Wednesday, 12 May 2010

EU - Art. 29 Working Party criticises Facebook's changes, writes to 20 social networking sites

UPDATE - now see text of the Article 29 Working Party letter to Facebook and letter to other social networking sites.

The EU Article 29 Working Party, comprising EU privacy regulators and the European Data Protection Supervisor, are the latest official group to rap social networking site Facebook for its recent privacy-unfriendly changes.

In their 12 May 2010 press release "European data protection group faults Facebook for privacy setting change", they said they had sent Facebook a letter saying that "it is unacceptable that the company fundamentally changed the default settings on its social-networking platform to the detriment of a user", just "days after the company and other social networking sites providers participated at a hearing during the Article 29 Working Party’s plenary meeting in November 2009".

Following up on their Opinion on Online Social Networking of June 2009 and hearing with major social network services operators Facebook, Netlog and StudiVZ at an Article 29 Working Party plenary meeting in November 2009, the Working Party have written to 20 social networking operators which had signed the "Safer Networking Principles for the EU" (see the full list of signatories).

The Working Party focused on 3 main areas (emphasis added):

  • defaults - "the need for 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."
  • third-party applications - "Providers of social network services should grant users a maximum of control about which profile data can be accessed by a third party application on a case-by-case basis."
  • third party data provided by users - "Providers of social networking sites should be aware that it would be a breach of data protecion law if they use personal data of other individuals contained in a user profile for commercial purposes if these other individuals have not given their free and unambiguous consent."

See further on Facebook:

You know what else? Face-to-face time makes us happier than Facebook, according to the Happiness Barometer. And "Facebook is bad for your marriage" according to an online divorce service which found 20% of divorce petitions in their database referred to Facebook. So.

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