Facebook has been forced to give its users more control over how much of their personal information is shared with the social networking site and the makers of the games and quizzes they download onto their profile pages, in the latest move to increase
online consumer protection.
The move, which comes in response to complaints from Canadian privacy officials, is part of a growing trend to clamp down on the use of personal data by social networking sites and the software developers who use them to distribute their applications. It
could have repercussions for other sites such as MySpace and even Twitter.
As consumers are given more and more power over the use of their information, it reduces the potential ability of companies such as Facebook to make money supplying that information to advertisers. In the past, the company has come under fire for its own
use of users' information to target advertising.
After a year-long review from the Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada, Facebook has agreed to give users more information about how it uses their data for advertising, and to change the default settings of its privacy controls – which many users
leave unaltered – to better reflect users' preferences.
Now Facebook has accepted this needs tightening up. The changes, which Facebook will introduce over the next year, will affect all 250 million Facebook users worldwide, including those in the UK.
Application developers will have to specify which categories of data the software needs, so users can decide accordingly. Specifically, the application will have to tell users why it wants very sensitive information, such as date of birth. Users will
also have to specifically approve any access Facebook applications have to their friends' information. Such access still would be subject to the friend's privacy and application settings.
The Canadian privacy commissioner is happy with changes made by Facebook, following an investigation of the site's policies last year.
Jennifer Stoddart said the social network had vastly improved the sharing of personal information with third-party developers.
She believes that Facebook now provides users with clear information about privacy policies.
In May the social network made wide-ranging changes to its site. These changes came about partly as a result of pressure from privacy commissioners and campaigners around the world.
One of the major concerns of the Canadian commissioner was the way Facebook gave third-party developers virtually unrestricted access to Facebook users' personal information. The new model means developers must inform users of the data they need
and seek consent to use it.
We're also pleased that Facebook has developed simplified privacy settings and has implemented a tool that allows users to apply a privacy setting to each photo or comment they post, said Stoddart.
Visits to any site that has Facebook features such as 'like buttons' will be recorded on your own page unless you take positive action to turn it off, somewhere in the complex labyrinth of Facebook options.
A German consumer protection group has sent Facebook a cease and desist letter that claims the website breaches German privacy
Verbraucherzentrale Bundesverband (Federation of German Consumer Organizations) says Facebook has one week to stop automatically giving third party applications information about its users without their explicit consent.
The group said in a statement Monday that if Facebook fails to comply by Sept. 4 it will sue the California company.
Germany has stricter laws than most countries on data protection. These give consumers significant rights to limit the way companies use their information.
Facebook has been fined 100,000 euros in Germany after failing to follow orders regarding clearer privacy terms and conditions for users.
The regional court of Berlin ruled that the company did not sufficiently alter the working of an intellectual property clause in its terms and conditions, despite being told to do so following a complaint filing by the Federation of German Consumer
Organizations. The entity's head, Klaus Mueller, said that Facebook keeps attempting to evade customer laws in Germany as well as in the entire continent.
In March 2012, a German court originally ruled that the company's terms and conditions were vague on the extent to which it could go with users' data and intellectual property, implying Facebook could license its users' photos and videos to third parties
for business reasons. However, the authorities' primary issue was Facebook's compliance with the US government to provide data for its mass surveillance programs. After Edward Snowden's revelations on the US government's spying programs and how the tech
industry complies, the issue has gained more gravity.
While Facebook complied with the ruling four years ago, the Berlin court now concludes that it merely changed the wording of the clause in question without changing the message that it conveyed. Meanwhile, the company defended itself saying that it had
complied with the original ruling and was issued the fine because it couldn't implement the changes quickly enough.
In a ruling of particular interest to those working in the adult entertainment biz, a German court has ruled that Facebook's real name policy is illegal and that users must be allowed to sign up for the service under pseudonyms.
The opinion comes from the Berlin Regional Court and disseminated by the Federation of German Consumer Organizations, which filed the suit against Facebook. The Berlin court found that Facebook's real name policy was a covert way of obtaining
users' consent to share their names, which are one of many pieces of information the court said Facebook did not properly obtain users' permission for.
The court also said that Facebook didn't provide a clear-cut choice to users for other default settings, such as to share their location in chats. It also ruled against clauses that allowed the social media giant to use information such as profile
pictures for commercial, sponsored or related content.
Facebook told Reuters it will appeal the ruling, but also that it will make changes to comply with European Union privacy laws coming into effect in June.
Facebook has been ordered to stop tracking people without consent, by a court in Belgium. The company has been told to delete all the data it had gathered on people who did not use Facebook. The court ruled the data was gathered illegally.
Belgium's privacy watchdog said the website had broken privacy laws by placing tracking code on third-party websites.
Facebook said it would appeal against the ruling.
The social network faces fines of 250,000 euros a day if it does not comply.
The ruling is the latest in a long-running dispute between the social network and the Belgian commission for the protection of privacy (CPP). In 2015, the CPP complained that Facebook tracked people when they visited pages on the site or clicked
like or share, even if they were not members.
For years, privacy advocates have been shouting about Facebook, and for years the population as a whole didn't care. Whatever the reason, the
ongoing Cambridge Analytica saga seems to have temporarily burst this sense of complacency, and people are suddenly giving the company a lot more scrutiny.
When you delete Facebook, the company provides you with a compressed file with everything it has on you. As well as every photo you've ever uploaded and details of any advert you've ever interacted with, some users are panicking that Facebook
seems to have been tracking all of their calls and texts. Details of who you've called, when and for how long appear in an easily accessible list -- even if you don't use Facebook-owned WhatsApp or Messenger for texts or calls.
Although it has been put around that Facebook have been logging calls without your permission, but this is not quite the case. In fact Facebook do actually follow Facebook settings and permissions, and do not track your calls if you don't give
permission. So the issue is people not realising quite how wide permissions are granted when you have ticked permission boxes.
Facebook seemed to confirm this in a statement in response:
You may have seen some recent reports that Facebook has been logging people's call and SMS (text) history without their permission. This is not the case. Call and text history logging is part of an opt-in feature for people using Messenger or
Facebook Lite on Android. People have to expressly agree to use this feature. If, at any time, they no longer wish to use this feature they can turn it off.
So there you have it, if you use Messenger of Facebook Lite on Android you have indeed given the company permission to snoop on ALL your calls, not just those made through Facebook apps,
UK Censorship Culture Secretary Matt Hancock met Facebook executives to warn them the social network is not above law.
Hancock told US-based Vice President of Global Policy Management Monika Bickert, and Global Deputy Chief Privacy Officer Stephen Deadman he would hold their feet to the fire over the privacy of British users.
Hancock pressed Facebook on accountability, transparency, micro-targeting and data protection. He also sought assurances that UK citizens data was no longer at risk and that Facebook would be giving citizens more control over their data going
Following the talks, Hancock said:
Social media companies are not above the law and will not be allowed to shirk their responsibilities to our citizens. We will do what is needed to ensure that people's data is protected and don't rule anything out - that includes further
regulation in the future.
Grovelling to the Senate Judiciary and Commerce Committees, Mark Zuckerberg apologised that Facebook had not taken a broad enough view
of its responsibility for people's public information. He ssaid:
It was my mistake, and I'm sorry. I started Facebook, I run it, and I'm responsible for what happens here.
Zuckerberg said its audit of third-party apps would highlight any misuse of personal information, and said the company would alert users instantly if it found anything suspicious.
When asked why the company did not immediately alert the 87 million users whose data may have been accessed by Cambridge Analytica (CA) when first told about the improper usage in 2015, Zuckerberg said Facebook considered it a closed case after CA
said it had deleted it. He apologised:
In retrospect it was clearly a mistake to believe them.
Zuckerberg's profuse apologies seem to have been a hit at the stock exchange but techies weren't impressed when he clammed up when asked for details on how Facebook snoops on users (and non-users).
Here is an update on the Facebook app investigation and audit that Mark Zuckerberg promised on March 21.
As Mark explained, Facebook will investigate all the apps that had access to large amounts of information before we changed our platform policies in 2014 -- significantly reducing the data apps could access. He also made clear that where we had
concerns about individual apps we would audit them -- and any app that either refused or failed an audit would be banned from Facebook.
The investigation process is in full swing, and it has two phases. First, a comprehensive review to identify every app that had access to this amount of Facebook data. And second, where we have concerns, we will conduct interviews, make requests
for information (RFI) -- which ask a series of detailed questions about the app and the data it has access to -- and perform audits that may include on-site inspections.
We have large teams of internal and external experts working hard to investigate these apps as quickly as possible. To date thousands of apps have been investigated and around 200 have been suspended -- pending a thorough investigation into
whether they did in fact misuse any data. Where we find evidence that these or other apps did misuse data, we will ban them and notify people via this website. It will show people if they or their friends installed an app that misused data before
2015 -- just as we did for Cambridge Analytica.
There is a lot more work to be done to find all the apps that may have misused people's Facebook data -- and it will take time. We are investing heavily to make sure this investigation is as thorough and timely as possible. We will keep you
updated on our progress.