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'Creep of the Week' Facebook trawl branded 'distasteful and invasive'

The feature on CollegeTimes.ie scrapes Facebook for photos of attractive students.

File photo. Obviously.
File photo. Obviously.

A WEBSITE FEATURE that trawls Facebook for photos of attractive Irish college students – before republishing them without permission – has been described as “distasteful and invasive”.

The office of the Data Protection Commissioner is examining whether to take investigative action over the regular Creep Of The Week post on CollegeTimes.ie, an online publication for Irish students.

Meanwhile, the Union of Students in Ireland (USI) has urged students to check their Facebook settings “to combat such an invasion of privacy”.

Here’s how the Creep Of The Week feature works, in its own words:

Every week, a little spy from Collegetimes.ie trolls through the wonderful world of Facebook and selects the most attractive Irish students possible. Nothing is taken that isn’t there to be seen so you might want to update your privacy settings because you could be next weeks CT Creep Of The Week…

Photos often feature students in swimwear or underwear. Of the last ten students whose photos were published, nine were female.

In a joint statement, USI equality and welfare representatives Denise McCarthy and Laura Harmon described the feature as “a form of cyber bullying”. The statement added:

USI condemns this behaviour from CollegeTimes.ie and finds this type of online behaviour distasteful and invasive. The negative effects of one online story can and do last longer than the story itself. The fact that it is almost exclusively women in these articles is sexist.

When contacted by DailyEdge.ie, the director of CollegeTimes.ie Greta Dunne insisted that Creep Of The Week has “received a very positive response”.

She confirmed that those featured are not asked for permission, but said: “The people we feature have been sent in to us as suggestions. Usually by their friends or themselves.”

Dunne added that only people whose profiles are set to ‘public’ are featured, and said the gender imbalance was simply because “more females have left their Facebook images open.”

CollegeTimes.ie was previously forced to issue a public apology to its sponsor 7UP, after publishing an article about one night stands that described how to “prey” on young women and feed them alcohol in order to have sex.

The office of the Data Protection Commissioner (DPC) is currently reviewing whether to take investigative action over the Creep Of The Week feature.

A DPC spokesperson said personal information can generally only be published within the law if the subject has consented, or if there is another specific legal basis:

The publication of personal data online can be compliant with the Data Protection Acts if the consent of the individual has been provided for the publication, if the organisation publishing has a specific legal basis to do so or if the organisation can rely on the broad media exemption provided for in Section 22A of the Data Protection Acts.

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Michael Freeman

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