October 27, 2011

Austrian Man Asks for His Personal Data From Facebook, Gets 1,222 Pages of It


Europeans are pretty protective of their data privacy...far more than Americans. Ask Google (News - Alert), which has had to erase whole cities from its Google Street View program because of European citizen and lawmaker privacy concerns (not to mention lawsuits).

Facebook (News - Alert) has a new foe on the privacy front: a single Austrian guy named Max Schrems recently became concerned about what social networking company Facebook knew about him, and what it had collected. He contacted Facebook and asked for the information.

They gave it to him. The 24-year-old law student shortly thereafter received 1,222 pages of data on a CD...all about him. Old chats that were long deleted, old “pokes” (remember that annoying feature?) and even invitations he hadn't replied to.

Schrems is now organizing an online campaign that will try and force Facebook to conform to European privacy laws – more stringent than U.S. laws – on behalf of its 800 million users, the Associated Press (News - Alert) is reporting. (For its part, Facebook insists it already does comply with these standards).

Schrems has launched a Web site called “Europe vs. Facebook,” and it appears to be getting some attention from Facebook, which has been making overtures not only to Schrems, but to other Europeans concerned about data privacy, including Germany's data security watchdogs, reports the AP.

“Have we done enough in the past to deal with you? No,” Richard Allan, Facebook's director of European public policy, testified Tuesday before a German parliamentary committee on new media. “Will we do more now? Yes.”

They may have no choice. Even with European governments breathing on it to safeguard privacy better, the U.S. government has been making similar noises.

Several U.S. privacy interest groups have asked the U.S. Federal Trade Commission (FTC (News - Alert)) to evaluate recent changes made by Facebook that give the company even more flexibility to disclose users' personal information to businesses than it had before, says the AP.




Tracey Schelmetic is a contributing editor for TMCnet. To read more of Tracey's articles, please visit her columnist page.

Edited by Jennifer Russell
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