Harley Finkelstein set out to help protect his little sisters from Hannah Montana and ended up changing the way more than a quarter of a billion people around the world interact online.
That change was spelled out on Thursday when social-networking site Facebook agreed to give its users better protection over personal information, following negotiations with Canada’s Privacy Commissioner.
The commissioner’s involvement can be traced back to Mr. Finkelstein and his 14-year-old sister Lindsey, who loved Facebook and the various games and quizzes relating to Hannah Montana and the Jonas Brothers she would download to spruce up her profile and share with friends.
But her brother worried about the personal details the makers of those applications were collecting from the profiles of Lindsey and her sister — along with the estimated 2 million other Canadian Facebook users under the age of 18 — and what they were doing with that information.
Mr. Finkelstein was a third-year law student at the University of Ottawa and an intern with the Canadian Internet Policy and Public Interest Clinic.
Together with fellow clinic intern Jordan Plener, Mr. Finkelstein began digging into the privacy practices of the world’s largest social network in January of 2008 and whether its policies complied with federal privacy laws. Five months later, their work would lead to a complaint lodged against Facebook with the office of the privacy commissioner.
That complaint kicked off an investigation by the commissioner’s office, which resulted in Facebook’s announcement on Thursday of a series of sweeping changes to its privacy and security policies that will bring the social networking giant’s practices in line with Canadian law.
Look for the Ask Harley series to resume in September here on Techvibes.