Feeds

German privacy watchdogs agree social networking ground rules

Keep users informed about data use

Beginner's guide to SSL certificates

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.

Choosing a cloud hosting partner with confidence

More from The Register

next story
The 'fun-nification' of computer education – good idea?
Compulsory code schools, luvvies love it, but what about Maths and Physics?
Facebook, Apple: LADIES! Why not FREEZE your EGGS? It's on the company!
No biological clockwatching when you work in Silicon Valley
Happiness economics is bollocks. Oh, UK.gov just adopted it? Er ...
Opportunity doesn't knock; it costs us instead
Ex-US Navy fighter pilot MIT prof: Drones beat humans - I should know
'Missy' Cummings on UAVs, smartcars and dying from boredom
Yes, yes, Steve Jobs. Look what I'VE done for you lately – Tim Cook
New iPhone biz baron points to Apple's (his) greatest successes
Lords take revenge on REVENGE PORN publishers
Jilted Johns and Jennies with busy fingers face two years inside
Sysadmin with EBOLA? Gartner's issued advice to debug your biz
Start hoarding cleaning supplies, analyst firm says, and assume your team will scatter
Edward who? GCHQ boss dodges Snowden topic during last speech
UK spies would rather 'walk' than do 'mass surveillance'
Doctor Who's Flatline: Cool monsters, yes, but utterly limp subplots
We know what the Doctor does, stop going on about it already
prev story

Whitepapers

Forging a new future with identity relationship management
Learn about ForgeRock's next generation IRM platform and how it is designed to empower CEOS's and enterprises to engage with consumers.
Why and how to choose the right cloud vendor
The benefits of cloud-based storage in your processes. Eliminate onsite, disk-based backup and archiving in favor of cloud-based data protection.
Three 1TB solid state scorchers up for grabs
Big SSDs can be expensive but think big and think free because you could be the lucky winner of one of three 1TB Samsung SSD 840 EVO drives that we’re giving away worth over £300 apiece.
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.