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Facebook On Collision Course With New EU Privacy Laws 195

Posted by Soulskill
from the ramming-speed dept.
An anonymous reader writes "Facebook and other U.S. internet companies are faced with a new EU data protection regime, the Christian Science Monitor reports. U.S. concepts of free expression and commerce will battle European support for privacy and state legislation. 'Companies must understand that if they want access to 500 million consumers in the EU, then they have to comply. This is not an option,' said a spokesman for the EU Justice Commissioner."
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Facebook On Collision Course With New EU Privacy Laws

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  • by Anonymous Coward

    "U.S. concepts of free expression" wow!

    • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday February 04, 2012 @04:47AM (#38925239)

      Not to mention the strange use of the words "regime" and "battle" and the Orwellian language of the article. But what did we expect from the Christian Science Monitor? While on the one hand winning multiple Pulitzers, and being fairly left-right neutral, it is well known for its corporate bias. The EU data protection laws won't harm freedom of expression as defined in the First Amendment, but will prevent companies from making a profit of selling private user data. Hence, the CSM wants to agitate against that, but because of its readership it cannot do so by simply stating this. The result is this article.

    • privacy almost always loses.
      • alternate version: when it comes to money and something, money always wins.

        privacy, freedom, even product quality. money money money. long term thinking? no! that does not help me *now* (their thinking).

        anything that brings in money is what our system is setup to optimize for.

        I declare it to be broken by its very design.

        but go and try to redesign it. they'll call you names and even attempt to silence you.

  • It's about time (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Barbara, not Barbie (721478) <barbara.hudsonNO@SPAMgmail.com> on Saturday February 04, 2012 @03:31AM (#38924985) Journal
    Facebook (and other operators, such as google) need to understand that they don't have a "right" to sell any and all information they can gather. If they can't meet the rules, someone else will be happy to do so and take their users away from them. That's what competition is about.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      and consumers have to understand that not everything is for free and maybe free sites should start charging for usage

      • Re:It's about time (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward on Saturday February 04, 2012 @04:02AM (#38925071)

        that may be but users should not have to dig through mountains of legaleze to understand that the service is offered to them ONLY because they agree to let complete strangers comprehensively know every last interaction they make with the service, potentially exposing to those people more about their lives than even the user knows about themselves.

        It's not just counting clicks, it's building an entire psychology about each person, beyond reasonable survey-like data gathering. *THAT* little detail is what the users should be very weary of.

      • and consumers have to understand that not everything is for free and maybe free sites should start charging for usage

        What does that have to do with respecting privacy laws? Oh, right ... nothing.

        If Facebook can't compete while respecting local privacy laws, that's their problem. Someone else will fill the gap - not that it matters much in the long run - all the so-called "social media" will be dead within a decade or so, when technology gets to the point that everyones' devices become their own "perso

        • Re:It's about time (Score:5, Insightful)

          by rtb61 (674572) on Saturday February 04, 2012 @04:16AM (#38925115) Homepage

          Corporations will still want to build privacy invasive data bases and mine that information. Privacy laws means that not matter what type of business you, when you hold other peoples data you will have to adhere to those laws and when you are caught out you will be subject to prosecution.

          Facebook has become a glaring example of privacy invasion. Facebook will also have to start thinking about it's users invading the privacy of other users and posting information that contravenes privacy laws.

        • Facebook cannot exist without publishing private data. Facebook is about publishing private information. It is what people create Facebook accounts to do.
          • Irrelevant. They collect your interactions with 3rd parties (other web sites) without your explicit consent - in fact, they collect it before you've even seen the page, so you can't even deny consent. And they do it for people who aren't even logged in - or who never registered, by a combo of browser fingerprinting and ip tracking.

            This will get resolved when someone sues facebook and wins big time for invading their privacy.

        • by nnull (1148259)
          Some reason, I don't see anyone filling the gap, and Facebook will probably just close their offices in said country, while continuing to offer services from across their borders. They'll have to block access to their site completely if they want people to stop using it. Then good luck trying to enforce these new laws.
          • It's not that hard to block facebook at the country level. China's doing it. Canada threatened to do it a few years ago [readwriteweb.com] (before even the Europeans, which is what dragged Facebook, kicking and screaming, to the bargaining table in the first place).

            And no, they didn't come out and say "fix this or you're going to be blocked", but rather strongly hinted "either we sit down and talk about this or it's a 15,000 fine per user per incident". Since every page access is one incident, that works out to more than

        • by cdrguru (88047)

          Someone else will fill the gap

          And get paid for their efforts how? The key is that FaceBook gets money from selling information and virtually no other source of revenue exists for them. Advertising simply isn't lucrative enough to support more than a couple of hobbists.

          No, the services will simply not be available to EU citizens, or anywhere else that blocks the sale of information.

    • by Mitreya (579078)
      Facebook (and other operators, such as google) need to understand that they don't have a "right" to sell any and all information they can gather. If they can't meet the rules, someone else will be happy to do so and take their users away from them. That's what competition is about.

      I sense some optimism in your post. My understanding is, in US they are pretty much free to do what they want. The only thing that delays them a little are occasional outrage bursts (beacon program that got scrapped, timeline

      • The entry costs are very low. And the more that the likes of facebook, twitter, and google get invasive, the more people will stop using them. I stopped using both facebook and twitter and google+ last year, specifically because of their (lack of) a decent privacy policy.

        Can't say I miss any of them either.

    • 'rights' are what people, collectively, define and assign. (lets assume there is no higher power and that all our doing is our own making and design).

      companies have taken what we allow them to. we are at least half to blame.

      case in point: I was on a coupon/deals forum, reading some of the comments of the younger crowd on one of the freebies. some vendor was giving away 'free frenchfries' if you text them (sigh). they are collecting your info and you'll do that for, what, half a dollar's worth of fried p

      • But there is hope. It's not that hard to quit using them. I stopped using twitter shortly after I signed up for it (didn't really see the point - you cannot have a real conversation in 140 characters). I stopped using facebook after not really using it very much because the UI sucked, and it was mostly people just trying to build their "networks" to either build up their self-esteem, or market some sh*te. I stopped using google+ because of the whoe privacy thing.

        We *can* fight back. We have the old s

    • by cdrguru (88047)

      Google and FaceBook exist solely because it is legal in the US to collect this information and sell it. If it wasn't legal to begin with, the services would not exist. There is no comparable source of revenue for a "free" service - ten years ago it was clear advertising wasn't the way to make lots of money.

      Now the EU wants to change the rules. It will be interesting to see what happens. My guess it that these services will simply be unavailable to anyone that lives in a country that denies the company t

      • ten years ago it was clear advertising wasn't the way to make lots of money

        ... that ignores the fact that it's the #1 method for both google and facebook to generate revenue.

        The reason that advertising has become so invasive is because it was allowed to (regulators and gov't asleep at the wheel, like usual), so the bar of invasiveness was continually raised to "stay competitive."

  • regime ? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday February 04, 2012 @03:49AM (#38925029)

    ... U.S. internet companies are faced with a new EU data protection "regime" ...

    newspeak ? the word "regime" should be used at EU Govts. ?

    mmaaaa... EU are axis of evil "regimes", they do not let our companies do douchebaggery which is our way of life !!! they want accountability... !!! how dare they !!!

    • Re:regime ? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Mitreya (579078) <(mitreya) (at) (gmail.com)> on Saturday February 04, 2012 @05:32AM (#38925401)
      newspeak ?

      Nothing but newspeak!
      "U.S. concepts of free expression and commerce will battle European support for privacy and state legislation."
      I think what the summary is trying to say that company coming from corporation-controlled US will suddenly encounter an actual user-privacy law. There is nothing about free expression (though something about commerce) in selling user's data to everyone who is willing to buy it. Even if corporations are (apparently) people, selling their user's data is not free expression of speech.

      • Re:regime ? (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Muros (1167213) on Saturday February 04, 2012 @10:00AM (#38926421)
        I liked the bit of the article where it equated this legislation with censorship. "There is potential for radical disruption of the way users experience the Internet in the EU. This would transform Facebook and Google into censors-in-chief." The big lie here, of course, is saying that it is making censors of Google and Facebook. It is merely telling companies to allow people to censor themselves.
        • by Mitreya (579078)
          The big lie here, of course, is saying that it is making censors of Google and Facebook. It is merely telling companies to allow people to censor themselves.

          I was going to comment the same thing, but then I realized something. They are are talking about removing other people's posts about you. I.e. someone posts a compromising picture about you and you want it removed. That, arguably, fits the definition of censorship.

    • by SnowZero (92219)

      The word regime has multiple meanings.
      http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/regime [merriam-webster.com]
      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Regime [wikipedia.org]
      The article title clearly means "set of conditions" or "regimen" in this context.

      CSM is one of very few English newspapers left with a high-school level of language. I'd prefer to keep it that way, though seeing your post get modded to +5 makes it clear why other newspapers are now written at middle school or even grade school reading levels.

  • by Tastecicles (1153671) on Saturday February 04, 2012 @03:59AM (#38925061)

    ...Facebook's first priority is no longer its users' privacy (if it ever had been). Its first priority now is making money from its shareholders. From advertising space to per-click charges for using its authentication protocols and other bits of code, Facebook has other avenues of revenue than selling user data. Having close on a billion accounts live right now is a bonus for Facebook, as it shows a more or less loyal customer base for any other company that seeks a captive target.

    Hence, deeply personal data you might find on FB that might find its way into some other company's database or metric for them to use to tailor their product to a target consumer, is unlikely to be uniquely identifiable - it's infinitely more likely to be statistical in nature. The single most likely candidates for individual monitoring would be those already on watch lists or those who trip warning triggers (yes, there is tech out there to monitor even "closed" or spiderproofed websites: that the police in the UK can access locked down Facebook accounts (seen it) as though the pages were Wayback mirrored is evidence enough of that).

    • from its shareholders? I meant *for* its shareholders! It's 8am, that's my excuse and I'm sticking to it!

    • by Barbara, not Barbie (721478) <barbara.hudsonNO@SPAMgmail.com> on Saturday February 04, 2012 @04:11AM (#38925103) Journal
      It's not just statistical data - all those "Like" buttons - when any page with a "Like" button is displayed, it makes a call to facebooks' servers, sending your unique id to facebook to let them know you've seen that page. So over time, facebook develops a rather complete profile of your browsing habits. And no, you don't have to be logged in for this to work.

      It's stuff like this that advertisers - and anyone else with "preferential access" (police, etc.) get. Think of it - others have a more complete history of your browsing habits than you do. Facebook is the new cyber-stalker.

      • by Ihmhi (1206036)

        Okay. I know about those (and so do many geeks).

        I view Facebook as a necessary evil to my social life. I get a lot of good out of it. There's also, of course, the whole tracking schtick, and on certain sites I visit that doesn't sit entirely well with me.

        What's the geek's solution to neutralizing the Like button but being able to re-enable it when desired? Adblock? Noscript? hosts/etc.?

    • by Mitreya (579078)
      Facebook's first priority is no longer its users' privacy (if it ever had been).

      [sarcasm]Yeah, Facebook started out as a shining beacon of user's privacy and gradually became corrupted by the allure of ad selling.[/sarcasm>]. The only thing that prevented them from selling data on the first day is that they probably didn't have enough of it until the user-base grew. Any why aren't there any laws in US providing some protection to the users and their data? If Europe seems to have some

    • by KiloByte (825081)

      Its first priority now is making money for its shareholders.

      Not even that. The first priority is always top executives' pay. Stock price is merely a tool to get that. And long-term profit is not even on the radar.

  • by Jane Q. Public (1010737) on Saturday February 04, 2012 @04:10AM (#38925097)
    The "U.S. concepts of free expression and commerce" mentioned are of the current Corporatist Government, and are not representative of "U.S." views. I would thank anyone writing about this to make that distinction.

    As I have been saying for years now, if you really want to look at the demographics of the United States, you really have to consider the citizens and the Federal government separately, because the Federal government has been so completely out of touch with the wants and needs of the average citizen.

    "U.S. concepts of free expression and commerce", if by that you mean the vast majority of people who live here, very much do include personal privacy. Anyone who thinks otherwise has a distorted view of what's really going on. And anyone who represents the Federal government's "views" as those of the average American citizen is likewise out of touch.
    • by Jane Q. Public (1010737) on Saturday February 04, 2012 @05:36AM (#38925413)
      Don'tya just love it when somebody mods you "redundant" because you are later in the sequence he read, but actually made the first such comment (as clearly shown by the timestamp)?

      Sometimes, I get a real charge out of the quality of "conversation" on Slashdot. Other times, like now, I am reminded that while it might be better than average, there are still some real bozos here. (squeak, squeak)
      • by Ihmhi (1206036)

        Which is why I and many other browse at -1 and do our best to correct stuff like this when we can.

        • Thank you, and I do as well, when it is my turn to moderate. Seems to me, "moderate" is the operative word: not to force conformity, but to eliminate the obvious outliers.
  • -1 Flamebait (Score:5, Interesting)

    by peppepz (1311345) on Saturday February 04, 2012 @04:21AM (#38925133)
    "U.S. concepts of free expression and commerce will battle European support for privacy and state legislation."? Really?

    Was this summary explicitly written in trollspeak to ignite yet another US vs Europe flamewar on /. ?

  • by mosb1000 (710161) <mosb1000@mac.com> on Saturday February 04, 2012 @04:42AM (#38925215)

    I never understood the objection to targeted advertising. I don't particularly enjoy sitting through adds for tampons, dating services, or political candidates. But I quite like ads for electronics, camping gear, movies, cars and things like that. So why wouldn't I want a website to know what kinds of ads interest me? Targeted ads are greatly preferable to general ads.

    I'll be in favor of a "right to be forgotten" if it applies to the government and banks. Otherwise, it's not really worth it.

    • by peppepz (1311345) on Saturday February 04, 2012 @05:18AM (#38925355)
      Is it OK to you for any entity (government, facebook, google) to have a file about you containing:
      - your name
      - your phone number, and the names and phone numbers of all your contacts
      - your web history
      - your web search history
      - your past and current email
      - your gps position, its history, and the places you "starred"
      - the pictures you take with your phone
      - your wifi passwords
      - the music you bought online
      - the books you read online
      - your investments portfolio
      - the office documents you're working on
      - everything you "liked" on the web, be it apps, music, cuisine or politics
      under just the promise that they'll never be doing anything bad with that data, except "targeted advertising"?

      Even their ability to sell some of that data, purged of personal identifications, is "bad" enough for me. If advertisers get to know where you work and what you like, that's enough to understand who you are in many cases.

      • by mosb1000 (710161) <mosb1000@mac.com> on Saturday February 04, 2012 @05:28AM (#38925381)

        If advertisers get to know where you work and what you like, that's enough to understand who you are in many cases.

        Which is bad because then they'd be able to try to sell you stuff you might actually want, rather than a bunch of stupid crap you don't care about? I just don't see it.

        As far as your list goes, I have no illusions that government legislation can protect any information I would voluntarily choose to share. Best case scenario: corporations store and trade the information secretly. So, if you have something and you want to keep it private, the only way to do that is to keep it to yourself. Anyone who tells you differently is trying to sell you something.

        • by peppepz (1311345)

          Which is bad because then they'd be able to try to sell you stuff you might actually want, rather than a bunch of stupid crap you don't care about?

          No, it's bad because an "advertiser" can be just anyone, including somebody who is interested in obtaining my personal information instead of selling me stuff, or some company who won't protect at all my personal data against misuse, for example by one of their own employees who has something against me.

          So, if you have something and you want to keep it private,

          • by mosb1000 (710161)

            If someone has a personal vendetta against you, and they use information to blackmail you or whatever, there are already laws in place you can use to sue them. Pushing for regulations to prevent private corporations from having personal infomation is misguided, as the principle collectors of this kind of information (governments and banks) will be largely immune from it and are still employing thousands of regular people. If your regulations are missing most of the potential offenders, all they really do is

        • No. Which is bad because (as courts have found already), it allows others to infer (a) who your mistress might be, (b) your political affiliations, (c) your use (or not) of illegal but morally justifiable controlled substances, (d) when you are away from home (oooh... look! an unoccupied house just waiting to be burglarized)... and many more things. It has been CLEARLY shown, beyond reasonable doubt, that even "de-personalized" data can give people personalized information.
          Also, your version of "best cas
          • by mosb1000 (710161)

            How, in the name of Grid, could that be considered "best case scenario"?

            That's be best result your silly regulations will be able to achieve. In reality, they won't achieve even that because they will include loopholes and exemptions.

            • They aren't MY regulations. They are regulations from government that has lost touch with those whom they presume to govern.

              But aside from that, your statements have become increasingly close to incoherent. Try again when you sober up.
      • by Splab (574204)

        I think it comes down to if people are old (and educated?) enough to remember Stasi.

        I grew up in the 80s with East/West Germany next door and history lessons teaching us horrible things about what government can do with too much information.

    • by Mitreya (579078)
      I never understood the objection to targeted advertising.

      There isn't any. No one is complaining about google ads in gmail. Hulu has "ad tailor" that asks you about ad relevance. Absolutely no outrage about that (even nice to have sometimes)
      I think the problem comes when my information is handed out to someone else. Beacon program posted blockbuster rental information on users accounts for others to see. And I guess the information is being made available without users consent?

  • by pacc (163090) on Saturday February 04, 2012 @04:44AM (#38925231) Homepage

    "It's your data" so if you want us to delete your GPS locations
    crossreferenced with your search habits you will have to give
    up your gmail.

    All in the new simplified agreement that covers everything.

    • by cardpuncher (713057) on Saturday February 04, 2012 @06:04AM (#38925487)

      In the old world of business, the service provider received something of direct value in exchange for the service and the customer could reasonably expect to end the contract and stop paying. In the new model, the customer has something of indirect value irreversibly taken away (privacy) there's no reasonable prospect of getting it back even if they do agree to give up the service at a later date. Privacy is like virginity - when it's gone, it's gone.

  • by Frans Faase (648933) on Saturday February 04, 2012 @06:12AM (#38925517) Homepage
    I think a bigger problem is that this new privacy directed is also in conflict with the Patriot Act. If I understand it correctly, the Patriot Act allows the USA government to seize any data (no matter where it is being hosted in the world) from any company that has a legal entity in the USA. The new privacy directive does not allow any government to size this data. To me it seems that any company that has a legal entity in the USA can no longer store any private (customer) data of people falling under the laws of to the EU.
  • by msobkow (48369) on Saturday February 04, 2012 @06:39AM (#38925631) Homepage Journal

    U.S. concepts of free expression and commerce...

    Should read

    U.S. concepts of freedom to be monitored, tracked, analyzed, and advertised to...

    The EU legislation has NOTHING to do with freedom of speech. The summary is busy trying to paint a red herring argument where there is none, just to stir up good old "Proud American" sentiment.

    • Of course it has free speech implications. What it the EU going to do, censor web sites that don't live up to their privacy laws? How is that any different from SOPA that would censor web sites that don't adhere to certain US copyright laws?

  • This evil anti American regime must be stopped at all cost!
  • Interesting POV (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Registered Coward v2 (447531) on Saturday February 04, 2012 @09:31AM (#38926311)

    'Companies must understand that if they want access to 500 million consumers in the EU, then they have to comply. This is not an option,' said a spokesman for the EU Justice Commissioner."

    The EU is essentially claiming that accessibility of a site to EU users subjects the site to EU laws. That's the same argument that the US uses to go after overseas sites that violate US law. While privacy is certainly a valid concern, the overall concept is a dangerous one. If a company doesn't have a physical prince in a location should it be subject to local laws? Should the government where it is located enforce foreign judgements?

    • by Hentes (2461350)

      The difference is that Facebook has a presence in Europe. If Europe would just block Facebook instead of making them liable, that would be an invasion of free speech and the free net.

      • The difference is that Facebook has a presence in Europe. If Europe would just block Facebook instead of making them liable, that would be an invasion of free speech and the free net.

        True, but the EU apparently wants to exercise jurisdiction even if a company has no physical presence in the EU:

        On Jan. 25, EU Justice Commissioner Viviane Reding unveiled a wide-ranging data protection program that aims to regulate all companies doing business online in the EU, not just those based there. The data protection laws, which will take about a year to be enacted, will be uniform across all 27 member states.

        "Companies must understand that if they want access to 500 million consumers in the EU, then they have to comply. This is not an option," says Matthew Newman, spokesperson for the justice commissioner.

        The EU essentially wants to exercise the same type of extra-territorial reach as the US. While people amy like the privacy implications, that stance has a far broader implication that is worrisome.

        • by Hentes (2461350)

          The EU is not led by Viviane Reding alone. The opinion of one Justice Commissioner is not the official opinion of the Union. In fact, the "leadership" of the EU is so complex and changes so frequently that talking about what the EU wants is meaningless until something actually happens. The EU is a constant political battlefield of different groups with different interests.

          • The EU is not led by Viviane Reding alone. The opinion of one Justice Commissioner is not the official opinion of the Union. In fact, the "leadership" of the EU is so complex and changes so frequently that talking about what the EU wants is meaningless until something actually happens. The EU is a constant political battlefield of different groups with different interests.

            I realize that - it is much like the US was before we went to a strong federal system. None the less, the argument put forth is not necessarily good even if the privacy angle is.

  • And if they don't comply? Then what? You'll create the Great Firewall of EU to keep Facebook out of your countries?
  • by swschrad (312009) on Saturday February 04, 2012 @12:38PM (#38927499) Homepage Journal

    the other option is that, the EU standing pat, the rest of the civilized world passes them by. and the EU becomes like Iran, isolated by their own paranoias.

  • I would have thought Slashdot would be supportive of attempts to allow people to control over their private personal data? In my opinion, people who give personal data to any organisation in order for them to provide a service should have the right to ensure that the data is not kept or sold when the person no longer requires the service. Also a person should be protected against organisations collecting data without them being aware for commercial gain. I can finally cancel my Facebook account and actually

  • From TFA:

    Mr. Rosen says the regulations will create a dramatic clash between the right to freedom of expression and the right to privacy, arguing that under the proposal, websites like Facebook will be obliged to not only to delete on request material that users upload, such as photos, but any shared copies of photos – and potentially even material uploaded by third parties that another user objects to.

    Funny, when private persons want to prevent others from sharing their media, they call it "preventing free expression". I never heard the mainstream media call it that when corporations want to prevent others from sharing their media.

    Is the right to keep your own media to yourself less important if you do it for privacy, than if you you do it for profit?

  • Universal ID.

    Let's wait a while and see how this turns out...

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