Facebook under pressure for not observing its privacy principles

By EDRi · May 19, 2010

This article is also available in:
Deutsch: [Facebook unter Druck: Datenschutzrichtlinien werden nicht eingehalten |]

Macedonian: [Фејсбук под притисок поради непочитување на сопствените принципи за приватност |]

The recent changes of Facebook’s privacy settings have attracted a lot of
negative comments from regular users, but also from Data Protection
authorities and NGOs.

In a public letter, the Article 29 Working Party, the group of European data
protection authorities, has bluntly accused Facebook for its data
protection practices, calling “unacceptable that the company fundamentally
changed the default settings on its social-networking platform to the
detriment of a user.”

The 75th plenary session of the Working Party has also addressed letters to
the 20 social network operators that have signed the “Safer Networking
Principles for the EU ” asking them for a “a default setting in which access
to the profile information and information about the connections of a user
is limited to self-selected contacts. Any further access, such as by search
engines, should be an explicit choice of the user.” The letters also
included the issues of the third-party application providers of social
network services and of third persons contained in users’ profiles.

On a different level, Trans Atlantic Consumer Dialogue (TACD), a coalition
of U.S. and European consumer advocacy groups has adopted a new resolution
criticizing the U.S. and European governments for failing to protect social
network users from privacy and marketing abuses. “Social networks are like
virtual homes for millions of people, but they are being invaded by data
miners and marketers seeking to capitalize on information that users never
intended to provide to strangers,” said Susan Grant, co-chair of the TACD
Information Society Policy Committee. The resolution calls for the U.S. and
EU governments to prohibit social networks from targeting advertisements to
children under 16 and to bar them from using online marketing practices that
studies show can have a negative impact on individuals, particularly
children – for instance, digital marketing of products that contribute to
childhood obesity.

Facebook is trying to redeem its respect, by publicly answering questions
posted to New York Times in relation with these new privacy concerns and
even leaking some information that they are working again on “its privacy

But the current answers are flatly contradicting its own stated Principles
on privacy, as EDRi-member Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) explains:
“Facebook wrote these Principles and designed them to not only reassure its
users, but to give itself wiggle room for the future. It is a carefully
drafted document, and Facebook has no excuse not to live up to the minimum
standards it set out for itself. If Facebook wants to regain the trust of
its users, following its own principles would be a good place to start.”

Article 29 Data Protection Working Party: European data protection group
faults Facebook for privacy setting change (12.05.2010)

TACD: US/EU Consumer Advocates Demand Strong Rules to Protect Privacy and
Security of Social Network Users (05.2010)

TACD: Resolution on Social Networking (05.2010)

Facebook Executive Answers Reader Questions (11.05.2010)

Facebook Should Follow Its Own Principles (13.05.2010)

Updated: Facebook Further Reduces Your Control Over Personal Information

Facebook to simplify privacy settings in response to backlash (18.05.2010)