Feeds

German privacy watchdogs agree social networking ground rules

Keep users informed about data use

New hybrid storage solutions

Social networking sites are not permitted to store information about people's use of the sites beyond the duration of a particular session, according to a panel of Germany's data protection officials.

Companies behind social networks such as MySpace and Facebook must also tell users what happens to any data that is collected and tell them how they can influence the use of that data.

The principles were laid down by the German Düsseldorfer Kreis (GDK), a panel of all the German data protection authorities. They laid down eight principles of operation for social networking sites to keep them in line with data protection law, according to the Data Protection Review operated by the data protection agency of Madrid.

The principles covered what data can be collected under which circumstances, and what it can then be used for.

One principle said that the sites could only store personal information that was not a part of the user's actual social networking profile beyond the end of a session if it needed it for billing purposes. Since most social networks are free that is unlikely to be a common situation.

The principles also said that any information that is gathered can only be used for marketing if the user has provided consent for that to happen.

The rules also made it clear to social network operators that they could not use laws derived from the Data Retention Directive to justify keeping information. The GDK said that there is no legal foundation for storing data unless there is a specific law that says so.

The application of the Directive to online services has previously been the subject of debate between privacy regulators and Google. The search giant had claimed that it had to keep logs of search queries because it was required to by the Directive.

The Directive tells countries to pass laws ordering telecoms companies to keep records of user activity for between six and 24 months in case the information is useful in criminal prosecutions.

Privacy regulators said that the Directive only applied to telecoms service providers and not to companies which provide content online.

Google conceded in September of this year that its keeping of data was not mandated by the Directive, as it had previously argued.

The GDK's principles also include instructions to social networking operators to adequately protect private information with technical security measures and to set the standard privacy settings so that they protect users' privacy as efficiently as possible.

The GDK also said that social networking companies must let users delete their profile.

The GDK is an informal grouping of the regulators who monitor data protection in the private sector in Germany.

Copyright © 2008, OUT-LAW.com

OUT-LAW.COM is part of international law firm Pinsent Masons.

Security for virtualized datacentres

More from The Register

next story
Net neutrality protestors slam the brakes on their OWN websites
Sites link up to protest slow lanes by bogging down pages
Italy's High Court orders HP to refund punter for putting Windows on PC
Top beaks slam bundled OS as 'commercial policy of forced distribution'
Found inside ISIS terror chap's laptop: CELINE DION tunes
REPORT: Stash of terrorist material found in Syria Dell box
Uber alles-holes, claims lawsuit: Taxi biz sued by blind passengers
Sueball claims blind passengers ditched, guide dogs abused
Show us your Five-Eyes SECRETS says Privacy International
Refusal to disclose GCHQ canteen menus and prices triggers Euro Human Rights Court action
Heavy VPN users are probably pirates, says BBC
And ISPs should nab 'em on our behalf
prev story

Whitepapers

Secure remote control for conventional and virtual desktops
Balancing user privacy and privileged access, in accordance with compliance frameworks and legislation. Evaluating any potential remote control choice.
Intelligent flash storage arrays
Tegile Intelligent Storage Arrays with IntelliFlash helps IT boost storage utilization and effciency while delivering unmatched storage savings and performance.
Reg Reader Research: SaaS based Email and Office Productivity Tools
Read this Reg reader report which provides advice and guidance for SMBs towards the use of SaaS based email and Office productivity tools.
Security for virtualized datacentres
Legacy security solutions are inefficient due to the architectural differences between physical and virtual environments.
Providing a secure and efficient Helpdesk
A single remote control platform for user support is be key to providing an efficient helpdesk. Retain full control over the way in which screen and keystroke data is transmitted.