TORONTO - An Ottawa-based consumer advocacy group wants Canada's privacy commissioner to go after a youth-oriented social networking site for alleged privacy breaches.
The Public Interest Advocacy Centre has filed a complaint with Jennifer Stoddart about Nexopia's alleged "unnecessary and non-consensual use and disclosure of personal information."
Nexopia says it has more than 1.4 million users and has become "the place to be for teens looking to express themselves to the world."
Lawyer John Lawford says the Edmonton-based website should be held to a higher standard than other social networking sites since many of its users are minors, some as young as 13.
He complains that Nexopia profiles, by default, can be accessed by any Internet user and show up in Google's search results.
Lawford says young teens shouldn't have their personal information disseminated online and made available for marketing purposes.
"We did some focus groups with young people in Toronto and we looked at other (research) and it's fairly clear that as you go from 13 to even 16 there's a huge change in the awareness and maturity of teens," he said.
"At the first few years they are especially seeking out notoriety and expressing themselves and trying to find like-minded people. So we ask, does Nexopia have to meet a different privacy level than other social networking sites because they say they're going after teens? And we conclude they do."
The complaint to Stoddart outlines six alleged breaches of the Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act, including a failure to obtain consent to disclose users' information.
Nexopia, which hosts user profiles, blogs and forums, is especially popular in Western Canada and has attracted controversy for giving teens an uncensored venue to talk about drugs and sex. Police have said that sexual predators have looked to the site to find young victims.