Forgot your password?
typodupeerror
Cloud Facebook Social Networks The Internet News Your Rights Online

Facebook: Your Personal Data is a Trade Secret 203

Posted by samzenpus
from the who-owns-you? dept.
An anonymous reader writes "An Austrian group called Europe versus Facebook has so far made 22 complaints regarding the social network's practices. In the process, the organization has stumbled upon an important tidbit: Facebook says it is not required to give you a copy of some of your personal data if it deems doing so would adversely affect its trade secrets or intellectual property."
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

Facebook: Your Personal Data is a Trade Secret

Comments Filter:
  • Shock Horror (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Cryacin (657549) on Wednesday October 12, 2011 @08:00PM (#37696958)
    Of course they'll tell you that. In fact, haven't you realised? You ARE their intellectual property. All you iSheep, Twits and FacePalmers. Go on, put your private life on teh intertubes for all to see. Check in with FourSquare to become the mayor of burger king to get a 10% discount on your next piece of crap for lunch, and watch your insurance company make a silent note. Write on your wall about your cool new Nike Football shoes, and watch targeted advertising appear to you for other football related products.

    The herd is a goldmine, ripe for the picking.
    • by msauve (701917)
      Heck, if you post publicly, you're everyone's intellectual property. At least you know Facebook is keeping info, but how many others are scraping Facebook and collecting info, and you don't even know?
      • You and I know that 'publicly' means 'on any server you don't control'. The masses think 'publicly' means 'on a site that doesn't have access control'. People don't realise that 'private' communications on FaceBook may not be seen by the world at large, but that are seen by anyone who pays FaceBook (including the CIA, which seems a bit silly because you'd have to be a total moron to use something like FaceBook if you're planning the sort of things that the CIA cares about).
    • by Daniel Dvorkin (106857) on Wednesday October 12, 2011 @08:37PM (#37697176) Homepage Journal

      All you iSheep, Twits and FacePalmers.

      He says, on a public web forum.

      • Re:Shock Horror (Score:5, Insightful)

        by betterunixthanunix (980855) on Wednesday October 12, 2011 @09:29PM (#37697430)
        Indeed, although there is not much personal information on Slashdot. The problem is not that people have public lives, it is that Facebook greatly expands the scope of what is "public" while greatly diminishing the scope of what is "private." The information Facebook collects is much broader in scope than Slashdot, and extends beyond what people actively post on Facebook.

        There is also the matter that supposedly private messages on Facebook are not really private at all, a classic case of the "third party server" problem. Unlike email, for which there are well-developed (but rarely used) methods of keeping private messages private, Facebook is designed to thwart such efforts (e.g. to encrypt an email, I can just hit a checkbox, assuming keys have been set up; to encrypt a Facebook message, I have to manually invoke a cryptosystem, copy and paste, and so forth -- a pain even for technically competent users). For most people, the "privacy" issue on Facebook is related to what their friends, coworkers, and potential future contacts can see -- very few people give any thought to the amount of information that Facebook itself has, and for many Facebook has become the primary means of communication.
        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          The problem is not that people have public lives, it is that the INTERNET greatly expands the scope of what is "public" while greatly diminishing the scope of what is "private.

          FTFY

        • by dargaud (518470)
          Here's an idea: a browser plugin to encrypt/decrypt messages on facebook. Only people to whom you have given the key can make sense of your messages... Of course, don't send out the keys via facebook...
        • by rvw (755107)

          Indeed, although there is not much personal information on Slashdot. The problem is not that people have public lives, it is that Facebook greatly expands the scope of what is "public" while greatly diminishing the scope of what is "private." The information Facebook collects is much broader in scope than Slashdot, and extends beyond what people actively post on Facebook.

          The Facebook website is one thing, the Like-buttons on thousands of websites, that's my biggest concern. Whenever you visit such a page, FB logs your visit because that button/script is loaded from their site. Whether you're logged into FB or not, they still log your visit and your IP-address. They obviously don't want you to know that they know which websites you visited and when. Maybe people on /. know about this, but 99% of the regular FB visitors probably don't.

          • by Tsingi (870990)

            Whether you're logged into FB or not, they still log your visit and your IP-address.

            Yup, on every page that has a like button. Which is why the NoScript/Firefox combo rules. You can see it, and disable it.

            I tried Facebook out for a while, don't use it. I can't get my kids off it though, at least they know what they are dealing with.

            • by rvw (755107)

              I do use it, though with caution. The problem is my smartphone. I use a different browser (Dolphin on Android) for Facebook only. That is my fix for the moment, until Chrome works on Android.

    • by artor3 (1344997)

      Write on your wall about your cool new Nike Football shoes, and watch targeted advertising appear to you for other football related products.

      Why is this bad? I'd rather see ads for things I like and might consider buying than scattershot ads for shit I'd never use.

      Check in with FourSquare to become the mayor of burger king to get a 10% discount on your next piece of crap for lunch, and watch your insurance company make a silent note.

      Why is this bad? I eat healthy, and am healthier for it. Why should I have to subsidize the lard-asses who eat at BK every day?

      You ARE their intellectual property.

      Now that's just scary-sounding gibberish.

      All you iSheep, Twits and FacePalmers.

      You seem to be fond of insulting labels. Here's some for you: paranoid, arrogant, condescending.

      And for the record, I don't use Apple products, or Twitter, or Facebook. But that's because I don't want to, not becaus

      • by dgatwood (11270)

        Why is this bad? I'd rather see ads for things I like and might consider buying than scattershot ads for shit I'd never use.

        If only it were actually that good. Every time I see an ad for a company whose products compete with products made by my employer (that I thus almost certainly wouldn't even consider buying), I conclude that they must not be doing much more than a trivial keyword search (and they know who my employer is, so that's just a Facepalm right there).

        And as that satellite fell out of orbit a

        • The kind of advertisement that does affect me, if you can call it that, is word-of-mouth advertisement. Specifically, if you make a good product, and people give it consistently good reviews, I'm more likely to buy your product. If you make a s**tty product that falls apart in six months, I'm more likely to call up a manufacturer in China and go into business against you (which isn't very likely to happen at all, but is still a heck of a lot more likely than me buying your junk product).

          I'm not sure a Chinese manufacturer is where I'd go if my goal were to produce a high quality product rather than an inexpensive one.

          (Your post was interesting, BTW, that just sort of stuck out.)

          • by dgatwood (11270)

            You can make high quality products with Chinese manufacturers, but you have to be very selective about which manufacturers you'll work with, and you have to pull random inspections to ensure that they are actually doing the QA testing they claim to be doing. Otherwise they'll send you half junk.

            A lot of it also depends on the design work that went into it. If you've done the board layout and testing yourself, repeatedly ordering new test runs until you get a layout with perfect or near-perfect yield, you'

        • by tehcyder (746570)
          Some years you don't buy any clothing or shoes? Reading slashdot makes me feel like a metrosexual fashion victim by comparison sometimes.
          • by dgatwood (11270)

            After finding a brand of shoes I like, I buy them in bulk. I'm just reaching the end of the stack of shoe boxes I bought four or five years ago. It's almost time to buy shoes again.

            As for clothing, I have a closet full of short-sleeve shirts, and a closet full of long-sleeve shirts. Clothes last a long time if you wear them only once per month. Also, my parents often give me a shirt or two for Christmas, which further reduces the need to actually shop for clothes. And I buy white socks in bulk every fe

      • Why is this bad? I'd rather see ads for things I like and might consider buying than scattershot ads for shit I'd never use.

        I take it you missed the Slashdot story a couple of years ago about Amazon giving different prices based on the browser you use? Targeted advertising isn't where it ends. Companies like Google and Facebook often record enough information to tell how much you shop around before buying things, for example. It doesn't take much data mining to work out how much you'd be willing to pay for a specific product. Next time you visit an online store, you may find it's exactly that amount. Meanwhile, it costs 20%

      • by Tsingi (870990)

        Check in with FourSquare to become the mayor of burger king to get a 10% discount on your next piece of crap for lunch, and watch your insurance company make a silent note.

        Why is this bad? I eat healthy, and am healthier for it. Why should I have to subsidize the lard-asses who eat at BK every day?

        The way to deal with the public cost of fast food is to put a surtax on it and apply that money to the health care system. Like they do with cigarettes.
        That way the fatties can lead their miserable lives and the rest of us don't have to pay for it. Much in the same way I don't have to pay for your devil-may-care attitude towards surveillance. I do my best to protect my information. Most of the sheep don't know or care. It's surprising that you do know and don't care, but that's your privilege.

        As f

    • by gl4ss (559668)

      well, the thing is, there's a reason there's the "europe" in the complaining groups name.

      they're required to give you a copy of the records. sure, they can try to make a mint with them - it's not fb's loss when it leads to no sales, it's the stupid advertisers loss. but I guess a lot of that is problematic for fb as they don't have actual records, more like an ever living live record. it's pretty easy to target advertisements just based on what you were served on that page push, but keeping a record of that

    • by houghi (78078)

      I am confused. Must I read this in the voiceover of trainspotting [allpostersimages.com] or in the voice of Tyler Durden [imdb.com]?

      Anyway. Spot on.

    • by Tim C (15259)

      Check in with FourSquare to become the mayor of burger king to get a 10% discount on your next piece of crap for lunch, and watch your insurance company make a silent note.

      a) The only insurance I have is on my house and my possessions, not my health
      b) There is insufficient information on my Foursquare profile to connect me to my insurance-buying aspect

      Write on your wall about your cool new Nike Football shoes, and watch targeted advertising appear to you for other football related products.

      a) I block ads; so what?
      b) Even if I didn't, I'd rather see relevant ads than the random crap I'd get otherwise.

      Nothing is free. What I gain from using Facebook, Twitter and Foursquare is worth more to me than what I pay to use them. Please continue to feel smugly superior though.

      • by mcvos (645701)

        Write on your wall about your cool new Nike Football shoes, and watch targeted advertising appear to you for other football related products.

        b) Even if I didn't, I'd rather see relevant ads than the random crap I'd get otherwise.

        Both sides of this point have their merit. On the one hand, I case about my privacy, and don't want companies to profile everything I do. On the other hand, I'd rather see relevant ads than irrelevant ads. Should I sell my soul for comfort? Or stubbornly resist the flow and accept all the annoyances it brings? I'm not quite sure.

        For the most part, they don't seem to be doing a terribly good job at showing me relevant ads, though. Except YouTube; ever since I googled for accountant services, YouTube keeps sh

    • I live in a small community. FaceBook, Twitter, all still more private than what is already considered public here. I hope my area is just an isolated case. If it isnt, then I'm tempted to say privacy has always been an de facto illusion. To borrow a phrase, it was privacy through obscurity, and easier done in urban areas.

    • by geekmux (1040042)

      Of course they'll tell you that. In fact, haven't you realised? You ARE their intellectual property. All you iSheep, Twits and FacePalmers. Go on, put your private life on teh intertubes for all to see. Check in with FourSquare to become the mayor of burger king to get a 10% discount on your next piece of crap for lunch, and watch your insurance company make a silent note. Write on your wall about your cool new Nike Football shoes, and watch targeted advertising appear to you for other football related products. The herd is a goldmine, ripe for the picking.

      Yes, because only providing the "necessary" information such as name, SSN, birthdate, address, employer, annual salary, spouses information and SSN, your first car you ever owned, the name of your first grade teacher, your entire employment history, your entire medical history...the neverending plethora of VERY personal information you have to provide to various agencies throughout your adult life is MUCH much more secure because those agencies NEVER have security breaches, exposing millions of records at a

  • Interesting (Score:5, Insightful)

    by iluvcapra (782887) on Wednesday October 12, 2011 @08:01PM (#37696966)

    So you, by definition, have knowledge of all of you personal information (otherwise it wouldn't be personal), they must think that they have a way of turning knowledge about your self that is available to you consciously, into information that isn't, for example by analyzing your web history, or use of language, or friends, in order to predict certain cultural preferences, or ad susceptibility. That's perfectly believable, and no, you probably aren't entitled to it. If you don't want them building models of you, don't submit your information.

    • Re:Interesting (Score:5, Interesting)

      by iluvcapra (782887) on Wednesday October 12, 2011 @08:06PM (#37696996)

      It might even be more fun than that. Maybe they know things about you that you never told them, like your gender or age. I would also tend to believe that if they're able to figure out this information about people they're probably entitled to keep the fact of their knowing secret.

      • by Fluffeh (1273756)

        If they are adding that as information about "you" to the folks they sell your information to, you should be entitled to get it under a request of "what information about me do you have" - not a "what information have I given to you about me, minus all the other stuff you worked out on your own...".

        However, I can also see that giving all that information may well end up opening an interesting kettle of fish. What if one of their derived bits of information about you were that you were a white supremacist? W

        • by Phrogman (80473)

          Well there was J Edgar Hoover, wasn't he into cross dressing? And he was definitely very right wing...

      • Maybe they know much more via syndication with other networks.
      • by garcia (6573)

        Genderizing datasets isn't a difficult thing to do. Just ask anyone using DataFlux.

      • by MadKeithV (102058)

        It might even be more fun than that. Maybe they know things about you that you never told them, like your gender or age. I would also tend to believe that if they're able to figure out this information about people they're probably entitled to keep the fact of their knowing secret.

        Disclaimer, I am not a lawyer, but insofar as I understand the law this cannot apply in Europe - in Europe they are required by law to give you access to all personal data stored about you so that you can correct or remove it. See the Personal Data Law [europa.eu], specifically the data subject's "right of access" to personal data.

      • Depends on the jurisdiction I would think, but in the UK the Freedom of Information Act gives any person the right to demand to see any and all information held by a company about them (for a nominal fee to cover admin costs). This, AFAIK, is not limited to information you have directly given them,
    • by Baloroth (2370816)

      After reading (well, skimming anyways) TFA, I really feel I should point out Facebook didn't say in TFA that the personal information was a trade secret, only that it would be an exception if it was. Possibly, they omitted information under the other exception, which is if it is exceptionally difficult to provide the information, and only gave both exceptions for maximum ass-coverage (and tinfoil-hat coverage too, apparently).

      It wouldn't surprise me at all if they had more information than you gave them (su

    • If you don't want them building models of you, don't submit your information.

      How many people are willing to stand up to their friends and say, "No, I am not on Facebook, please send me an email if you want to invite me to an event?" How many people are knowledgeable enough to take the time to set up ABP and NoScript, or to configure the equivalent in their browser of choice? The problem with not participating in Facebook is that it is spread out all over the web, large numbers of people use it as their primary means of communicating, and many people simply assume that everyone i

    • by jaminJay (1198469)
      If you don't want them building models of you, don't use the internet. Do you seriously believe that not choosing to have an account protects you at all? Do you not see all the Facebook hooks everywhere? And no, blocking their domain is not a reasonable solution for the masses, and still won't prevent your details from entering their database.
    • .... use of language, or friends, in order to predict certain cultural preferences, or ad susceptibility. That's perfectly believable, and no, you probably aren't entitled to it. If you don't want them building models of you, don't submit your information.

      Under EU privacy laws they must, upon request, provide you with all the information they have about you. And upon request they must also delete any personal information.
      If there's really anything to this story (and facebook doesn't back down), I think facebook will loose in court...

  • Remember... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by LqdSlpStrm (464344) on Wednesday October 12, 2011 @08:05PM (#37696984) Journal

    If it is free, you are not the client. You are the product, and you are being sold.

    • Not really. Just like with a client, they have to keep you satisfied, otherwise you'll stop dealing with them, and they'll get no money.

      • by tangent (3677)

        No, you most certainly are the product.

        It's more like how a cattle rancher has to be careful not to let too many of his cows run off, or get kilt by rattlers.

        The rancher's expressions of concern are by way of protecting his product, rather than protection of a client relationship.

        • But, in your analogy, the cattle are free to leave at any time! I have never heard of ranching like this! I have heard of serving customers in this way though.

    • by fermion (181285)
      Certainly in the US not all personal data is legally available to the consumer. The data collected by credit agencies must be disclosed, but in my experience the score the consumer gets is not the same as the score the retailer gets. The retailer is the customer, while the consumer is simply a drain on profits.

      Millions of people are willing to give retailers personal data in exchange for a discount off inflated prices. The customer in retailer is quickly becoming the firms that buy data. I wonder how

    • I created a free site, truefriender [truefriender.com] but the free users are subsidized by the paying users, the 5 gig account is free. And unlike facebook, since there is a direct path to income, advertisements are not needed, and neither is personal information, so we encrypt everything. We are trying to make a secure private social network. Please don't mod this down cause I'm just trying to get the word out to people who might be interested in this service.
  • Whether good or bad, the type and structure of the data stored can definitely hint at the proprietary stuff they're doing with it.

  • Facebook: Your Personal Data is a Trade Secret

    I agree 100%, which is why I refuse to give my personal data to Facebook (or anyone else).

    • Your friends are already doing it for you. They're tagging you in pictures, and writing about what you did with them, who you're with, who your friends are, and certain other details about your personal life.
  • He was originally talking about television but it applies to Facebook as well:

    ...Your mind is totally controlled
    It has been stuffed into my mold
    And you will do as you are told
    Until the rights to you are sold...
  • Minor rearrangements of existing facts can be considered to be innovative new facts.

    Consider this cool paper from Aragones et al:

    http://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=643545 [ssrn.com]

  • by WPIDalamar (122110) on Wednesday October 12, 2011 @08:53PM (#37697276) Homepage

    It could be that the quantity of data they collect is far more than anyone suspects and that's the trade secret.

  • Unlike some governments, businesses are not subject to "Freedom of Information" queries.

    Nor do you have any "rights" other than those set out in the terms of service, other than the right to refuse those terms and go elsewhere.

    Surely these Austrians aren't naive enough to think they're going to shove their laws down an international organization's throat? If they object that strongly, try to have Facebook blocked and banned from Austria. That is and should be their only legal recourse -- you cannot h

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Surely these Austrians aren't naive enough to think they're going to shove their laws down an international organization's throat? If they object that strongly, try to have Facebook blocked and banned from Austria. That is and should be their only legal recourse -- you cannot have international organizations subject to the whims of every nation in the world that the internet reaches.

      Yes and no. What you are saying sounds dangerously close to claiming Facebook is completely above the law (of every country) and can do whatever the fuck it likes just because it is multinational. Unless we establish a planet wide government (which is a bad idea anyway), I don't think corporate immunity to prosecution in all jurisdictions is a good idea.

      BTW, companies are usually subject to the laws of countries that it chooses to do business in. IANAL, but Facebook could have just made "Country" a mandator

    • by Animats (122034)

      Unlike some governments, businesses are not subject to "Freedom of Information" queries.

      In the European Union, businesses are. [europa.eu]

      THE DATA SUBJECT'S RIGHT OF ACCESS TO DATA

      Member States shall guarantee every data subject the right to obtain from the controller:
      (a) without constraint at reasonable intervals and without excessive delay or expense:
      - confirmation as to whether or not data relating to him are being processed and information at least as to the purposes of the processing, the categories of data concerned, and the recipients or categories of recipients to whom the data are disc

      • Correct, both EU law and UK law give you this right.
      • by msobkow (48369)

        EU law, yes -- it's a big enough market to be followed. But the article does not mention anything about Facebook violating EU regulations. It only mentions that it's Austrians raising the issues.

        But no company follows the regulations of every nation where the internet reaches. Suppressionist regimes like Iran have such insane laws that it's IMPOSSIBLE to follow them all.

        • by Animats (122034)

          But the article does not mention anything about Facebook violating EU regulations. It only mentions that it's Austrians raising the issues.

          Austria is a member of the European Union. (I shouldn't have to post this.)

    • by Martin S. (98249)

      Facebook is incorporated in the Republic of Ireland which is a signature party to the EU data protection directive. Facebook have no choice, subject data access is EU law.

  • After reading TFA and the fine website of Europe vs Facebook [europe-v-facebook.org] it turns out they are honoring the European (Irish) law and sending CDs with personal info to whoever requests them; the kind of data they're refusing to hand over is:

    "Data like the biometrical information or ”likes” are seen at trade secret, intellectual property or are simply too complicated to send to users according to Facebook."

    It raises the question whether it's reasonable to request from them information such as your "likes". It sounds to me like asking a company to hand you over a log with your phone calls and email exchanges; I don't think they have that obligation.

    • by Zironic (1112127)

      If they store it, and it counts as personal information, they're required to hand it over. The European data laws have no exception for "too complicated'.

      • by Spad (470073)

        However they do have exceptions for data that is commercially sensitive, though it's a very narrow definition and not something you can easily use as a blanket "get out" clause. If in doubt, file a complaint with your Information Commissioner's office (or local equivalent) as they will quite quickly be able to rule on whether or not Facebook or justifiably invoking the Trade Secret option.

    • It raises the question whether it's reasonable to request from them information such as your "likes". It sounds to me like asking a company to hand you over a log with your phone calls and email exchanges; I don't think they have that obligation.

      If the company has kept a record of such events and linked them explicitly to your name, then it should count as personal data.

  • by ohnocitizen (1951674) on Thursday October 13, 2011 @01:07AM (#37698424)
    Can someone explain why "you are the product" translates to carte blanche for facebook to do what they want with your data? If the FBI maintains a file on me, using purely public information, do I not have a right to that information? I don't understand why "you are using this for free" translates to "you deserve whatever they do to you". If Facebook charged for their service, would I suddenly be entitled to more? So do products (aka users) have zero rights? Should we?
  • The fortune of the day was quite on topic: "Lord, defend me from my friends; I can account for my enemies." -- Charles D'Hericault
  • Keep telling it to Mr TSA agent.

  • In the European Union personal data is protected by the Data Protection Directive [wikipedia.org], principle 6 which provides a legally guaranteed "access to private personal data" held by any third party.
  • Despite the Data Protection Act in the UK which generally requires disclosure and correction of personal information, financial institutions routinely refuse to give out information on things like decisions to turn down credit applications on the grounds that the proprietary algorithms they use to crunch your data are trade secrets. This even extends to the data sources they have consulted in addition to the personal information you provided them.

    I was on one occasion turned down for a credit card because o

"Love your country but never trust its government." -- from a hand-painted road sign in central Pennsylvania

Working...