprisingly there was much angst over this addition to the T&C's.

Lilian then went on to talk about the first great Facebook scandal which revolved around Oxford Proctors using Facebook to "spy" on Students who were just about to graduate. In this case the student argued that she didn't know how Facebook profile was open and was being viewed by the Oxford proctors.

The scariest part of the seminar was when Lilian described how Applications work on Facebook and this is why I wont be installing any more applications. Essentially when you install a 3rd party application on Facebook you give the developers rights to look at your profile, your contacts and all the information you create but unlike Facebook they don't tell you what they are going to do with it because you don't agree to any T&C's. So all your information and your contacts could be passed on to the highest bidder and used without your knowledge!

So what are the solutions to these issues, should Social Networking sites be regulated by law or should people realise that when they sign up to these types of sites that there are some privacy risks associated with doing so?