Breaking: Facebook questioned by the ICO

All those complaints from us concerned web users about Facebook violating our privacy rights seem to finally be paying off:

Facebook is to be quizzed about its data protection policies by the Information Commissioner's Office.

The investigation follows a complaint by a user of the social network who was unable to fully delete their profile even after terminating their account.

This is, of course, a great first step to ensuring that the world's most powerful social networking organization realizes that its customers actually do care about how their personal information is used and how it's shared with other companies, partners, and government organizations.

Credit where credit is due: kudos to the ICO for listening to the complaints of its citizens and responding in kind to Facebook. I wish we had a similar organization here in Canada that not only gave a care about Canadian privacy concerns, but actually took action when prompted to. For that matter, I wish we had an organization like that on the web regardless of country... but we dont.

At present, Facebook users who wish to remove their profile from the site are given the opportunity to deactivate their account.

But once deactivated the information, though no longer accessible, remains on Facebook's computers. This is useful if you might reactivate your account later, but not the same as full deletion. Users who wish to completely delete their information must, according to the automated response from Facebook's Customer Service, “log in and delete all profile content".

For some users that can be a very laborious process and that concerns the ICO.

Indeed - exactly what I've been saying for months now.

The user in question seems to be Alan Burlison, who had a similar experience to mine.

Here's to hoping that the ICO takes this to a level where TRUSTe was unwilling / unable to go. This is much deeper than Facebook; it's about building an educated, privacy-aware user base on the web to ensure that it remains open, democratic, free, and safe.

Yet another example of how a few committed, concerned people can and do make a difference in the grand scheme of things - and it's always a good feeling to be on the 'right' side. :D

Comments

Monday, January 21st, 2008
la femme boheme's picture

I'm glad things are getting addressed. While I continue to use Facebook while at college (it's almost a necessity for networking on campus), eventually I will get tired of 983453 application invitations a day and I'll be able to ACTUALLY delete my account in the future.

It's a rarity when companies actually have to answer to someone for their misgivings. I'm pleased to see action where action is needed. Bravo!

stevenmansour
Wednesday, February 13th, 2008
stevenmansour's picture

The question is, will they really delete the data, or just archive it and use it.

They will probably keep it and use it however we please, based on what we've seen them do in the past.

I am very surprised to find that again and again, big coprporations are so invasive!!!

1) Don't be surprised.
2) Not all big corporations are evil.

:)

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