Facebook and privacy: On the defensive against class-action suit, research report in Europe

Standing at the corner of Facebook and Privacy, here’s what we see:

First, the world’s largest social network is being sued by a large number of people outside the U.S. and Canada who’ve joined a class-action in Austria: 25,000, with 55,000 more set to join the lawsuit later, according to the Guardian. The suit, brought against Facebook’s headquarters in Dublin, Ireland, accuses the social network of violating European privacy laws in the way it shares user data, and of cooperating with the NSA’s Prism spying program.

Like other Silicon Valley tech companies, Facebook has denied giving the NSA direct access to its users’ information through Prism.

The Europe vs. Facebook effort is spearheaded by Austrian law graduate Max Schrems, who has for years spoken out about Facebook’s privacy practices. This particular action began last year with signups of the plaintiffs who are asking for 500 euros each.

Among the acts the suit claims is unlawful: Facebook’s tracking of Internet users on external websites, such as through “Likes.”

The Vienna court is expected to decide in the next few weeks whether it has the jurisdiction to hear the case, according to the BBC.

Speaking of tracking, the company has admitted that its cookies have tracked Web users who haven’t signed up to use its service, but visited other sites that “integrated certain Facebook technology,” according to the Wall Street Journal. Facebook said it’s a bug that it’s working to fix. The problem was found by researchers who were commissioned by Belgium’s privacy watchdog.

The WSJ writes that the researchers also found: “The company didn’t give people a ‘meaningful choice’ about how their information was collected and used for certain forms of advertising; didn’t meet legal requirements for consent when combining information from services such as Whatsapp and Instagram; and required people to opt out of certain profiling and advertising instead of allowing them to opt in.” Facebook said it complies with all applicable laws and publishes audits by the Irish Data Protection Commissioner.

 

Photo from AFP/Getty Images

 

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