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Germany Takes Legal Steps Against Facebook 138

Posted by samzenpus
from the verboten-knowledge dept.
crimeandpunishment writes "Not only are Germany and Facebook not friends, they might end up opponents in a courtroom. Germany has begun legal action over privacy. A German data protection official accuses Facebook of illegally saving personal data of people who don't use the site and haven't given permission to access their private information. Germany, which has also launched an investigation into Google over its Street View mapping program, has some of the strictest privacy laws in the world."
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Germany Takes Legal Steps Against Facebook

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  • From TFA (Score:4, Informative)

    by LockeOnLogic (723968) on Thursday July 08, 2010 @05:43AM (#32836944)
    "Kohannes Caspar said his Hamburg data protection office had initiated legal steps that could result in Facebook being fined tens of thousands of euros for saving private information of individuals who don't use the site and haven't granted it access to their details."

    I bet this is less than their monthly coffee expenses.
    • by zebslash (1107957)

      Multiplied by the number of users, it may be a big sum. I don't know if Germany has class-action laws though.

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by bickerdyke (670000)

        Nope. No class actions over here.

        Also it's a fine, no damage, so it'll be payable only once.

        • Only if they stop (Score:4, Insightful)

          by aepervius (535155) on Thursday July 08, 2010 @07:29AM (#32837520)
          If they continue breaking privacy law, the fine will continue, and increase.
          • What gives Germany jurisdiction, anyway? Could FaceBook just move a few of their servers?

            • by MeNeXT (200840) on Thursday July 08, 2010 @09:34AM (#32838854)

              What gives Germany jurisdiction, anyway? Could FaceBook just move a few of their servers?

              Holding information on it's citizens, that's what gives Germany jurisdiction.

              • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

                Holding information on it's citizens, that's what gives Germany jurisdiction.

                That's why Germany cares. It doesn't give FaceBook a reason to care what Germany thinks.

              • So, if I have a website where people can register, but I am a US company with all my servers in the US and no operations outside the US, just because someone from Germany navigates to my site and registers, my site is now subject to German laws?

                By that logic, I'm sure there are people registered from China here at Slashdot. Does that mean that Slashdot has to obey Chinese laws on censorship?

                • by RockDoctor (15477)

                  just because someone from Germany navigates to my site and registers, my site is now subject to German laws?

                  Probably (IANAL, thank fuck).
                  So, you need to include a choice list for "Nationality", and either treat people who flag themselves as "German" differently from other people whose data you store, or simply decline to register them. If someone were to lie to you about their citizenship, then you'd have a pretty strong defence if someone did make a claim against you.
                  It's your choice about how you handle t

            • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

              by ivucica (1001089)
              I'll blow my mod points for this: Facebook is permitted not to pay, but Germany is also permitted to ... let's say it like this, not expose its citizens to dangers of Facebook. If they broke the law in Germany, their services can be expelled from Germany, with easiest thing already disconnecting millions of users in Germany from Facebook: "Hey, mr. DNS Person from the ISP, please point www.facebook.com to this IP... kthxbye"
              • by HycoWhit (833923)
                Sure all the German ISP's could change their DNS pointers for FaceBook. But wouldn't they have to start redirecting requests to DNS servers outside of Germany as well? What is to stop a German who wants to use FB from using OpenDNS?
                • by ivucica (1001089)
                  Hmm, let's read this carefully:

                  easiest thing already disconnecting millions of users

                  Not perfect, not blocking everyone, but still blocking Facebook's target audience for at least a while. A nice and cheap solution. Filtering all DNS queries, on the other hand, would be expensive and ISPs would not as easily agree to it. Filtering all traffic? Heh.

                  Hence, an imperfect, but satisfactory solution.

                • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

                  by Bing Tsher E (943915)

                  What is to stop a German who wants to use FB from using OpenDNS?

                  We're talking about someone who wants to use FB. How would they ever figure out how to use OpenDNS?

              • by AmiMoJo (196126)

                There would be pretty good grounds for Germany to take it to the European level. Other EU governments have been making noised about Facebook for a while now too. Facebook would find it very hard to resist the EU.

    • Re:From TFA (Score:4, Insightful)

      by SquarePixel (1851068) on Thursday July 08, 2010 @05:47AM (#32836982)

      Not when it is per individual.

      It's kind of weird that Germany and Europe are now the safeguards of our privacy. On the other hand, they understand the reasons for that because of history. It seems like every other country in the world let big corporations like Google and Facebook do whatever they want.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward

        Not when it is per individual.

        It's kind of weird that Germany and Europe are now the safeguards of our privacy. On the other hand, they understand the reasons for that because of history. It seems like every other country in the world let big corporations like Google and Facebook do whatever they want.

        You are right...except that it wasn't the corporations that destroyed Europe twice in a century. These laws protect the privacy of individuals from corporations and other individuals, but they do nothing to protect the privacy of the individual from the government (the real problem). These laws will do nothing if nationalism surges in Europe again.

        • Re:From TFA (Score:5, Interesting)

          by TheRaven64 (641858) on Thursday July 08, 2010 @06:34AM (#32837224) Journal

          they do nothing to protect the privacy of the individual from the government

          Really? In the UK, at least, the government is bound by the data protection act and government departments must disclose, for a small nominal fee, any information that they hold on you. They can also be required to delete it in some circumstances. Given that this act is an implementation of European legislation, I'd be surprised if this isn't the case in most of the EU.

        • by Yaa 101 (664725)

          You are right...except that it wasn't the corporations that destroyed Europe twice in a century.

          But they were standing in the queue to help as much as can.
          Poverty is what causes the dangerous variant of nationalism and bailing out banks and corporations is a part of what causes this poverty.

          You need laws to even out the balance between citizens and corporations even if we know that corporations don't care about them, without laws you are not able to retroactively "get them" when they fucked up on purpose like Facebook is doing.

        • Re:From TFA (Score:4, Insightful)

          by agnosticnixie (1481609) on Thursday July 08, 2010 @07:38AM (#32837600)

          The corporations bankrolled both world wars and the rise of fascism.

          • Re:From TFA (Score:4, Insightful)

            by bickerdyke (670000) on Thursday July 08, 2010 @07:56AM (#32837758)

            At least according to our history textbooks, the increasing poverty after the great depression, the very failure of corporations, was a big factor in the rise of fascism. Lots of poor people willing to support anyone for empty promises.

            Look at how Saddam or AlQuaida buy the support of the local population by building a few schools and hospitals. If you have the chance to get your kids pneumonia treated in a hospital, you probably wouldn't care much about civil liberties.

            • Yeah, that's mostly true, but the junker class including a lot of industrialists did put a lot of weight behind them in Germany, thinking the nazis could be easily manipulated... The only thing that saved Schacht from the rope was his being such a complete moron (and if anything proved that it was his attempts at intriguing to get the nazis in power so he could keep them on a short leash for the junker cause... yeah).

            • by Terribliz (778925)
              Except that much the poverty came from the hyperinflation [wikipedia.org] of the Weimar Republic, caused by the government and the governments that inflicted the Treaty of Versailles upon Germany.
              • by jefu (53450)

                The hyperinflation certainly pushed things along, but I suspect that it helps to look at things as being a long war starting essentially with Napoleon, with smaller and larger shooting wars more or less interrupting a long period of arms building, Germany was falling apart by the end of the the first world war and the Versailles treaty didn't help, but I find it hard to see it as being the the most important factor. But I'm not a historian by any means, just someone who finds that flow of events intere

            • Re:From TFA (Score:4, Interesting)

              by drinkypoo (153816) <martin.espinoza@gmail.com> on Thursday July 08, 2010 @08:48AM (#32838234) Homepage Journal

              At least according to our history textbooks, the increasing poverty after the great depression, the very failure of corporations, was a big factor in the rise of fascism. Lots of poor people willing to support anyone for empty promises.

              I view it somewhat differently. The failure was dependence on the corporatism model. When a corporation breaks up the assets are divided between the creditors. When a co-op breaks up the assets are divided between the employees. Working for a corporation is a poor way to plan for your future.

              Look at how Saddam or AlQuaida buy the support of the local population by building a few schools and hospitals. If you have the chance to get your kids pneumonia treated in a hospital, you probably wouldn't care much about civil liberties.

              Just another reason why national health is important, of course. People who will go to work for BP because they're trying to support their family with medical care and whatnot.

              • When a co-op breaks up the assets are divided between the employees.

                In my (albeit limited) experience, co-ops tend to be owned by their members (customers), not their employees. Of course, a co-op is just a special form of corporation, and could easily be organized along lines similar to what you describe, among many other possibilities. Even with a normal publicly-traded corporation all you have to do to insure yourself against a break-up is purchase some shares of preferred stock—although by the time a corporation (or co-op) reaches the point of breaking up it's gen

            • Hitler was funded by big industrials like Ford, Thyssen, Stinnes, Kirdorf and many more. Most of them supported Hitler because of his anti-communist platform.

            • At least according to our history textbooks, the increasing poverty after the great depression, the very successful plan of corporations, was a big factor in the rise of fascism. Lots of poor people willing to support anyone for empty promises.

              There, fixed that for ya.

              Ahh, there’s nothing than “Profit over all!”... :/

        • 1. Basically, privacy laws apply to the state as well. Unfortunately priorities are at "our" war against terrorism, so "security" beats civil rights - just as everywhere else in the world. 2. You might want to have a deeper look into literature about the first world war. "Geopolitical interests" and "access to key ressources" translates as "the companies" to me. By the way, the wealthiest families in Germany still are Krupp, Flick and Thyssen - and just guess who built the punchcard machines to sort out jew
        • by stirz (839003)
          Hint: Grab yourself a copy of this movie [wikipedia.org] and it'll become clear why the Germans are keen to protect their personal data from collection.
      • Re:From TFA (Score:4, Insightful)

        by xtracto (837672) on Thursday July 08, 2010 @06:40AM (#32837248) Journal

        No, they are the safeguards of OUR privacy. If you live in a degenerate country and your government care more about corporations than taxpayers, then you are screwed (you are welcomed to move to Europe... that is what I did :))

      • by mjwx (966435)

        It's kind of weird that Germany and Europe are now the safeguards of our privacy.

        What's weird about that?

        Europe abolished slavery long before the US (even existed in some cases).
        Europe gained workers rights before the US.
        Europe gave women voting rights before the US.
        Europe got rid of segregation long before the US.

        It does not surprise me in the slightest that Europe is ahead of the US in protecting privacy. There is more to Europe's history then a war the US was only in half of.

    • Re:From TFA (Score:4, Interesting)

      by zoney_ie (740061) on Thursday July 08, 2010 @07:12AM (#32837402)

      Going to be a lot if it is for each (individual) infringement. I imagine Facebook saves the email address, name, and sets up some kind of invisible profile with "guessed" friends etc. for each non-member that someone on facebook sends a join request to. That's a lot of people. Also it may even apply to those who later joined (a *LOT* more people).

      I am not on facebook and regularly get their creepy emails that say "Hello 'Real Name', 'A Friend' wants you to join" and "You may know these people on Facebook: ".

      It cannot come soon enough if they are prosecuted in Germany and I am reasonably sure what they are doing is illegal in other European countries, if not further afield also.

      • I am not on facebook and regularly get their creepy emails that say "Hello 'Real Name', 'A Friend' wants you to join" and "You may know these people on Facebook: ".

        It is probably people you know that are causing those emails to be sent. You can try to add friends by email address. Doing so causes an email to be sent out to you to try and get you to sign up.

        The fact that you receive multiples means one of two things - 1. Facebook doesn't store your email address and therefore doesn't know that somebody else has already tried to add you or 2. They do store your email address and don't care.

        I'd probably guess 2.

        Either way, Facebook in doing this is acting in some respe

        • by zoney_ie (740061)

          I think you are missing the point about the "you may know" thing in the email. This includes people I know who are in no way connected to the person who is trying to get me to sign up to facebook (indeed some of the suggestions are also not acquainted or connected - as I said, disparate social groups for which I am the common link).

          The multiple emails are often reminders, and each has a different selection of people I "may know" on facebook. So far no false positives by facebook.

  • by kubitus (927806) on Thursday July 08, 2010 @05:43AM (#32836948)
    rightly so!

    -

    and the Chaos Computer Club - and now also the Pirate Party.

    and a constitutional court rejecting data-storage laws.

    -

    if you are not paranoid these days - then you are insane!

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday July 08, 2010 @05:47AM (#32836980)

    Some of the strictest privacy laws in the world, and for a reason. We've had a couple major incidents where ISPs (cough, Telekom) sold customer addresses, phone and mobile numbers to third parties for advertising, for example. I'm glad they're taking this seriously and hope that remark was meant as a praise.

    • Re: (Score:1, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward
      Not being a troll here but I've read discussions between Germans where they say the reason privacy laws are above average were because certain politicians and business people wanted to keep their history about various 'associations' with certain a historical 'organisation' secret. Is their any real basis for that line of thinking?
      • by bickerdyke (670000) on Thursday July 08, 2010 @06:33AM (#32837222)

        for a good measure of it, probably yes.

        OTOH, the allies were resonable enough to turn a a large enough blind eye to all the small fish. Prosecuting each and every "nazi" would have been a bit out of proportion, as almost everyone was forced into the military, or the party or some party organization. "Von der Wiege bis zur Bahre". It was a goal to get everyone into those organizations. So if they had try to lock up each party "member", 80% of the population would have ended up in prison.

        And the other half of those privacy concerns comes from the exact opposite: The fear of the possibility of having a group singled out again, based on some stored data.

        But we were too concerned with beeing afraid of state-run data-mining, that we didn't notice the big companies doing it already. Only over the last few years (GP mentione the Telekom affair) this is swinging back.

        • PseudoQuote: "Unfortunately, the RIAA's Allies were not reasonable enough to turn a blind eye to all the small fish and tried to prosecute each and every copyright infringer, despite being out of proportion. It was a goal to get everyone."

          (Can I claim the copyright on Reverse-Godwin, the art of taking threads about Nazis and steering them into MAFIAA discussions?)

      • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

        by Torvac (691504)
        not only that, the german registry offices are still allowed to sell your informations and they do. to banks, insurance companies, religious institutions , the gez (gestapo like org. collecting money for tv stations) etc.
      • Not really. Mentioned "conservative" parties generally don't give a fuck about privacy laws. They would just sue you if you called them Nazis. Even if they obviously were.
      • by ultranova (717540)

        Not being a troll here but I've read discussions between Germans where they say the reason privacy laws are above average were because certain politicians and business people wanted to keep their history about various 'associations' with certain a historical 'organisation' secret.

        So basically, you are saying that the best way to guard civil liberties is to elect old Nazis?

        ...The scary thing is that you're probably right.

    • a few thousand euros is FAR from any serious fine for something as large as facebook.

      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by helix2301 (1105613)
        I agree the fine is small but I have a feeling this is going to be a bigger and bigger problem for Facebook as they branch out and expand across the globe. This is not the first time Facebook has been sued or fined over privacy issues.
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by Jedi Alec (258881)

        It's a shot across the bow...in a "comply or else" sense.

        You start off with 10k, and in case of non-compliance you make it 100k, and then 1M. At some point someone will figure out the formula and reckon that the next one might actually hurt.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday July 08, 2010 @05:48AM (#32836994)

    Yeah... and Facebook recently inked a big money deal with Activision-Blizzard, and now the latter has pushed out RealID into WoW, and they just announced that for SC2, and in a few months also for WoW, all forum posts in the official forums are going to have players' real names (first and last name) attached to them. [worldofwarcraft.com] That thread has over 35,000 posts in it already in it from irate WoW players, many of them (including myself) have already cancelled their accounts.

    Oh, but Blizzard's own forum moderators won't have THEIR names revealed, because they "cannot risk having their personal lives compromised by in-game issues". [wow.com] But they have no problem selling out their own customers.

    Its been a long time since I saw such a dickwad move by an MMO company. This rivals Star Wars Galaxies NGE in terms of betrayal of the player-base by Blizzard.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Corbets (169101)

      Its been a long time since I saw such a dickwad move by an MMO company. This rivals Star Wars Galaxies NGE in terms of betrayal of the player-base by Blizzard.

      On the plus side, it's likely to result in fewer "dick-waddings" in forum posts. ;)

    • Its been a long time since I saw such a dickwad move by an MMO company.

      Blizzard became a dickwad company the moment they filed suit against the bnetd developers. That was the point that Blizzard's true colors should have been blindingly obvious to everyone.

    • by Ihmhi (1206036)

      Aren't they listed as staff somewhere on the site?

      If a guy named Swordslasher is tagged as "Game Community Manager" and their corporate site lists "Jim Smith" as the Game Community Manager...

  • by Opportunist (166417) on Thursday July 08, 2010 @05:54AM (#32837020)

    When you think how eager the German government is to collect, filter, file and dissect data passing through the internet pipes, the whole deal feels a bit hollow and like a publicity stunt more than actual concern of their citizens private information. I'd prefer Google and Facebook doing it. I can still NOT give them my data if I so please. It's a bit harder with a Government that badgers ISPs to install sniffing bridges for something not much different from a (warrantless) wire tapping.

    Or they just want to eliminate any competition in the field of selling German people's private data, dunno...

    • Re: (Score:1, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      A government is not one body. Quite a few people are involved and just because some want to collect information it doesn't mean that Germany doesn't care about privacy.

      "illegally saving personal data of people who don't use the site and haven't given permission to access their private information"
      No, you can NOT not give them your data apparently.

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by Eivind Eklund (5161)

        It's about other people giving them your data.

        As far as I understood from the article, the main thing was about emails taken from previous contact attempts (address books) and used for spamming.

    • by robot marvin (1699358) on Thursday July 08, 2010 @06:19AM (#32837158)
      the last email from facebook I received had following footer " This message was intended for z.yx@xyz.xz. If you do not wish to receive this type of email from Facebook in the future, please click here to unsubscribe. Facebook, Inc. P.O. Box 10005, Palo Alto, CA 94303 " I do not have an account but I can unsubscribe to NOT receive such emails ! where is the choice - there is no choice they just store data from people who never or have not anymore an account with them. sorry they are not to be trusted and any legal action which tries to rectify things is more then appreciated.
      • by TheEyes (1686556)

        For such emails, the best practice is to just ignore the emails; eventually the spammer will believe your account is inactive and stop emailing you.

        One of the worst things you can do is hit the "Unsubscribe" button, because it means they now know your account is being monitored, and can sell it to an even worse spammer, continuing the downward spiral.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by S.O.B. (136083)

      When you think how eager the German government is to collect, filter, file and dissect data passing through the internet pipes, the whole deal feels a bit hollow

      Citation please.

    • I'd prefer Google and Facebook doing it. I can still NOT give them my data if I so please.

      The summary says Facebook gathers data from non-users. However they do that is immaterial. It remains that allegedly Facebook gathers private information from 3rd parties.

      There's a double moral in Germany. Crimes are punishable unless they're committed by the state. The good old Peer Steinbrück was prepared to pay millions for stolen information in order to collect a fraction more taxes.

      OT: Germany's financial wizard also didn't get that by being tougher on tax dodgers, a significant amount of th

      • OT: Germany's financial wizard also didn't get that by being tougher on tax dodgers, a significant amount of the intelligentsia will consider leaving Germany.

        I don't consider people to be "intelligent", if they don't realize that contributing to the society is necessary, especially if they're the "strong one's". It's not like most people moving to Switzerland to evade German taxes would starve otherwise, if they stayed here. Granted, you might not be able to afford that Mercedes Benz or Porsche, but gettin

        • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

          by TheEyes (1686556)

          Besides, if tax dodgers respond to crackdowns by leaving the country, well, good riddance. One way to get rid of a leech is to get rid of them, so at least they're not siphoning state resources away from everyone else. Let them leech off another government instead, if they can (let's see you get better services from a bankrupt government like Greece, where large portions of the populace refuse to pay taxes).

        • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

          OT: Germany's financial wizard also didn't get that by being tougher on tax dodgers, a significant amount of the intelligentsia will consider leaving Germany.

          I don't consider people to be "intelligent", if they don't realize that contributing to the society is necessary, especially if they're the "strong one's". It's not like most people moving to Switzerland to evade German taxes would starve otherwise, if they stayed here. Granted, you might not be able to afford that Mercedes Benz or Porsche, but getting you from A to B is something your Audi accomplishes more than good enough.

          Are you a student? Or perhaps early in your business career? In that case, one day you will realise that you yourself are the best judge of how the money you earned is best spent. Why should you surrender over 50% of your income to a faceless state?

          Take Switzerland as an example. Similar left/right wing situation as in most other countries. However, people pay less tax, have more responsibilities and choose themselves to pay for services. There is no such thing as poverty and even the most anti social pe

          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by ultranova (717540)

            Why should you surrender over 50% of your income to a faceless state?

            Why would having a "face" matter? The money goes to upkeep roads, law, and civilization in general.

            In most society there usually is a silent agreement between the state and the intelligent/smart/fortunate ones in order to allow the latter to indulge themselves. IMHO "Peitschen" Peer showed arrogant disregard which didn't do Germany any favours. Naive and full of himself.

            So basically, you are accusing Peer of demanding that the self-decla

            • Why should you surrender over 50% of your income to a faceless state?

              Why would having a "face" matter? The money goes to upkeep roads, law, and civilization in general.

              A face matters. It's easy to spill money from people you've never known or even seen. I'd like to refer to Switzerland again where taxes are largely paid to the municipality you live in and where most of the public expenses are made. A much smaller bit goes to the region -the canton- and also a small part goes to the state -well, Bund to be precise.
              It's much harder to waste the money of the people in the community you live in. Keeping earnings, expenses and decisions near to the affected people results in

    • by houghi (78078) on Thursday July 08, 2010 @06:43AM (#32837260)

      The fact that the government does something wrong does not make it right for companies to do it. The excuse "But he did it first" is pretty much kindergarten-policy to me.

      So I do like what that government is doing against Google and Facebook and I don't like what it does itself. I am not rooting for or against companies/governments. I root for privacy.

  • Germany (Score:2, Interesting)

    by pinky99 (741036)
    I find it funny: This is the a case of the data protection office of Hamburg, a city/federal state in Germany, not Germany. If a city in the US is preparing a case, would the title also be "US takes legal steps"?
    • The acting data protection official from Hamburg may be speaking for germany here. Facebooks (and Googles) german office is in Hamburg, and data protection laws are a state (and not a federal) matter. (The cities of Hamburg, Berlin and Bremen are states on their own)

      So this guy might be the only one actually having a case against Facebook.

  • good! (Score:5, Interesting)

    by StripedCow (776465) on Thursday July 08, 2010 @06:02AM (#32837052)

    It really strikes me as odd that such generic information as for example Facebook and Twitter are storing is kept by private companies. I mean, imagine that e-mail had been invented by Twitter, then all e-mail addresses would have been ending in "@twitter.com" and we would all rely on a private company that would have had insight into all our communications. How long would it have taken us to conclude that such a situation is absurd? Five years? Ten years? Forever?

    Of course, someone should be running the servers, but a federated approach would be much better.

    Although probably nobody at the upper layers of the German government realizes this, these legal steps of Germany at least raise attention on the importance of privacy.

    • Re:good! (Score:5, Interesting)

      by TheRaven64 (641858) on Thursday July 08, 2010 @06:47AM (#32837278) Journal

      Maybe you should look a bit more at the history of email. That's exactly the same situation that we had up until the early '90s. There were lots of bulletin board systems (BBSs) and online service providers (OSPs) that you could dial into with a modem. You'd send emails to other users of the same service by uploading it to their servers and having someone else dial in and collect it later. Very few of these were federated, so you'd have a lot of different email addresses. A few BBSs used something like UUCP for dialing in to each other and forwarding emails, but it was by no means universal.

      Then people started connecting to the Internet, and a lot of OSPs (e.g. AOL and Compuserve) tried to become ISPs as well, maintaining their walled garden and also giving access to the Internet. To make things more attractive to their customers, they allowed their internal email addresses to function as Internet email addresses too. You could use 12345 to send a Compuserve email to CompuServe user 12345, but 12345@compuserve.com also worked as an Internet email address.

      Over time, people stopped bothering with the purely internal email addresses. We've seen this happen with postal mail, with telephones, with email, and with IM, but now people once again buying in to the walled garden approach for social networking. There's a saying or something about people not studying history...

      • by Chapter80 (926879)

        There's a saying or something about people not studying history...

        I don't know the saying you refer to, but I'm sure it only applies to historians.

      • by drinkypoo (153816)

        Over time, people stopped bothering with the purely internal email addresses. We've seen this happen with postal mail, with telephones, with email, and with IM, but now people once again buying in to the walled garden approach for social networking. There's a saying or something about people not studying history...

        Uh, yeah, those people didn't create Facebook and profit immensely from building a walled-garden that traps people in and secures the first-mover advantage.

        Obviously, you have not learned all the lessons of history.

    • The fee is being issued for storing information of people who are not customers of facebook.

      This is probably the last we will all hear of this case, because the court applied German law. Facebook is US based, so if taken to court in Germany they'd have to apply US law. As a result of this Facebook can ignore the court's decision and nothing will ever happen. If i was in Facebook's position, i'd just appeal against the initial decision. The appelate court will most likely dismiss the case entirely.

      Although probably nobody at the upper layers of the German government realizes this, these legal steps of Germany at least raise attention on the importance of privacy.

      Actually t

      • Facebook is US based, so if taken to court in Germany they'd have to apply US law. [...]

        According to the impressum for Facebook.de [facebook.com], the relevant division for this case is based in Ireland:

        Die Webseiten unter www.facebook.de und die auf diesen Seiten vorgehaltenen Dienste werden dir angeboten von:

        Facebook Ireland Limited

        Hanover Reach, 5-7 Hanover Quay, Dublin 2 Ireland

        http://www.facebook.com/help/contact.php?show_form=impressum_contact

        Vorstand: Marc Andreesen, Jim Breyer, Donald Graham, Peter Thiel, Mark Zu

      • by Smallpond (221300)

        The fee is being issued for storing information of people who are not customers of facebook.

        This is probably the last we will all hear of this case, because the court applied German law. Facebook is US based, so if taken to court in Germany they'd have to apply US law. As a result of this Facebook can ignore the court's decision and nothing will ever happen. If i was in Facebook's position, i'd just appeal against the initial decision. The appelate court will most likely dismiss the case entirely.

        I don't think that's true. If a crime was committed against a German citizen who was not connected with Facebook, how would German law not apply?

        • by ultranova (717540)

          If a crime was committed against a German citizen who was not connected with Facebook, how would German law not apply?

          German laws apply everywhere Germany can and will project (military) power to. They don't apply anywhere else, such as in the United States (where Facebook is based).

          Basically, it's a question of "can the court enforce it's decision"? That's what "jurisdiction" means.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      I mean, imagine that e-mail had been invented by Twitter, then all e-mail addresses would have been ending in "@twitter.com" and we would all rely on a private company that would have had insight into all our communications. How long would it have taken us to conclude that such a situation is absurd? Five years? Ten years? Forever?

      That depends on who you mean by "us." There was once a time where email was confined to a single computer system; people realized that it would be nice to exchange email messages with users of other systems, and so they devised ways to get their computers to interoperate. These days, though, things are very different: Twitter and Facebook do not exist for the purpose of serving their users, they exist to turn ever higher profits, and interoperability would be detrimental to that. The user mindset is a

      • The user mindset is also different; instead of asking, "Why can't Facebook interoperate with Myspace?" they instead think, "I have friends who are not Facebook users, I will encourage them to join."

        Yup, that's the worst part of the whole "Net 2.0 revolution" : Most of the revolutionary things are proprietary and not intercommunicating.

        By chance, that's not the situations everywhere :

        - for all the privacy problems for which it has been criticized, Google has still the advantage of being openly in favour of intercommunication, even actively encouraging it [dataliberation.org] by using open standards when possible and opening their APIs.

        - Jimmy Whales might have a lot of short-comings, but the ecosystem of wikis is still dis

    • by disi (1465053)
      Only the government is allowed to filter traffic, save ip addresses, listen to your phone calls...

      I mean read your emails...

      oh no, I mean save the email address :)
  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday July 08, 2010 @06:11AM (#32837110)

    Germany should take SWIFT to court over the handing over of banking data. I know you think that this is old history, but it isn't. TODAY the EU Parliament will vote in favour of letting the USA have full access to SWIFT's bank data under the guise of anti-terrorism.

    The only safeguard is a 'supervisor' from the EU.

    But what the EU Parliament is doing is not legal, they cannot overrule national bank privacy laws, and thus cannot prevent Germany taking SWIFT to court over handing German data over to the US. Likewise in some places it is a criminal offense to hand over that data, and those countries can seek arrest of SWIFT, even if EU says they're fine with it.

    Of course the USA rejected calls for Europe to see US bank data, and SWIFT continues to claim it is too big a task to filter their 15 million transactions a day.... right..... only 15 million transactions a day is too big an amount of data to filter...

  • by anorlunda (311253) on Thursday July 08, 2010 @06:44AM (#32837264) Homepage

    I lived in Sweden in the 80s. Sweden's privacy laws are a bit like Germany's.

    The most important thing they did was to require any computer owner to get a license from the government to store personal data. To get the license, they had to lay out what data and what the reasons were for storing it.

    Effectively, the law prohibited all personal data applications (and storage) except those that are permitted. In the USA, everything is permitted except that which is prohibited.

    I think they finally backed off enough to allow PC owners to keep an address book for personal use without a license, but it was still very strict.

    In reality, I would probably hate it if the US government tried the same law. It is so inept that the waiting time for licenses would be years and would require the aid of expensive lawyers. Still, I admire what Sweden was able to accomplish. The giant corporation that I worked for over there thought long and hard before putting customer data in a database.

    • by Geeky (90998)

      That's fairly crazy to me. If it's legal to keep and store data in paper records without a license, I see no reason why a computer should be treated differently - it's just a more efficient way of doing the same thing.

      The restrictions should come in when you try to sell that data on - and again, should equally apply to data in any format. I should no more be able to sell my paper address book to an advertising firm than my electronic copy (not that my address book has anyone in it, but you get the idea...)

      • by Dr. Hok (702268) on Thursday July 08, 2010 @07:35AM (#32837560)

        That's fairly crazy to me. If it's legal to keep and store data in paper records without a license, I see no reason why a computer should be treated differently - it's just a more efficient way of doing the same thing.

        There is a big difference. You said it yourself: Efficiency is the answer. As an example, consider a criminal who looks for potential victims to blackmail. Let's say he has access to huge unrelated data sets about people who work in high government positions or have access to lots of money, who have an alcohol problem, or a money problem, or little children, or a police record of certain nasty habits.

        It would take forever to correlate these data sets if they were on paper. OTOH, in a computer DB it'd take you a few lines of SQL and a few seconds to find your victims. Of course, this example is totally made up, but you might be able to map it to a more realistic scenario.

      • by xaxa (988988) on Thursday July 08, 2010 @08:53AM (#32838300)

        That's fairly crazy to me. If it's legal to keep and store data in paper records without a license

        It isn't in the UK -- the laws apply equally to both paper and electronic records. "Data" as covered by the Data Protection Act includes "information which is being processed by means of equipment operating automatically in response to instructions given for that purpose," (i.e. a computer), and "any set of information relating to individuals to the extent that, although the information is not processed by means of equipment operating automatically in response to instructions given for that purpose, the set is structured, either by reference to individuals or by reference to criteria relating to individuals, in such a way that specific information relating to a particular individual is readily accessible". See here [ico.gov.uk]

        I don't know about Sweden, but in the UK there are specific exemptions for individuals holding personal data like an address book.
        "The most comprehensive exemption applies when personal data is processed by a data controller who is an individual (not an organisation) only for the purposes of their personal, family or household affairs.

        Example
        An individual keeps a database of their friends’ and relatives’ names, addresses and dates of birth on their PC. They use the database for keeping track of birthdays and to produce address labels for Christmas cards. The domestic purposes exemption applies to this type of processing.

        Example
        An individual records the highlights of their summer holiday on a digital camcorder. The recording includes images of people they meet on holiday. Although those digital images are personal data, the domestic purposes exemption applies.

        None of the data protection principles apply in these circumstances, nor do any of the rights which the Act gives to data subjects. There is also no need to notify the ICO about processing for these purposes.

        So there is an almost total exemption from the Data Protection Act for individuals who just use personal data for their own domestic and recreational purposes. However, the Act still applies to the extent that the ICO may investigate if someone seems to have gone beyond the scope of the exemption, and we may take enforcement action where necessary."

  • Related news (Score:5, Informative)

    by gencha (1020671) on Thursday July 08, 2010 @07:05AM (#32837358)
    What I find the most fascinating about this, is that Facebook read the address book out of people's iPhone to find new friends for them online. And the collected data is permanently stored. German article: http://www.spiegel.de/netzwelt/web/0,1518,697733,00.html [spiegel.de] I don't know if this is the issue described in TFA as the site seems slashdotted.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by drinkypoo (153816)

      What I find the most fascinating about this, is that Facebook read the address book out of people's iPhone to find new friends for them online. And the collected data is permanently stored

      Facebook will do the same with gmail, but presumably will not read either without your permission. What I find most fascinating is that the german website you sent us to attempts to set three cookies on my PC. Why does it need three? I haven't identified myself to the website, why does it need any?

      I would read your article but google translate cannot translate it. Please post an english article, as this is an english-speaking site, or post a translation. I wouldn't post a bunch of links to english papers on

    • Sorry, but using Apple products AND Facebook, is just asking for it. Why not just go all the way, and move to UChinA?

  • though I have never used either service. This tells me enough about both companies that I will never use either.

  • What do I say about Germany going after Facebook? About time someone did!

    IBM used to be all that and then became just another company. Now I can say the same for Microsoft. Nobody cares about Gates or Ballmer anymore, but they LOVE seeing Zuckerberg getting it. Zuckerberg is the new Gates, the new IT sector villain people love to hate.

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