Breach of trust

Internet>> Privacy • Ireland

Published: Monday 30 November -0001

Ireland’s Data Protection Commissioner has begun an audit of Facebook based on privacy-related complaints from a students’ group. The complaints against the social network have their origin in a request made under European law by Max Schrems, an Austrian law student, for access to the data Facebook holds on him.

imageHe received a CD containing 1,222 pages of information that Facebook retained about him. In the file he found certain information that unsettled him.

Posts and messages he knew he had deleted still showed up in the data. Chat or instant messages, some of which contained personal information, were there too.

Schrems and his friends set up Europe-v-Facebook, an online campaign that is seeking to clarify what it believes are serious privacy issues for Facebook users. The group sent 22 complaints to the Data Protection Commissioner. Because Facebook’s European headquarters is in Dublin, the Irish agency has jurisdiction over its users across the EU.

Schrems says this data storage is potentially dangerous. He fears that Facebook, like so many companies before it, will be the target of attempted privacy breaches. Bits of apparently innocuous information might grow into easily searchable life archives with the potential to be misused by government, secret services or others.

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