back to article EU privacy watchdogs say Facebook changes 'unacceptable'

Europe's privacy watchdogs have issued a rebuke to Facebook, telling the social networking site that changes it made to the site's privacy settings late last year were 'unacceptable'. Facebook faced criticism over the changes when they were made last December, and more when it announced recently that it would allow business …


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  1. Pat 11

    own goal

    Surely this is a cock up on their part... if you want to monetise personal information you have about someone, the first thing you don't do is publish that information.

  2. Fred Flintstone Gold badge
    Thumb Up

    Ah, that explains the emergency meeting

    The privacy violations now threaten to cost money, at which point it becomes interesting to pay attention.

    Yes, that's sarcasm. Live with it.

  3. Alan_Peery

    This explains a clever scam I just saw

    A couple of days ago my wife received an email to "members of the extended family" asking for "help keeping Great Uncle John's cabin in the family". It was from someone she had never heard of, but it had a lot of family names on it. The email addresses had to have come from somewhere--and now I think I know where.

  4. Pascal Monett Silver badge

    Ah, Facebook

    If it didn't exist, we wouldn't notice.

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Facebook got me death threats

    Begining middle of December last year, I received a string of threatening emails. These were as alarming as you could imagine, particularly as I'd been the centre of an attack at a pub after being helplessly seduced by a large-breasted blonde just a few days prior.

    The strange thing was though, the email address these emails were sent to wasn't my social account, it was my spam address. On further investigation after numerous emails had been sent to me, I discovered that the guy sending me the emails wasn't even from the same continent as I. I had no idea who he was, or what his connection to me was. I did find out his home address, landline number, website, and I did discover his Facebook profile though, just by googling his email address.

    Discovering his Facebook profile made me realise something. These emails arrived just a couple of days after Facebook nuked my privacy settings. The emails were sent to an address that Facebook had. Turned out, these emails were sent to an address that Facebook not only held, but now listed on my page. Logical conclusion? This guy searched for my name, found me, assumed I was the guy.

    Nice work, Facebook. And especially thanks for exposing my family's details to this nutjob.

  6. Les Matthew

    Facebook, a nice read.

  7. TimNevins
    Thumb Up

    Smooth and by the numbers

    Very slick at showing how your privacy has been eroded on Facebook.

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    If you resent it, don't use it.

    It is not an essential part of your existence, so don't use it.

    There is an old gambling adage - "don't gamble what you can't afford to lose".

    Yes it is a bit of a blow that the T&C's of the contract you've had with facebook have been unilaterally changed but you're getting the service for nowt.... Oooopps, my mistake! You're paying for it with your personal info....

    What is your redress?

    1. Mark 65


      I don't think you can setup a contract between service and user (you agree to T&C after all) based on one set of principles and then completely change them and totally f*ck over the user base. The most important bit being the DPA and the lack of explicit consent to reveal personal information to 3rd parties. I'm not sure a contract can be unilaterally changed, but I'm willing to be educated on this.

      I'm quite looking forward to Facebook getting bitch-slapped on this one - not because I have a hatred of facebook (don't use it, don't care) but because of their outstanding arrogance and complacency towards their users deserves nothing less really. You can't blame the tech-illiterate as they didn't sign up for what they're now receiving - it's a bit like the BBC coming round your house and saying the terms of the license have been changed by them so that you now need to provide beers, popcorn and a movie every friday for a group of their staff and they'll be leaving with your diary. :-)

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        In theory, you're right

        A contract between one or more entities requires the agreement of both parties to change it. However, in practice, if Facebook/Microsoft/Apple/your Bank/the Government want to make a change then you'd be hard put to challenge them (Well just FO then!) and this is the basis upon which they work. As an individual you are 'Nothing'. If you buy a car then there is bag full of commercial and legal precedent, as well as 'name&shame' available to you. But Facebook & the rest are in a different league.

        Please don't misunderstand me, I think the change is disgraceful but hardly surprising and is required if Facebook and the rest are to further moneterise their assets - your data.

        Use of much of the internet is a gamble and if users don't realise that and act more cautiously then they will get burned. Facebook can get away with it because, like Apple/the Banks/Google/BT-Phorm/fill in your own bete noir/the Government they are large enough to have a FU attitude to reasonable practice in dealing with 'clients'. They became big by being friendly, they stay big by being ruthless. Everything costs but you pay for it in different ways, even if you don't see it directly.

        I would love to see a real kick-ass show down and some serious ball breaking but I also know it wont happen because real power is involved. BTW what has happened to the prosecution of BT-Phorm?

        I don't need Facebook so I don't use it but I'm not complacent.

    2. multipharious

      Nice Strategy

      When they lead off your neighbors, you let out a sigh of relief that it is not you, but you do nothing to stop it. Watch your fellow netizens being exploited and your strategy is "your fault for using it." Just because this does not affect you this instant, does not mean that the implications of this war for control over your private data will not impact you someday. Do nothing and eventually they will be knocking at your door.

      A lot of friends and family I know use facebook, and I am not going to sit around quietly while they get screwed.

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    nothing to hide?

    If you have nothing to hide - you won't mind me rifling through your shit.

  10. Rob Clive
    Thumb Down

    Privacy or lack?

    These privacy settings are presumably why some people I know got invitations to join FB with a list of people already on the site as encouragement. Worryingly they knew them all and the only link between them was the person getting the invitation. How does FB do this? It can't access the non member's address book can it? Can it?

  11. ElFatbob

    A meeting of opposites..

    Facebook meet privacy...

  12. Code Monkey

    How to permanently delete your Facebook account

    Following these steps deletes, rather than deactivates your account. Which is nice.

  13. N2

    Why not

    Just lie about all your personal details anyway?

    1. Anonymous Coward

      Not possible for me

      As I'm already a 6'2" Scandinavian professional model, multi Millionaire rockstar with a 10 inch penis.

      I can breathe through my ears too.

  14. Trevor Pott o_O Gold badge

    Where are the republicans?

    Shouldn't there be a cloud of angry Tea Party members in here complaining how evil Europe is for trying to regulate American business, and how all government is evil because regulation is bad? Facebook is an American business, and deserves to conduct it's business without any interference whatsoever!

    Come on guys, you’re letting me down here, I was all set to see some grand complaining and infighting. Did facebook not donate enough to the party? Is this why you aren’t in here like a dirty shirt defending it?


    Anyways, I happen to agree with the working party; default privacy settings should be set to “TELL NOONE ANYTHING.” OF course, that would leave Facebook without a revenue source. I can’t speak to any other countries, but in Canada, Facebook is huge. It’s considered as viable a method of communication as e-mail or phone by almost half our population. I know there isn’t any money in social networking sites, and Facebook will eventually fall unless it is snapped up by either Microsoft or a government.

    At what point though does it become within a government’s interest to do so? What % of your population need to be reliant on that communications service before it is “too big to fail?” More importantly, how did one tiny site run by a megalomaniac ever get to the point that it was preferred by significant chunks of entire nations over more simple and robust methods like the telephone?

    I have many questions about how this all came to be…

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward


      Funny thing is as I was reading the article I suddenly saw all of this social networking phenomenon as a confidence trick, just like the traditional (pre-IT era) scams.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward


      People are stupid.

  15. Anonymous Coward

    Why is this a problem?

    "birthdays and religious views available to any Facebook user who is a friend with one of their friends, and their phone numbers, physical addresses and email addresses available to all their friends."

    Why wouldn't I want my friends or my friends' friends knowing such information?

    Oh, wait. Many of my actual friends are facebook wh*res who have 4 million "friends" most of whom THEY'VE NEVER MET!!!

    If people didn't adopt such a blase definition of "friend" then I wouldn't have to worry about their "friends" having such information.

  16. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Re Nothing to hide

    I would not put my information in the public domain by making it available to some unprincipled pondlife corporation and I would be mightily angry if my privacy were intruded upon even though (I think/hope/believe) I have nothing to hide.

  17. geronimo hashbucket


    run awaaaaaaay

  18. Frantisek Janak


    Ah, Facebook...I think it actually tries to break me down, so I'd want delete my account...or at least make a fake one...Keep it up, boyo...

  19. Robin 2

    Why can friends share my data?

    I Use facebook irrelgularly - just logged in to find 3 month old unread birthday greetings!

    I thought I'd check out my privacy settings. Whilst my personal info and contact info was fine (I think I'd set these a few months back) I was quite surprised to see that my "friends" can share pretty much all of my information with 3rd party applications. Huh??? I never gave them that permission. This is quite scary. Only me, myself and I should be able to decide what info about me a 3rd party application can see.

    Also, as with the application blocking controls are a joke. As with any firewall you should be able to choose between a whitelist or blacklist setup. Facebook only provides blacklisting functinality. Poor!

    This is all rather alarming and I'm quite a techy. If delivered a private forum to a client and a couple of years down the line decided to open that up to everyone (posting a machine to the forum AFTER the fact) I think my client would cut my go-nads off....

    Has anybody actually given Facebook a security audit to make sure their privacy settings actually do what they say?

    Evil Zuckerberg icon anyone?

  20. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    "The Working Party has written to 20 [letters] to social networking companies..."

    ...and 20 trash cans in social networking companies just got a little bit fuller.

  21. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    What's the big deal?

    It's not like I need Facebook to dig up your personal information, I can just pay a small fee to many of the public records brokers out there and get far more information than Facebook could ever provide.

    I guess now is not a good time to mention that the mobile version of Facebook leaks more personal information than the regular one, and has done so for quite some time now.

  22. ShellyH
    Thumb Up

    Privacy!? What privacy?

    I've migrated all my content over to - I only share with those I choose and I can hide/show whatever I want. It's built on strong privacy controls (with no silly applications that steal your info!)

  23. Anonymous Coward

    Put a stamp on it and mail it to someone who cares!

    I often pay very little attention to my (snail) mail and even less to email so although it's good that this group of EU people are doing something they should be either doing more or not doing anything.

    By more i mean starting a new EU law that says YOU own YOUR data and ALL COMPANIES and GOVERNMENT need to prove your consent in any and all actions concerning your data.

    Make it a condition of operating in the EU, in the same way the US restrict gambling and China restrict content. The EU are pussies who want excessive power just so they can tinker around the edges (still waiting on them getting back to us in the UK about what they are doing to BT / last Government and Phorm).

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