Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Facebook privacy: company freaks out over 24-year-old Austrian law student's challenge;
15 FB lawyers on case in Ireland

Schrem with Facebook's 1222-page dossier on him
Schrem was interviewed on The Story, starting at the 31:15 mark of a MP3 file that you can download here.

Max Schrem is a 24-year-old Austrian law student and the leader of Europe vs. Facebook, an organization trying to compel Facebook to become more responsible about its users' privacy.
     He founded the organization when, after 22 emails, Facebook finally sent him its data on him — a pdf file which ran to 1,222 pages — including much information he thought he had deleted.
     Facebook adds the results of its own snooping to the data provided by its users. For example, it has a category called "Last Location" as part of its digital stalking of customers. Deleting friends on Facebook just moves them to a file called "deleted friends." (Schrem: "Pretty much what we discovered is that deleting on Facebook means that you hide things from yourself, but that's pretty much it."
     Max counted 57 categories of data on himself, but says Facebook has at least 84 categories. He also got 300 pages of text messages, many of which he had deleted.
     Facebook's operations outside the US and Canada are in Ireland for tax reasons (2-3% vs. 35% in the US, according to Schrem) so his group went went there to inform Facebook of all the ways it was violating European Data Protection laws. Schrem said Irish Data Protection Commission lacks people "in good knowledge" of stringent European laws. Schrem's beef will be heard in the Irish courts; Facebook now has a legal team of 15 people in Ireland working on Schrem's case.
     Schrem compared Facebook's recent, well-concealed, one-week poll of users about privacy (with laughably-contrived questions) to a Chinese Communist election in which voting is encouraged but the polling places are hidden:

Polling station well hidden. "Instead of having a transparent vote about demanded changes, Facebook is now having a pro-forma vote on its platform. Because the vote would only be binding if 30% of the worldwide users take part, the mechanism was very well hidden on the platform, making sure that most users don’t even know about it.
      Until the end only about 342.000 of the 901 million users have found the polling station, that’s just 0.038028%. Facebook is again fooling its users: First they give you that whole speech about user participation, and then they hide the polling station, just to be sure. To us this is more of a Chinese than an American understanding of democracy."

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