Print 13 comment(s) - last by cmdrdredd.. on Jul 9 at 5:21 PM

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Could cost the company tens of thousands of euros

It looks like Apple isn't the only company Germany is looking to pick a bone with regarding user privacy. A German data protection official has prepared legal proceedings against social networking giant Facebook, which has had a history of privacy related problems in the past.

The data protection official, Johannes Caspar, who works in the Hamburg branch, has accused Facebook of illegally "accessing and saving personal data" of those who do not have a profile registered on the site. 

Facebook changed its privacy settings in April in order to allow any user to block access to their e-mail contacts. But for Germany, a country that has strict privacy laws that outline the kind of information and amount of information that can be accessed and by whom, this slight privacy change wasn't enough. 

Caspar has said the contacts that have been previously saved have not been erased, and are now being used for marketing-related purposes. He made it clear that this is a breach of data privacy laws and that it's important to save this information from third parties.

"It is a system that is designed around making it possible for Facebook to expand, for its own benefit," said Caspar. "Given that several million people in Germany alone are members, this is a very unsettling notion."

Caspar reported that many people have contacted his office with complaints regarding the Facebook privacy invasion. Facebook has until August 11 to formally respond to Germany's complaint. These legal allegations against Facebook could result in the company paying tens of thousands of euros. 

Ilse Aigner, Germany's consumer protection minister, has already taken a proactive stance against Facebook by opting to delete her Facebook account, saying that the company isn't doing enough to secure the privacy of its users. 

In addition to problems with Facebook, Germany has initiated an investigation that will look into Google's Street View mapping program and continues to battle with Apple over the company's tracking and collection of iPhone users' data.

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example of Facebook's lack of respect for privacy
By Deusfaux on 7/8/2010 8:33:56 PM , Rating: 2
Anyone who's ever your email address, or shared an email list with you, can find you on Facebook by typing it in.

Complete strangers you don't know your name and have never spoken to or met you can locate your profile and possibly send you a message and friend request and more (depending on your settings).

There is no setting to control HOW people can find you on Facebook.

Frankly, if someone doesn't know your name, they have no business contacting you or looking you up.

RE: example of Facebook's lack of respect for privacy
By rs1 on 7/8/2010 8:38:38 PM , Rating: 3
But who was it that associated your e-mail address with your Facebook profile in the first place? It wasn't Facebook. You want to play on their site, then live with how they have it set up. If you don't like how they have it set up, then don't play on their site.

By Deusfaux on 7/8/2010 8:51:46 PM , Rating: 4
I hate how prevalent this defeatist logic is on the internet. The response from half the peanut gallery these days, on any website on any issue is

"if you don't like it, go away/don't use it"

What kind of attitude is that to have in life? Have you no concept of "improvement" or "change"?

Perhaps people like enough about certain things that they wish to see the things they don't like, corrected.

When an administration is elected in the country in which you live, is your solution to "move out" ?

By rs1 on 7/8/2010 9:10:58 PM , Rating: 5
There's a big difference between giving feedback/asking for an improvement and trying to force one. Pointing out flaws and suggesting better ways of doing something is great. So great, in fact, that more people should do it.

The problem is that many people feel like they're entitled to do more than suggest. The article isn't about Germany asking for a change, it's about Germany demanding one. That's where the "if you don't like it, go away/don't use it" comes in. Alternately, "if you don't like it, then build your own Facebook and run it however you want" also works in this case (I suspect you might find that it's difficult to grow your network if you allow your users to make themselves unfindable).

I'm all for user feedback, peer review, and continuous improvement. What I'm not for is people using the law to dictate how a privately operated social networking site must work. Nobody is compelled to use Facebook, nobody needs to use it as part of their daily life. People choose to do so voluntarily, they choose to register with the ability to know in advance what Facebook's current privacy policy is, and by registering they agree to that privacy policy. Complaining about it is fine (although there are plenty of sites more worthy of complaint than Facebook, like spokeo, for one), suggesting alternative privacy policies is fine, but suing them over it is ridiculous.

But, I did come down too hard on your original post. You weren't siding with Germany, so much as providing an example of something that could be done better.

By afkrotch on 7/8/2010 9:36:04 PM , Rating: 2
Difference. Website. Doesn't require much for me to leave one and move to another. Country I live in. Thousands of dollars, months of paperwork, etc to move countries.

Either way, yes. I would move countries, if a new administration was so bad that it actually affected my life in any substantial way. As of right now, Clinton, Bush, Obama. Nothing they've done has change my life in any way and I'm in the military.

By cmdrdredd on 7/9/2010 5:21:01 PM , Rating: 1
What kind of attitude is that to have in life? Have you no concept of "improvement" or "change"?

That's the bullshit the current president said...a pathetic argument.

Change doesn't mean better. I don't use Facebook and if I did I'd wholly agree that anyone can find me there easily. That's what it's used for anyway. If you don't want to be social online then don't use social sites.

By AntiM on 7/9/2010 10:10:59 AM , Rating: 2
Facebook's usefulness is that it allows old friends and classmates to get in touch with you. You have to sacrifice some privacy for that purpose. If you don't want people to be able to find you, then why join in the first place? If you don't want certain information shared, then don't put it on there. Facebook is a free service, but they need to be able to monetize it to some degree.

Love it
By rs1 on 7/8/2010 7:55:21 PM , Rating: 3
I think it's great that everyone thinks they're entitled to dictate the data usage and retention policies of a privately operated, opt-in, free, non-essential service. Is it that hard to read Facebook's privacy policy, and delete your account if you disagree with it?

I wonder if this will make people more reluctant to create new social networks or other websites. I mean, if you create one and it gets popular enough, you manifestly may end up with other people coming in and telling you how you have to run your own network/website.

RE: Love it
By Aloonatic on 7/9/2010 2:52:50 AM , Rating: 2
What I love is the typically conceited "I know better, everyone else is stupid" tone to your commnet :o)

You do have something of a point tho, but what is often not taken into account is that we are treating these websites and businesses like age old companies and businesses. However, they are in fact very new and the way that they work, along with the ramifications/risks of what being part of them actually means is still being worked through.

Sure, some things might be obvious to you and others on this site, but to most people, the average consumer (who get treated with such contempt on here, I know you guys really don't care about them and think they only exist to be exploited most of the time) who do not have the knowledge, nor do they think for too long (yes, I'm not saying that they are totally innocent either) about theses things, as they trust the sites, especially big sites like facebook, to do the "right" thing. However, what you guys often forget is that there are many other business areas, many non-essential/opt-in areas in which you neither have the knowledge, or inclination to think too hard about what you are doing either, and trust in the fact that governments and consumer groups have worked out, together with the business owners, ways for companies to operate in a reasonable manner to allow them to both run their business and for you to be protected.

Also, lets not kid ourselves that anything is free either shall we? At the very heart of this issue is the cost of taking part in facebook, and how your the information that you hand over is the price you pay, but people are not aware of it, or the value of it. Like a bunch of Native Americans swapping land for some beads because they don't know better. It doesn't make it OK that because you do, so everyone else is fair game.

I'd wager that in the end, rules/codes of practice will be decided on by governments about how they want the people that they are voted in to represent to be treated and what can and cannot be done by sites such as facebook, along with any other social networking site that comes along. We're still learning about the internet and the implications of taking part in it, from both sides as a business and consumer. I know that it's tempting to just call everyone stupid and saying that companies should just be able to exploit everyone they can in order to make money, but that's not how the business world works usually, and IMHO I don't think that it should work that way either. I might know better in this case, but I'm not arrogant enough to think that in every area of commerce I am totally aware of everything that is going on and the risks of taking part in activities within that sector, and frankly, nor do I have the time to learn about every sector either. Yet I am willing to take part in them because I know that I will have some protection and people looking out for me.

In the end, if businesses like facebook want to grow and make money they will need to be trusted. As such, I think all this privacy business will be resolved and it will be win-win. The more people are able to trust them, the more information that people will give, but as it is, people are learning, slowly but surly, that they are being exploited (possibly) or treated a little shabbily (at best) by companies like facebook. As such, they are sorting this stuff out themselves and withdrawing information and the good-will that went along with it, which could well cost facebook more in the end than having a clear policy that people can trust dictated to them by an external body.

RE: Love it
By UnWeave on 7/9/2010 8:15:26 AM , Rating: 4
Have you ever tried to delete your account, assuming you have one? I don't know if it's one of the things they've recently changed, but it used to be rather difficult. Freezing your account was easy, but that was more-or-less equivalent to simply not logging on.

The problem is the manner in which they inform their users. Sure, the information is there, somewhere, but they're hiding it because they know you won't like it.

RE: Love it
By vapore0n on 7/9/2010 8:54:35 AM , Rating: 2
Too late. I think their terms of service say that they own your data if you decide to delete your account and leave.

See. That's whats wrong with that company. They started out as a college/highschool type social website, lured people in, and then became the money hungry monster that it is now. I understand they need money to keep running, but did they had to go the way of Myspace?

In other news
By afkrotch on 7/8/2010 8:00:12 PM , Rating: 2
the rest of the world moves on. If you're willing to voluntarily hand out information to the site, you are should expect them to use it in some way, shape, or fashion that benefits them. Seriously, they're a business.

They aren't doing it, just so millions of members have ability to share information amongst each other. They're out to make money.

By Motoman on 7/9/2010 11:42:15 AM , Rating: 2
...if you post your information on a free public website you have utterly relinquished any expectation of privacy. And if you expect otherwise, you're a retard. iPhones are over there...

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