How one law student is making Facebook get serious about privacy | Ars Technica

The world’s largest legal battle against Facebook began with a class assignment. Student Max Schrems still hasn’t turned in his university paper on the topic, due well over a year ago, but he has already accomplished something bigger: forcing Facebook to alter its approach to user privacy. Now, Schrems wants cash—hundreds of thousands of euros—to launch the next phase of his campaign, a multi-year legal battle that might significantly redefine how Facebook controls the personal data on over one billion people worldwide.

“If we get €300,000 ($384,000), we can shoot from all cannons,” the 25-year-old told Ars from his parents’ home in Salzburg, Austria.

What began as an academic assignment in spring 2011 quickly morphed into an advocacy organization called “Europe vs. Facebook.” Over the last year, Schrems has encouraged tens of thousands of Facebook users worldwide to request copies of whatever data Facebook holds on each of them, as he has done. Under European Union law, Facebook is required to comply with these requests within 40 days, since its international (e.g., non-American) headquarters are in Ireland (largely for tax reasons). This means that all Facebook users outside the United States and Canada (which have their own, less-stringent privacy rules) are effectively governed by Irish and EU data protection authorities.

via How one law student is making Facebook get serious about privacy | Ars Technica.

4 thoughts on “How one law student is making Facebook get serious about privacy | Ars Technica

  1. I think Facebook is a great social networking site but at the same time does need to improve our individual privacy. For example, when a picture of you is posted say by a friend thousands of people have the ability to see it. The problem is, is that sometimes when a friend posts a picture you may not know that he or she posted it if they didn’t tag you. If it were a really embarrassing or obscene picture that you want no one to see, there is nothing you can do about it. The only thing you can do is flag it so Facebook can determine if it is worthy of taking down or not. The problem is, is you have to know the picture exists in the first place. There are billions of pictures on Facebook and going through each and every one is time consuming and almost impossible to do. I do think that Facebook has put effort in trying to make sure we can limit our exposure by letting us determine who can see or view a post and related things like that. However, we are very limited in what we can do and Facebook has all the control.

  2. I think the author does a good job of not being one sided in this article. They could have easily taken the approach that Facebook has been “stealing” data from users and not being compliant, but actually said Facebook as been cooperating with the ODPC and doing what they say they will do. They also aren’t 100% pro Facebook, as they mention that Max had to E-mail Facebook a few times to get all the data he wanted. I thought it was quite astonishing they gave him over 1,000 pages of raw data on himself. While I personally believe if you post something on Facebook, they own it. You agreed to their terms and you don’t HAVE to use them to do anything. But them keeping over 1,000 pages on one individual? What could they possibly be doing with that data to make a profit over the costs of having to store that?

  3. For all of the good things Facebook does, its privacy settings and standards are, and have been, lacking. I decided to delete my Facebook account because with all of the “relatively inappropriate” photos and posts on my profile, I could not think of many companies that would hire me if they were to see it. This would not have been a problem if I thought my profile was secure and the personal privacy settings I selected were all I had to worry about. This student, Max, did what many Facebook users have wanted to do, but had the motivation and the knowledge to put it into action. He has done other Facebook users a huge service, and has set a standard for others to follow to improve their privacy through Facebook.

  4. For the last decade or so the use of social networking sites has become inevitable. People of all ages engage in numerous activities such as sharing interests, backgrounds, and maintaining real-life connections. The problem we face today, as mentioned in this article, is that Facebook runs it. As the most popular site of all, Facebook has become a problem for millions of people in terms of protecting personal data and not stating the site’s motives for gathering endless information on the users. Like what Nick said, anything that you post on Facebook is owned by it, so the first action every unsatisfied user should take is to be cautious about what they post. In my opinion the main issue here is the ability of users to post statuses and pictures of other people without permission, now this is something Facebook should change. Another issue with the site is the information that gets stored over time even if the user deletes them. I’ve been a user for almost seven years now and have deleted some personal old information, why should Facebook have access to it?

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