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Your Data, Facebook’s Trade Secret

14
Oct
2011

facebook_logo_darkIn the wake of Europe vs. Facebook’s “Annoy Facebook” campaign, those who participated discovered something very fishy: Facebook claims that it is not required to give a user a ‘complete’ copy of his or her data if, in doing so, the company will be compromising its ‘trade secrets’ or ‘intellectual property’.

It’s a bit of an irony, to be honest, considering how the very premise for the whole Annoy Facebook campaign was based on how the company is bound by European law to provide copies of a user’s data when requested. The company has to send a CD containing the data  within 40 days of the request. Europe vs. Facebook then began a campaign designed to overwhelm Facebook with data requests – a campaign that soon forced the company to send out apologies and explanations to the requesting users.

Some of them did receive their CDs, including Europe vs. Facebook founder, Max Schrems. He received a CD-ROM containing an overwhelming 800 pages of sheer data, covering all his activities on Facebook since the moment he joined. Schrems browsed through the contents of the CD, only to discover that there were some key data elements missing.

Schrems then sent a message to Facebook requesting the missing data but then Facebook sent him a reply explaining that what they had provided was already in compliance with the law. As it turns out, there are certain categories of personal data that are exempt from these requests, particularly those that the company considers as its “trade secret” or “intellectual property”. An example of the undisclosed data, according to Europe v. Facebook’s site, includes biometrical information or ‘likes’.

The message closed with  paragraph reminding Schrems that the company has already complied with his request and that it is no longer obligated to comply to similar requests unless it has deemed that a ‘reasonable period of time’ has elapsed since the last one.

Facebook’s response has once again caused quite a stir among privacy advocates, especially among the members of the group. Users are chagrined by the thought of having part of their data hidden from them by the company, even if Facebook’s claims about the law supporting their actions are revealed to be true.

With Ireland’s Data Protection Commissioner promising to look into Facebook’s activities in response to the group’s 22 complaints, there is at least hope for a resolution on the issue. If you are interested in what exactly these 22 complaints are, here’s a link to the group’s website:

http://europe-v-facebook.org/EN/Complaints/complaints.html

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