Feeds

Irish DPC to investigate Facebook

More information than they need

The Power of One Infographic

Even if you’re not a Facebook user, chances are that your computer is carrying cookies from The Social Network™. They’re scattered all over the Web like digital malarial mosquitoes waiting for the next host.

They’re also, according to Austrian law student Max Schrens, part of an infrastructure that allows Facebook to build “shadow profiles” of people who have never signed on to Facebook and therefore have never consented to its data slurp.

According to Schrens’ complaint to the Irish Data Protection Commissioner, these shadow profiles are mainly gathered by encouraging users to share information about their friends, even if those people aren’t users. For example, he writes, when a user synchs a mobile phone to their Facebook account, they’re handing information on non-users to Facebook; similarly, importing e-mail address books, importing profiles from services like Twitter, and even sending Facebook invites to friends – all of these help round out the profiles Facebook can build of non-users.

According to the Irish Times, the group Europe-v-Facebook has used his research to force a privacy investigation by the Data Protection Commissioner.

His formal complaint claims that the information collected by Facebook Ireland is excessive, and is gathered “without notice or consent by the data subject. This information might also constitute sensitive data such as political opinions, religious or philosophical beliefs, sexual orientation and so on.”

Schrens also says the interested generated by the Europe-v-Facebook group has been so intense that it’s hampering Facebook’s ability to respond to his request for information held about him: “due to the recent high volume of personal data access requests, there are significant delays and that Facebook would be unlikely to respond within the 40-day period set down by the Irish data-protection office. So I can’t verify Europe-v-Facebook’s claim that the data contained therein differs from what I downloaded from Facebook,” he notes.

Other complaints raised by Europe-v-Facebook include the alleged use of the “Like” button to track people “all over the Internet”; facial recognition technology; the retention of messages after users have deleted them; and the ability for users to be added to groups without their consent.

Australia’s privacy watch-puppy watchdog, the Privacy Commissioner, recently passed over the cookies issue, and is unlikely to pursue the “shadow profiles” debate without a specific complaint.

El Reg has requested comment from Facebook. ®

HP ProLiant Gen8: Integrated lifecycle automation

More from The Register

next story
Yorkshire cops fail to grasp principle behind BT Fon Wi-Fi network
'Prevent people that are passing by to hook up to your network', pleads plod
UK government officially adopts Open Document Format
Microsoft insurgency fails, earns snarky remark from UK digital services head
Major problems beset UK ISP filth filters: But it's OK, nobody uses them
It's almost as though pr0n was actually rather popular
HP, Microsoft prove it again: Big Business doesn't create jobs
SMEs get lip service - what they need is dinner at the Club
ITC: Seagate and LSI can infringe Realtek patents because Realtek isn't in the US
Land of the (get off scot) free, when it's a foreign owner
MPs wave through Blighty's 'EMERGENCY' surveillance laws
Only 49 politcos voted against DRIP bill
Help yourself to anyone's photos FOR FREE, suggests UK.gov
Copyright law reforms will keep m'learned friends busy
prev story

Whitepapers

Designing a Defense for Mobile Applications
Learn about the various considerations for defending mobile applications - from the application architecture itself to the myriad testing technologies.
How modern custom applications can spur business growth
Learn how to create, deploy and manage custom applications without consuming or expanding the need for scarce, expensive IT resources.
Reducing security risks from open source software
Follow a few strategies and your organization can gain the full benefits of open source and the cloud without compromising the security of your applications.
Boost IT visibility and business value
How building a great service catalog relieves pressure points and demonstrates the value of IT service management.
Consolidation: the foundation for IT and business transformation
In this whitepaper learn how effective consolidation of IT and business resources can enable multiple, meaningful business benefits.