Feeds

EC: 'Friends-only' natter not subject to 'right to be forgotten'

Chitchat not in draft new data protection law

New hybrid storage solutions

The operators of social networking sites, such as Facebook, would not be obliged to delete every piece of information about individuals that they host under proposed new EU 'right to be forgotten' laws, the European Commission has said.

The Commission said that the platforms would not have to delete information that users elect only to enable their 'friends' on the sites to access. The processing of that data would be outside the scope of the draft new data protection laws, it said, according to ZDNet.

Under the draft General Data Protection Regulation, published by the Commission in January, individuals will be given a qualified 'right to be forgotten' that will generally enable them to force organisations to delete personal data stored about them "without delay". Organisations that have made the data public will be liable for the data published by third parties and will be required to "take all reasonable steps, including technical measures" to inform them to delete the information.

Organisations will be able to oppose the deletion of information if they can show they have a right to publish the data under the fundamental principle of freedom of expression or if it is in the public interest for the data to remain in existence.

However, the draft Regulation contains a particular provision that exempts the rules laid out in the text from applying to "the processing of personal data ... by a natural person without any gainful interest in the course of its own exclusively personal or household activity". It is this exemption that would apply to some social network content, the Commission said.

"This is the case when, for example, privacy settings are configured so to give access only to 'friends'," the Commission said, according to the ZDNet report.

Kathryn Wynn, expert in data protection at Pinsent Masons, the law firm behind Out-Law.com, said that it would be hard to establish when social networks would be required to comply with the ‘right to be forgotten’ in every case, even if access to postings were set between just ‘friends’.

“In a physical sense the ‘household’ exemption applies to enable individuals to maintain a list of contacts, such as Christmas card lists and other personal, domestic collections of others’ details, which do not require the others’ consent,” Wynn said.

“In an online social network environment the exemption, applied strictly, would apply very narrowly. It would only relate to a proportionately small number of personal exchanges between users on social networking sites. If Facebook was able to glean an inherent benefit from processing postings, such as allowing advertisers to market products based on the interaction, then that processing would have to be considered within the scope of the draft Regulation. This would mean Facebook would generally be obliged to act to delete the information upon request”.

“The moment that social networks act as anything other than a mere host of content they are going to come within the scope of the Regulation. The high functionality of Facebook and the way users’ network of activity can lead to personalisation would mean it would be hard to know when user exchanges fall within the ‘household’ exemption,” Wynn said.

The Commission also said that only "pure hosting services" that "have no ownership and no responsibility" for content posted by internet users would not be expected to delete information under the proposed regime, according to ZDNet.

"Information services, including social networking and search engines, may exercise control on the content, conditions and means of processing, thereby acting as data controllers. If and when this is the case, clearly they have to respect related data protection obligations," the Commission said, according to the ZDNet report.

The Commission's comments contrast those made by Google privacy lawyer Peter Fleischer, who said last week said that search engines should only have to update search rankings and help facilitate easier, faster deletion of content rather than delete the material themselves under the proposed DP Regulation.

Copyright © 2012, OUT-LAW.com

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

Security for virtualized datacentres

More from The Register

next story
Found inside ISIS terror chap's laptop: CELINE DION tunes
REPORT: Stash of terrorist material found in Syria Dell box
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
Former Bitcoin Foundation chair pleads guilty to money-laundering charge
Charlie Shrem plea deal could still get him five YEARS in chokey
NORKS ban Wi-Fi and satellite internet at embassies
Crackdown on tardy diplomatic sysadmins providing accidental unfiltered internet access
'Serious flaws in the Vertigan report' says broadband boffin
Report 'fails reality test' , is 'simply wrong' and offers ''convenient' justification for FTTN says Rod Tucker
FAIL.GOV – Government asks Dropbox for accounts that don't exist
Storage locker's transparency report shows rise in government data gobble attempts
prev story

Whitepapers

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.
Top 5 reasons to deploy VMware with Tegile
Data demand and the rise of virtualization is challenging IT teams to deliver storage performance, scalability and capacity that can keep up, while maximizing efficiency.
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.
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.