Citizens can now be Facebook friends with the Ministry of Interior
The Macedonian Ministry of Interior (MOI) claims that this is an
informal profile which is not intended to monitor the activities of the
“MOI added you as a friend on Facebook. We need to confirm that you know MOI in order for you to be friends on Facebook”. Macedonian journalists are often receiving these friend requests on the social networking website “Facebook”. The Ministry of internal affairs opened its own Facebook profile two weeks ago, claiming that this could be another opportunity for an informal communication with the citizens. They deny that their purpose is to abuse the data of the citizens, which would easily become available after becoming friends with them on Facebook. This does not constitute a violation of the Law on personal data protection according to the Directorate for Personal Data Protection.
“I can accept a friend request from a person who has a name and surname, but this is not the case when the friend request is coming from the Ministry of Interior as an institution. My data and activities are visible to all of my friends, they are not secret, but still, they only belong to me. How could I be sure that an institution would not abuse these data? – says a journalist who has refused to accept the friend request.
However, MOI firmly states that this is an opportunity for informal communication, and that the Facebook profile is only used as an additional form of contact between the police and the citizens. Ivo Kotevski, the deputy minister for public relations of the Ministry of Interior stated: “If anyone believes that the data could be abused, he can simply ignore the friend request from the MOI. This is an informal activity, and we do not intend to monitor people’s activities online”. MOI’s “Facebook” profile, which is active for several weeks now, already has more than 300 friends, most of which are journalists working on issues related to the police.
The profile is public and open to everybody, so anyone can post, whether he/she is a “friend” of MOI or not. Here you can find photographs that are otherwise not available on the Ministry’s official internet website.
“The internet website of the Ministry (www.mvr.gov.mk) is official, but its Facebook profile is informal indeed. People respond much better to informal methods of communication”, say from the MOI.
After reviewing MOI’s Facebook profile, representatives from the Directorate for Personal Data Protection said that there is no violation of personal data.
“It is not legally determined whether the state institutions can use these portals as their own PR. The citizens are independently deciding whether they should accept online friendship with the MOI or not. Before clicking and accepting it, people should be aware that the MOI will have access to their data, posts, blogs, their friend lists and all their other activities on Facebook. This is probably a method which the MOI chose to communicate with the public and we cannot control this”, say from the Directorate. However, the Directorate is advising the users to check their profiles’ privacy settings, and make their activities visible only for a selected group of people.
“Everyone should be aware that the internet network, and becoming a part of it, increases the risk of data abuse. We are getting reports on cases of internet data abuse on a daily basis”, warned the Directorate. Aside from the “official” MOI profile, there are two other similar pages on “Facebook”: “DBK MOI” and “MOI informal”.
“Anyone could open a profile and claim it is a profile of the Ministry of Interior, and we are powerless to prevent that. These are probably groups of employees of the Ministry, exchanging opinions and comments online,” say from the Ministry.
(G.A. – D.T.)