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Germany Launches Legal Action Against Facebook

| 9 Jul 2010 15:28
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Germany has launched legal action against Facebook over complaints that it is violating the privacy rights of people who haven't even signed up for it.

Privacy has become a tricky business, in large part because it seems like most people are willing to give it up at the drop of a hat. I avoided Facebook for ages and asked my friends to keep me off their pages because I didn't want my personal information plastered all over the net. Naturally, that just inspired a former co-worker to slap some pictures of me on her own page, tag them with my name and post what she no doubt thought was an amusing "Ha ha" message taunting me about it.

That sort of behavior has prompted German officials to launch legal proceedings against Facebook over its policy of saving information about people who aren't members of the social network but have various details posted on it anyway thanks to overly-enthusiastic friends. Johannes Caspar, the head of Hamburg's Data Protection Authority, said Facebook is saving that information without proper permission and that he's received "a number of complaints" about the practice.

"We consider the saving of data from third parties, in this context, to be against data privacy laws," he said.

Facebook, whose CEO Mark Zuckerberg reportedly "doesn't believe in" privacy, has come under fire in the past over its lax attitude toward privacy rights. It implemented new policies following an investigation by the Canadian Privacy Commissioner and has also taken heat from the U.S. government. But according to John Simpson of Consumer Watchdog, privacy laws in Europe are much stricter than they are in North America.

"There are much stronger privacy laws in Europe than here, where privacy is viewed as a consumer protection issue as opposed to a fundamental human right," he told the BBC. "We see that a number of Silicon Valley companies don't really understand how seriously privacy issues are taken in Europe and they will continue to run afoul of data protection laws there. I also think there is a growing reaction in the US that we should beef up our privacy laws along the lines of those in Europe."

Facebook has until August 11 to reply to the complaint and said it will "readily respond to it within the given time frame."

Thanks to Bloodstain for the tip.

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