Does Facebook violate data protection laws?

by Mick Meaney

Facebook could be in violation of German data protection laws and if so, could be fined by Hamburg’s Data Protection Authority after complaints from citizens that Facebook has been illegally collecting and passing their contact details to third parties.

The DPA is concerned about Facebook’s address-book synchronization, which uploads and stores the email addresses of people who are not Facebook users, directly from existing user’s contact lists without permission.

Head of the DPA, Johannes Caspar, met with Facebook officials but failed to reach agreement, another meeting is scheduled for 24th August.

“We will have another meeting and discuss the things they [Facebook] told us today. Maybe they will offer us a solution but it’s too early to say something in this case,” said Caspar.

It’s not the first time Facebook has been questioned over the way it handles personal data. The Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) in the UK became involved in 2008 after users complained they could not delete personal information from the database.

Dave Evans, the senior data protection practice manager at the ICO said:

“One of the things that we’re concerned about is that if the onus is entirely on the individual to delete their own data. An individual who has deactivated their account might not find themselves motivated enough to delete information that’s about them, maybe on their wall or other people’s site.”