Facebook are reportedly at the centre of a fresh privacy row over how much of your own data it has to hand back to you. An Austrian organisation called Europe versus Facebook has made 22 complaints against the social networks practices. Under Britain’s 1988 Data Protection Act, Facebook has to send you a copy of your data on a CD within 40 days of a request being received.
Max Schrems of Europe versus Facebook was able to receive a CD-ROM as per his request, however he noticed that some important information was missing. However, when he contact Facebook about this, they cited certain sections of the Irish Data Protection Acts of 1988 and 2003 and claimed that they had given him all the information that was reasonable without giving him any data that could adversely affect the company’s trade secrets and intellectual property; something the Irish Acts protect them from.
So what’s the deal here then? Of the 22 complaints filed by Europe versus Facebook, several of them are rather vague and flimsy – mostly borne out of user error or not reading the Ts&Cs properly – and some are actually out-dated all together. For example some people are getting tetchy about the facial-recognition tagging – this has been done to death now; Facebook changed this to an opt-in setting some time ago. However, as much as it may look like I’m trying to belittle the cause being championed by Europe versus Facebook, they do lodge some interesting complaints.
Data or content that you have seemingly deleted from your account can appear in the data received from Facebook (the aforementioned CR-ROM). This means that there is information about yourself that you do not want in the public domain, and Facebook are storing it somewhere. What would happen if this data store were to become compromised, and information that you thought was permanently deleted was suddenly in the hands of somebody else?
Whatever the outcome of this particular complaint (or series of complaints), it just further reinforces the point that while Facebook has many merits and is brilliant for sharing a lot of different things, it might not be the best option for private sharing. If you are particularly conscious about privacy, you might want to think hard about what information post on social networks and look for an alternative method of sharing sensitive data.