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Facebook Data Collection Under Fire Again

samzenpus posted more than 2 years ago | from the das-ist-streng-verboten dept.

Facebook 49

JohnBert writes "A German privacy protection authority is calling on organizations there to close their Facebook fan pages and remove the social networking site's 'Like' button from their websites, arguing that Facebook harvests data in violation of German and European Union law. The Independent Centre for Privacy Protection (ULD), the privacy protection agency for the German state of Schleswig-Holstein, issued a news release on Friday saying Facebook builds a broad, individualized profile for people who view Facebook content on third-party websites. Data is sent back to Facebook's servers in the U.S., which the agency alleges violates the German Telemedia Act, the German Federal Data Protection Act and the Data Protection Act of Schleswig-Holstein. The agency alleges the data is held by Facebook for two years, and wants website owners in the state to remove links to Facebook by the end of next month or possibly face a fine."

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49 comments

+1 (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37201716)

Oh wait...Like?

How ironic (2)

riverat1 (1048260) | more than 2 years ago | (#37201772)

I see this story and right above it is "Become a fan of Slashdot on Facebook" No thanks.

Re:How ironic (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37202066)

Are you in Germany? Is Slashdot? Are you Alanis Morissette?
Unless both of the first answers are Yes and/or the third one is yes. then this is not ironic.

Re:How ironic (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37203396)

yes, no, maybe...

Re:How ironic (1)

riverat1 (1048260) | more than 2 years ago | (#37206006)

It's ironic to me since I eschew Facebook membership.

Re:How ironic (1)

Man Eating Duck (534479) | more than 2 years ago | (#37225952)

Are you in Germany? Is Slashdot? Are you Alanis Morissette?
Unless both of the first answers are Yes and/or the third one is yes. then this is not ironic.

Good one :)
It would be ironic if the ULD had a "Like" button on their site (they don't).

Very sensible, methinks. (4, Insightful)

tqk (413719) | more than 2 years ago | (#37201842)

The agency alleges the data is held by Facebook for two years, and wants website owners in the state to remove links to Facebook by the end of next month or possibly face a fine.

I whole heartedly agree. No controversy seen from here, whatsoever.

"Social networking" (a la FB) is a gross (as in, makes me want to puke) application of technology.

He's right. Get out now, and never go back. This is not the web you wanted. This is the web *they* wanted. Don't go there, or accept you'll be owned, ultimately.

Re:Very sensible, methinks. (0, Troll)

interkin3tic (1469267) | more than 2 years ago | (#37202238)

A government fining websites that -link- to facebook would be a pretty scary step. Banning linking to -legal- websites now, just because we don't like it? Geez. I thought the progression from banning child porn and copyrighted music was going to take longer than a few years, but apparently not. We can expect that linking to news and blogs not approved by the ministry of the internet will be punishable by death within 4 years, right?

This citizen enjoyed the Internet for the brief time it existed.

Re:Very sensible, methinks. (3, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37202344)

They do not ban linking to facebook because they do not like it.
They ban providing Facebook (throught the "like", "become a fan", ... links) with information that they WILLINGLY and KNOWINGLY are not handling according to the rules and regulations in Germany.
In other words: they are banning sites from cooperating with illegal actions. And I do not see the problem in that, because as far as I know that is already illegal.

Re:Very sensible, methinks. (3, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37202390)

"Banning linking to -legal- websites now, just because we don't like it? Geez."

Try again.
This is in Germany, and only applies to websites that are hosted in Germany.
In Germany, Facebook would not be able to be hosted because Facebooks datamining systems are ILLEGAL in Germany. They violate privacy laws and violate laws that describe how, where, and when, personal/private information may be transmitted.
Since Facebook is NOT hosted in Germany, the German government can't touch Facebook itself and are not trying.
However, any websites that ARE hosted in Germany must work within German law, and since those "like" buttons transmit your private/personal/legally-protected information to a datamining system in another country... those "like" buttons violate German data privacy laws and are thus ILLEGAL for any sites hosted in Germany to use.

For once in the history of the world... I am agreeing with a government using "censorship" in order to protect mentally-deficient citizens from having all of their private/personal/protected information stolen from them and used in scams that target those very same citizens.

Re:Very sensible, methinks. (1)

rapiddescent (572442) | more than 2 years ago | (#37202522)

I wonder if Germany will extradite, or detain whilst on holiday, Facebook's directors to face trial in Germany for their crimes? (in the same manner as European gambling websites directors have been extradited to the USA). If not, then it's just yet more hot air designed to look good in media soundbites.

Re:Very sensible, methinks. (2)

Rhywden (1940872) | more than 2 years ago | (#37202680)

That's why they're going after the websites linking to Facebook, not Facebook itself...

Furthermore, there'd be no problem at all if they replaced the button with something which only loads the Facebook code if a user clicks on it - rather than anytime I open a page with such a button on it.

Re:Very sensible, methinks. (1)

paulo.casanova (2222146) | more than 2 years ago | (#37205476)

Under common law, you cannot be trialed in a country for offenses made in another country. While living in the US you are subject to US law. While living in Germany you are subject to German law. This is commonly held by most of the world, the US being the major exception which trials people for doing "crimes" outside the US...

Re:Very sensible, methinks. (1)

jonbryce (703250) | more than 2 years ago | (#37206930)

No, because Facebook are not violating any German laws as they are not in Germany. What is against the law is exporting personal information outside the EU unless you have a safe harbour agreement in place where the company you are exporting it to agrees to comply with EU law in respect of that data.

Re:Very sensible, methinks. (4, Informative)

codegen (103601) | more than 2 years ago | (#37202580)

Read the story. Or even read the summary. They are not banning links to facebook. If the sites had a <a href="http//www.facebook.com> link on their page, the government would not care. What they care about is that javascript snippet that collects user information about you and your friends when you visit the page and sends it back to facebook, whether you click on the "like" button or not. The EU in general and Germany in particular have strong rules about what information a corporation is allowed to collect and retain about you. Facebook breaks the rules.

I wish my government was as strong. You can say, "don't" go to such websites, but so many sites have opted into facebook's koolaid, that it would be a limited web indeed. Competition only works when you have a real choice.

Re:Very sensible, methinks. (1)

interkin3tic (1469267) | more than 2 years ago | (#37202754)

From the summary and the article

The agency alleges the data is held by Facebook for two years, and wants website owners in the state to remove links to Facebook by the end of next month or possibly face a fine."

I recognize there is a big difference between the "like" button and a simple link, but the article says "link." To be fair, I suspect it was the article's mistake. Still, I wouldn't trust that a government official knew the difference between javascript and a link.

Moreover, my concerns are not completely assuaged. Facebook's like buttons are still a far cry from child porn and warez. It seems to me that this is still an escalation in what governments can ban on the internet.

Re:Very sensible, methinks. (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37203022)

I recognize there is a big difference between the "like" button and a simple link, but the article says "link." To be fair, I suspect it was the article's mistake. Still, I wouldn't trust that a government official knew the difference between javascript and a link.

Then you would be mistaken. The original report [datenschutzzentrum.de] is pretty detailed and documents Facebook's tracking user techniques even at the Javascript level.

Re:Very sensible, methinks. (1)

maxwell demon (590494) | more than 2 years ago | (#37203678)

Moreover, you don't know if a web site does it until you visited that web site. And then it's too late (unless you use NoScript&Co.)

Re: Not just about a href linking, no! (1)

xiando (770382) | more than 2 years ago | (#37202780)

A government fining websites that -link- to facebook would be a pretty scary step.

I agree. But this story is NOT about linking to websites. I can add a a href= link to facebook and nobody gets tracked. The like buttons are not pure links. If you add a img src link to an image hotlinked at my server or more disturbing, include javascript hosted on my server on your site then we are talking about something completely different. I can not track a simple a href= link to my site. I CAN track hotlinked images and javascript. See the huge difference now?

Re:Very sensible, methinks. (1)

silanea (1241518) | more than 2 years ago | (#37202806)

This is not for linking to Facebook but for embedding something in their websites that exposes visitors' information to Facebook.

Re:Very sensible, methinks. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37203244)

Just adblock all the stupid stuff.

Facebook, fbcdn.*, advertisements, etc.

But wait (1)

countertrolling (1585477) | more than 2 years ago | (#37201856)

They meet *industry-accepted* standards.. Sounds safe to me..

Get a proxy (3, Interesting)

whereiswaldo (459052) | more than 2 years ago | (#37201896)

I've been running a web proxy at home for awhile now and the more I review the logs, the more I see that the entire WWW is a massive data collection engine. Trying to keep up with blocks is like playing whack-a-mole (albeit similarly satisfying).

I agree with their call to action to have FaceBook links removed, but I'd also add that this is only the tip of the iceberg.

Re:Get a proxy (1)

daktari (1983452) | more than 2 years ago | (#37203790)

Whack-a-mole by proxy. Nice one. I just add these nefarious URLs as local loopbacks in my host file. That seems to work well: haven't seen any "like" buttons for a while.

Re:Get a proxy (1)

GameboyRMH (1153867) | more than 2 years ago | (#37204024)

I solve this by taking a whitelist approach. Want my browser to run your scripts/flash or accept your cookies? Only if I allow it. Disable disk caching because it's not worth allowing evercookies to survive. Set flash storage to clear on browser exit. Disable geolocation API and HTML5 storage, because I can't control access to those individually (yet). Problems solved.

Re:Get a proxy (1)

Requiem18th (742389) | more than 2 years ago | (#37205728)

Agreed. Ever since I started using RequestPolicy I'm flabbergasted at how much useless and miscelaneus tracking systems are there on each page.

Easier than that (1)

sarysa (1089739) | more than 2 years ago | (#37205980)

Solution is to just use a different browser for Facebook. Facebook on Chrome browser can't tell where you've been on Firefox.

I had to recently face facts, that not using Facebook was bad for my social life. And this is having weekend interests that, for the most part, are far away from the connected world.

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Is this the government's job, though? (0)

wdsci (1204512) | more than 2 years ago | (#37201992)

Honestly, I'm more concerned about the government of Schleswig-Holstein having the authority to control what links its citizens put on their web page this precisely than I am about Facebook collecting the data that it does.

Of course, I'm in the US, not in Germany, so I guess it's not really my fight...

Re:Is this the government's job, though? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37202122)

Yes, it is the job of the government to enforce the law. Germany has different laws than the US and the data-collection by "Like" and "+1" buttons supposedly violates the constitutional law of Informational self-determination [wikipedia.org] .

Re:Is this the government's job, though? (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37202172)

As someone with a libertarian bent, I really wish to agree with you.

But as someone who has spent the last 30+ years living amongst the humans I'm going to have to regretfully inform you that world governments actually DO have to put these kinds of laws into enforcement.
I wish they didn't. I really do.
But the general population is just way to gullible and stupid to leave the internet open.
We need laws like this for the same reason we have other anti-scam laws.
Because the general population is SO STUPID that 80% or so of our upper-middle class and less citizens would be scammed out of everything they own due to freely (but ignorantly) giving it away to places like Facebook. The only reasons anyone ever goes to Facebook anymore is because either they're somehow still ignorant of the fact (Freely admitted by the founder) that Facebook was started for the sole purpose of getting ahold of your private information (and has been that ever since) or you're part of the machine, using Facebook to gather other peoples private information in order to use it against them (marketers, scammers, hackers, thieves).

While I personally I don't need these laws, because I'm pretty good at network security (it happens to be what I do for a living), I'd hate to see what would happen to my company if we didn't filter the hell out of our internet link.
I usually get at least one call per day for a down link ("I can't get on the network!") that turns out to be someone bashing their browser repeatedly against the proxy in an attempt to get to Facebook. When I point out that their network works just fine and they're just trying to access a filtered site they first try to "buddy" me into unblocking it just for them (nobody will know!) and then sometimes resort to bribes. In the end they usually threaten in some way.

Re:Is this the government's job, though? (0)

zMaile (1421715) | more than 2 years ago | (#37202426)

My thoughts exactly. If we want a truly free internet, with that comes the ability for any website to be able to do whatever they want with their site. If that included adding a facebook 'like' button, then so be it. It's their choice. Unless i'm missing something...

Re:Is this the government's job, though? (3, Insightful)

JordanL (886154) | more than 2 years ago | (#37202782)

But this is only half of the intellectual conversation on the topic. This position only holds as a moral position if people are informed BEFORE they ever visit a website what information their browser and computer will provide to that site, because by the time you click and see a like button, it's done. You did not get to make an informed choice.

Your position would only solve the moral conundrum if it was instead legally forced for every website to somehow convey their collection levels before ever collected.

Facebook not only doesn't do this, they actively provide disinformation on the subject. As Facebook is not subject to German law in THAT sense, the most consistently just thing the government can do in this case is prevent the websites within their country from participating in a foreign company that will never comply with the law you have written regarding the freedom of self-determination.

If websites warned users before actually being served a webpage that there was a Facebook like button, and that button would lead to a violation of their Constitutional rights as citizens of that government, it might be acceptable.

But even then, you are capitulating within your own rights as citizens for the sake of "private property". Or rather, you are allowing the idea of closed ownership of something to supercede what you believe as a society is inherently true about being human.

Re:Is this the government's job, though? (1)

GameboyRMH (1153867) | more than 2 years ago | (#37204104)

Your position would only solve the moral conundrum if it was instead legally forced for every website to somehow convey their collection levels before ever collected.

And to get a feel for how this would work, try browsing something like CNN using Lynx. How do you like all those cookie prompts? Now imagine it literally times six: Not just traditional cookies, but disk cached images (used as part of evercookies AKA zombie cookies), Flash storage, HTML5 storage, geolocation data requests, and Javascript. And soon maybe Google's NaCL, AKA ActiveX 2: Fail Harder.

Re:Is this the government's job, though? (3, Informative)

oreaq (817314) | more than 2 years ago | (#37202792)

You are missing something: In Germany you own your personal information. Facebook is not allowed to store or use your personal information without your consent. The facebook "Like" button is not just a link, it's a javascript program that sends personal information to Facebook.

Re:Is this the government's job, though? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37202858)

It's not about linking to Facebook. It's about integrating Facebook's plugins in your own website. Not because they refer to Facebook (which is not at issue and completely unproblematic), but because those plugins allegedly track user information in violation of the German telecommunications law and the website providers who integrate Facebook plugins become complicit in that tracking activity.

Re:Is this the government's job, though? (1)

V for Vendetta (1204898) | more than 2 years ago | (#37207780)

This has nothing to do with links per se. This is about the government making sure that web sites do not break any laws - in that case German privacy laws are breached by placing behavioural tracking links on web sites . It is my educated guess that U.S. authorities do the same (=make sure the laws are followed) in the U.S.A., too.

Transparent GIF (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37202028)

As much as I hate Facebook, doesn't this also mean the transparent 1x1 GIF tracking is also illegal?

Re:Transparent GIF (1)

netsharc (195805) | more than 2 years ago | (#37202646)

Those GIFs at least have some measure of anonymity. With Facebook, the user has willingly shared all information as he cares to give to the ad-selling network: name, friends, where they live, things they like, where they hang-out, when they are usually online, and with the Like button virus, what websites they visit...

Re:Transparent GIF (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37205094)

"With Facebook, the user has willingly shared all information "

The key word is WILLINGLY. I think people should be able to willingly share whatever they want, even if i consider it stupid of them. Personally, I don't share anything at all with facebook, and I block their entire address blocks, including their like buttons.

It isn't hard at all to not give FB any data whatsoever. If other people want to give up their personal data to be sold, though, more power to them.

Re:Transparent GIF (1)

silanea (1241518) | more than 2 years ago | (#37202878)

Here in Germany it mostly is, yes. Website operators are not allowed to store any personally identifiable information without the user's prior consent. So strictly speaking even Apache's default log settings violate our data protection and privacy laws. There are very limited exceptions for information that is required to process technical operations (eg. the landline-IP mapping at ISPs required to get on the internet) or to protect systems from attacks (eg. a temporary log of recent visitors' IP addresses to watch for DDOS etc.), but in general regulations are very strict here.

Maybe we should thank Facebook ... (1)

MacTO (1161105) | more than 2 years ago | (#37202446)

Picking on Facebook is easy because what they do is quite visible, yet there are many other services that do the same thing without the user's knowledge. Where is the outcry against them?

Maybe we should be thanking Facebook for being so crass that they are raising awareness.

Re:Maybe we should thank Facebook ... (2)

xaxa (988988) | more than 2 years ago | (#37202484)

The UK is doing just that. Writing in my phone, so you'll have to search UK cookies law ICO to find the details.

I think the law will make (or clarify that it already is?) Google analytics illegal.

Privacy laws (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37202550)

Germany has strict privacy laws because they have learned from history. For the same reason the percentage of people who highly value privacy among the general populace is higher than most other countries as well.

The thing is, even if we disregard conspiracy theories about how Zuck is a CIA drone the three letter agencies will have access to all the data they ask for anyway, and they can do so even overtly since the PATRIOT act. Not to mention people are entrusting their identities, social and political inclinations/affiliations, multiple pictures of themselves for convenient biometric evaluation and lots of other personal data onto a system that is designed to be easily data-mined - a system we have no idea of knowing how secure it is from your run-of-the-mill blackhat or other country's agents.

Or, coming from the other angle: lets assume Zuck is totally concerned about your privacy and will in fact defend to the death each and every single user's right to it - what will happen when inevitably the leadership changes, who is to guarantee that the new owners of your data will act just as ethical?

If there is one thing history teaches us, it is that power concentrations will in the long run lead to suffering, since due to its very nature it will eventually neutralize any (ethical) authority that aims to assert control over it.

"The spirits I have conjured, I can't escape them anymore!" - (The Sourcerer's Apprentice - Goethe)

Why you shouldn't use facebook (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37202842)

Facebook really are Google's competitor (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37203266)

I just realised how much of a competitor Facebook are to Google.

If this is true, then Facebook are building up profiles of 750million people and with more information than Google. Across-the-web also further augments their dataset for people-profiling; no-wonder Google want in on the social media side of things. All of this allows for more accurate advertising targets...

disconnect.me (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37203498)

Users can take this into their own hands with the disconnect.me extension, which blocks these shenanigans

Two Years (1)

arisvega (1414195) | more than 2 years ago | (#37203914)

.. the data is held by Facebook for two years ..

That is two of The Old Ones years- I think each The Old Ones year corresponds to ~15 billion puny human years.

Listen more, talk less (1)

asmcmnemonic (2442408) | more than 2 years ago | (#37205070)

Many warned, but who listened?
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