pte20120925019 Computer/Telecommunications, Media/Communications
Facebook campaign presses ahead after first victory
Organisers press on with other privacy complaints against social media platform
Vienna (pte019/25.09.2012/16:30) - The Vienna-based initiative Europe-v-facebook.org http://www.europe-v-facebook.org/DE/de.html has announced plans to press ahead with further steps against the social media enterprise after the success of its plan to stop the company's face recognition system.
Max Schrems who is a law student at the University of Vienna and a user of Facebook since 2008 started the campaign in Europe against what he maintains are Facebook's illegal practices of collecting and marketing users' personal data, often without consent.
His one-person operation morphed into a Web site, Europe Versus Facebook, and a grass-roots movement that has persuaded thousands of people to contact Facebook in Ireland, where its European headquarters are located, to demand a summary of all the personal data the US company is holding on them.
He and others after him complained using a provision of Irish law to obtain from Facebook a copy of all of the information the company had been keeping on them. In the case of Mr. Schrems it was a computer disc containing 1,222 pages of information.
The disc, Mr. Schrems said, showed that Facebook was routinely collecting data that he had never consented to give, like his physical location, which he assumes was determined from his computer's unique address identifiers, which can be traced geographically.
Facebook was also retaining data he had deleted, Mr Schrems said.
Mr Schrems and his crusade have attracted the attention of MPs in Brussels as Europe begins a lengthy debate over tough new proposed restrictions on personal data, which could affect other web businesses and not just Facebook.
And after the success of the stop to the face recognition system Schrems said that they were still pressing on with other complaints.
Schrems said: "It is still unclear exactly what Facebook is doing with the data that is deleted, how long this is remaining on their servers and what laws they are applying when they continue to store this supposedly deleted data."
Facebook suspended its facial-recognition function in the EU and agreed to delete related data collected from the profiles of European users after the Irish Data Protection Commissioner (DPC) announced on Friday that the Photo Tag Suggest function was to be scrapped.
The complaint by Schrems and subsequent investigation were dealt with in Ireland as the world's largest social network bases its non-North American activities in Dublin.
Facebook's Photo Tag Suggest function uses software that recognises people in newly uploaded photos by comparing them with photos already tagged on the site. The program then automatically suggests the names of people featured in the photo.
When Facebook launched its face-recognition technology, countries including Austria, Norway and Germany had already raised objections, calling for it to be banned.
In the Facebook Audit Review Report, published 21 September 2012, the DPC confirmed that Facebook had promised to suspend the Photo Tag Suggest function immediately for new users in the EU. Other EU-based users should see it disappear by mid-October at the latest.