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Fellow Weekly Newsletter - Issue 59 - "Facebook or Face Off!" - Business Law and Ethics for the Shabbos Table

Publication: Fellow Weekly Newsletter

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Fellow Weekly - Issue 59

Welcome to Fellow Weekly!

Encouraging intelligent and entertaining debate at your Shabbos table. Fellow Weekly raises issues of business law and ethics through lively emails by featuring your real-life scenarios answered by our leading authorities and professionals.

To join this mailing list, please send an email to with the word subscribe in the subject line.

CASE 159: Facebook or Face Off!

Consider this public news story:

"The personal details of 100 million Facebook users have been collected and published online in a downloadable file, meaning they will now be unable to make their publicly available information private.

An online security consultant used code to scan the 500 million Facebook profiles for information not hidden by privacy settings. The file allows people to perform searches of various different types and several thousand people by now downloaded it.

This means that if any of those on the list decide to change their privacy settings on Facebook, anyone who has the file will still be able to access information that was public when it was compiled.

The consultant's actions also mean people who had set their privacy settings so their names did not appear in Facebook's search system can now be found if they were friends with anyone whose name was searchable.

The consultant wrote, "Facebook helpfully informs you "anyone can opt out of appearing here by changing their Search privacy settings" - but that doesn't help much anymore considering I already have them all (and you will too, when you download the torrent).

Once I have the name and URL of a user, I can view, by default, their picture, friends, information about them, and some other details. If the user has set their privacy higher, at the very least I can view their name and picture. Therefore, if any searchable user has friends that are non-searchable, those friends just opted into being searched, like it or not! Oops"

(Source: MSNBC)

1. Was it permissible for the consultant to scan the 500 million profiles not hidden by privacy settings?

2. Was it permissible to post it?

3. Was it permissible for the initial individuals to download the information?

4. Now that the information is publicly available, is it permissible to download the information and to figure out the names of those who hid their information by setting their privacy settings high? Is it ethical?

What is the law?

Please email us with your comments and answers at

Read next week's issue for the answer!


CASE 158: Werner or the Whale

Realtor Gail Werner was born a broker. Gail ran a successful agency, and served on the SAJBD (South African Jewish Board of Deputies) as a popular advocate on behalf of the Cape Town Jewish Community. In addition, Gail used her expertise to assist singles in finding their match.

After weeks of hard work, Werner could barely contain her excitement. "Brokering the match between Adi and Annette proved to be an arduous task and the fruits of my labor are about to materialize", she thought to herself.

At a peaceful moment along the breathtaking harbor between the South Atlantic and Indian Oceans, Adi took out of his portfolio a framed poem and uttered the magical words. Annette agreed.

Before heading home, Adi treated Annette to an exclusive whale-watching trip.

About fifteen minutes into the ocean, with a diamond brooch in his palm, Adi turns to Annette, "Do you get sea sick?"

Suddenly a massive southern right whale breached the surface of the ocean. The enormous animal came crashing down on the boat demolishing the mast and then swam away bruised.

The horn blew and the sailors sped back to the dock.

Traumatized was an understatement! The image of the mammoth mammal leaping over the boat haunted her throughout the day. "Adi...I'm the superstitious type. I'm calling this one off indefinitely until I can work myself through this mess."

Werner or the Whale?

Does Gail receive matchmaker brokerage fees?

What is the law?

The Answer

Unless there is a defined local custom otherwise, Gail does not receive matchmaker brokerage fees.

Detailed Explanation

Adi and Annette agreed to marry. Yet, they never married. Like a salesperson, a matchmaker receives remuneration for completing his/her marketable service. Generally, the matchmaking service is complete when the two parties marry [Choshen Mishpat 185:6].

[Parenthetically: Like any service provider, the beneficiary must pay wages before the end of the day of service/billing.]

Nevertheless, historically there were areas in Europe where it was customary to award the matchmaker upon the engagement of the two parties.

Nowadays however, for the most part it is difficult to define a "local custom" to this extent.

Consider that we enjoy the benefits of living in diverse societies. 1) Many of us do not utilize matchmakers. 2) Many of us award matchmakers a mere token of appreciation. 3) Of those of us who seriously utilize matchmakers, the default custom is to pay if the two parties marry.

Thus, unless there is a clearly defined custom in Cape Town otherwise, Gail would not be able to demand any payment for the services she provided.

Note: Although we aim to present the correct ruling, varying details are always important and decisively influence every individual case. Our readers are thus encouraged to present their personal cases to a competent authority and not solely rely on the information provided.

To join this mailing list, please send an email to with the word subscribe in the subject line.

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