Facebook tackles Belgian privacy probe allegations

Facebook has faced up to privacy criticisms with a series of denials

Facebook has responded in detail to some of the concerns about its services highlighted in a recent report from Belgium’s data protection authority.

The report was produced by researchers at the University of Leuven and the Free University of Brussels on behalf of the Belgian Privacy Commission, and accused Facebook of carrying out privacy-compromising operations without informing users or gaining their consent.

“Our analysis indicates [that] Facebook is acting in violation of European law,” the report said as it criticised the social network’s privacy position.

That was almost two weeks ago. Facebook, which has often said that it works closely with concerned regulators, did not respond to a request from V3 for its response at the time.

Facebook has now issued a series of denials and explanations, saying that it wanted to “set the record straight”.

“Over the past week, a team of privacy experts and engineers at Facebook analysed the claims presented in a recent report authored by a group of researchers in Belgium,” said Richard Allan, vice president of policy for Facebook in Europe, in a post on the firm’s news pages.

“The report gets it wrong multiple times in asserting how Facebook uses information to provide our service to more than a billion people around the world.

“Because we believe the facts speak clearly, here’s a list of corrections and clarifications for a number of misstatements. This list isn’t exhaustive; it instead reflects the main problems we have with the report.”

Facebook tackled the use of cookies, about which the firm claims to be very open, criticism of the way that it recognises opt-out settings, and the suggestion that location information is shared on a carefree basis.

The report also criticsed the fact that the report claims information sharing on Facebook was an ‘all-or-nothing’ system, citing some elements of the site that offer more granular controls.

“Location-based products on Facebook offer controls that allow people to decide whether they want to share their location information, and they can continue to use Facebook without sharing this data,” the response said.

“For example, people can choose to share their location by checking in at one restaurant but not another. Nearby Friends, which is currently available only in the US, is an optional product where people can choose to share their location with friends.”

The issue comes as the European Court of Justice (ECJ) considers evidence in a case relating to Facebook, PRISM and the ownership of online data that could have far-reaching consequences for data protection and EU-US relations.

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10 April 2015 | 2:58 pm – Source: v3.co.uk

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