Last week, I received weird emails from friends in Facebook cryptically telling me to log on to some website. The URL suggests the websites were based in Germany (.de) and Estonia (.ee) Smelling a rat, I deleted the messages. A couple of days later, I received another message from the same friends that their Facebook accounts were compromised and that they had to take steps ranging from deactivating accounts to swearing never to use Facebook again. I share their grief. The manner in which Facebook has fulfilled our lives by allowing us to keep within our network of friends, reading constant status updates, responding to threads and posts, keeping our diaries filled and, those photos, of course! Where would we be today without Facebook?
The aftermath of friends who managed to restart life on Facebook share horror tales of deleted photos and the hassle of having to explain why they were adding friends to their accounts again. Doing all this to get back to the pre-virus infected days cost people lots of time and effort in having to re-create their lives and re-connect to friends again. But can you take any action for the loss you have suffered by all this? Well, apparently someone tried doing exactly that. Mr. Karantsalis of Miami Springs filed a suit against Facebook alleging that it had failed in its duty to exercise reasonable care to ensure the safety of its network. He has since, reached a settlement of sorts with Facebook - a tee-shirt did the trick and Mr. Karantsalis will be withdrawing his claim.
Under US law, the claim would not have stood much of chance due to s. 230 of the Communications Decency Act which stipulates that users or providers of an interactive computer service will not be liable for information provided by other users. Previous cases have ruled that viruses are a form of information, and the law operates to give immunity to service providers. It was perhaps wise for the suit to have been dropped.
So, the moral of this story so far: What's provided for free does not provide much protection for any precious memories you wish to store on it. Lest we forget, Facebook is a free service available for all and sundry to use. But the trade-offs are there. You may not always have the right to claim for any losses suffered while using that service. So, if you have photos you want to keep, or any contact list that's important to your work, back them up, in more than one place where possible.
Under Brunei law, ISPs would also be exempt from liability for 'third party material' (as described at s.10 of the Electronic Transactions Order) which would include a virus put onto the network by a user. The rationale behind such law is that the ISP cannot be expected to monitor every thing that is put on the network by its subscribers. As long as the ISP is not responsible for putting the virus onto the network and is merely transmitting what was put on by users, it should not be exposed to liability under the circumstances described above. The situation would be different if the ISP contractually warrants that its users will be safe from viruses online, but the last time I checked, no such clause exists under the t&cs of service, and I doubt such clauses will ever exist.
For those of you who suffered the fate of a virus infecting your Facebook account, my commiserations. But since the theme for this year's World Telecommunication and Information Society Day is "Protecting Children in Cyberspace" perhaps we should all grow up and be wiser to suspicious emails, spam and get-rich schemes that are perpetrated by cyber criminals, for if not, we might as well be 'children' in cyberspace and only use it in the presence and guidance of grown-ups.