Ontario Government Misappropriates Funds: Markets for Facebook on Tax Payers Dime


I came across a note on Facebook where a government agency (think privacy commission – I’m sure you can put it together by reading the title) published a public guide to protecting one’s privacy on facebook. The note reads and I quote: “Not a trend you'd expect a legislative office to be in touch with, but I'm happy to be proved wrong.” I’m not linking the article or agency on purpose.

Well my friend. Not only is the production you’ve linked grossly redundant, it’s a gross example of how our government misappropriates funds. It not only directly advertises on behalf of a private business on my tax dollar, but the document cannot be found on any search engine using common search phrases rendering it useless. …

Frankly, I think it’s great to have such information at my fingertips – however, I guarantee you I’m not going to a government site, to interface with an agency that has a poor track record with this, in my quest for this information.

So this person asked me why I thought it was a waste. Here is a copy of our dialog. I make the potentially ignorant assumption this person must work for the government so I’ve labeled his comments as GOV (he sounds like a “hot shot lawyer” or something). The numbered list represents the thoughts that came off the top of my head. I look forward to him trying to defend how this is A HUGE WASTE OF GOVERNMENT FUNDS.

1) Because there are hundreds of other articles on the net that already clearly talk to this. Redundant Cost.

GOV: From a Canadian privacy watchdog?
ME: If you are merely trying to prove that the Canadian government can do what millions of independent bloggers have already done then good work. This production is a great example of government redundancy. Nobody looks to watchdogs for advice, most people shun them. No matter how you put it - the information was already readily available on the net. This is redundant effort that blatantly squanders tax dollars.

2) I couldn't find the article in the general google search results above: Hence it's great that we've put it there, but now nobody can find it. Undermines the Purpose.

GOV: We live in an multi channel universe. Google is only one of many.
ME: Then look at Yahoo!, Live, and Ask and try to find your article (the other 3 major sites). Simply put it is not searchable on the web. And .on.gc sites are hardly SEO compliant (another waste of tax dollars). If you are talking about TV or Radio my friend well, your url is 59 characters long – simply put, it is too long for anyone to remember and probably too long to write down in any 30 second advertising spot. What other channels could distribute this content without being a waste of money? I believe all radio, TV, and Magazine ads cost money: another way to squander tax dollars.

3) Garbage is the easiest place to find private information - do you have guidelines as to how we are supposed to throw things out? Bigger Fish To Fry

GOV: Dealing with identity theft and Facebook are not mutually exclusive exercises. Watchdogs are doing both.
ME: I never said they were and frankly, you are missing the point. There are bigger fish for you to fry like why the CIA has access to all of my personal Canadian information because of facebook. I’d want my watchdog to be all over the CIA to understand how it is mining Canadian Citizenship data or understand hacking WEPs or highjacking WiFi. Give me a break Facebook is not a significant problem for privacy issues – what about the freaken porn sites that install spyware (like 75% of them), what are you doing for them? I don’t see any safe porn browsing guidelines. You’ll need a ton of $$ to do that and frankly, I would not be willing to contribute my tax dollars to this when the net is largely self regulating.

4) Facebook is only one site on the internet, are you going to do this everytime a site gets popular? In essence you are marketing for Facebook on my dime!

GOV: There are millions of Facebook users in Canada. It's more than popular, it's an emerging social phenomenon.
ME: as everyone knows, these social networks are self regulating. This seems like a promotion gone wrong for your organization. Further you are marketing for facebook on my dime by producing this. When facebook blatantly violated privacy rights as it did in the past it fixed it’s own infrastructure without the need for a regulator to f-them in a court of law. If they didn’t do this they wouldn’t be popular. It’s an economic concept called the invisible hand. Privacy = Choice = what facebook does now. So what you are saying is everytime a web site becomes commercially successful you will release privacy guidelines even though the economics promote these guidelines regardless: Blatant tax dollars squandered.

5) What is the purpose of a regulator understanding the unique inner workings of a social networking site they have no power to regulate? Waste

GOV: As the federal court recently stated in Lawson v. Accusearch <http://decisions.fct-cf.gc.ca/en/2007/2007fc125/2007fc125.html>, Facebook is not immune from Canadian privacy law merely by virtue of being a US company. Further, the guidelines and other articles published by the IPC on social networking/Facebook and privacy are merely the outward trappings of engagement with organizations who must be encouraged to design privacy into their systems.
ME: What legal mumbo jumbo: Who cares, they DON’T BREAK ANY PRIVACY LAWS guys. I’m a software architect at a major Canadian Bank and privacy is a major concern of ours. Your organization didn’t need to tell me this: MY USERS DID. This is business working the way it’s supposed to: don’t squander any more of my tax dollars by tossing meaningless legal terms that 90% of people don’t care to even attempt to process. This is SPIN and proves my point about WASTE.

6) The Internet has and always will come with a "Use at your own risk stamp" - you cannot regulate it - it is simply too big. Waste More $$

GOV: A guidelines for users is not top-down regulation, it's a public education roadmap.
ME: Man you guys are lost. You can’t even find your public education roadmap on the web. May be you could make a roadmap for us to find your public education roadmap and waste more money for us. Or, possibly you could get a bunch of lawyers together, organize them into a committee, discuss the feasibility of you producing a public education roadmap, debate it at Queens Park, and then decide that:


Isn’t there a saying that goes: Joe Blo pulls his head out of his ass – just long enough to show how clueless he is before sticking it back in again.

My advice to this agency: stick to what you do well, this isn’t one of them.

Digg This Story to raise awareness of misuse of tax payers dollars.

P.S.: Please link this story so this agency is accountable for the tax dollars they have squandered.

P.S.: If you post a link to this article in the comments section all data in that comment will be deleted.

Over and Out

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