Overdue by about 15 years, but better late than never.
The European Commission is threatening to fine Facebook, Twitter, Google and other social networks unless they overhaul their terms and conditions to pull out legal escape clauses. An official from the EC's consumer protection authorities confirmed it intends to "take action to make sure social media companies comply with EU …
>Its buyer beware in this country
Tosh - we have better Consumer Rights than almost every country in the EU. Try getting Apple to replace a 5 year old MacBook Pro for free in France or the US when the logic board fails - they'll laugh you out of the store. Here Apple can right whatever they like in T&C but they still have to repair, replace or refund for 6 years after you buy it.
...and the Netherlands are the world's second largest exporter of lead paints - other than for a very few specialist industrial applications which are tightly licensed and controlled, no way you can export from or manufacture it in the UK. If you can name a country which banned lead paints before the 1970's it's new on me - it wasn't banned here until the EU passed legislation in 1992 BTW - legislation which more than half of EU countries have still to enforce.
If you can name a country which banned lead paints before the 1970's it's new on me - it wasn't banned here until the EU passed legislation in 1992 BTW - legislation which more than half of EU countries have still to enforce.
France is a prime example of how EU legislation is implemented as it suits the countries concerned. When mad cow disease caused the EU to ban animal products in animal feed, the UK blocked all sale and use immediately. France just blocked new sales, letting businesses and farmers continue to use existing contaminated stock. Same with tractor cab safety, legislation to require all tractors to have safety cabs was passed 30-odd years ago. The UK required all tractors to be fitted with cabs or scrapped, for safety. France only required new tractors to have cabs, and you still see dangerous old ones in daily use even today (and they still kill farmers when they overturn). And let's not get started on horsemeat lasagna.
> "Tosh - we have better Consumer Rights than almost every country in the EU. Try getting Apple to replace a 5 year old MacBook Pro for free in France or the US when the logic board fails ... Apple can right whatever they like in T&C but they still have to repair, replace or refund for 6 years after you buy it."
The UK's consumer protection law is actually largely based upon EU directives (distance selling, etc), with the exception of the Supply and Sale of Goods and Services Act, which gives the 6 (5 in Scotland) year limit for claiming for faulty products (this *does not* mean the item must last 6 years, but whatever is deemed a "reasonable period" for that type and quality of item), although it has been seen as a bit "airy fairy" and companies tend to dodge it. Generally, most companies will go, "oh, it's out of the warranty period, too bad, nothing we can do", even when threatened with lawyers at dawn.
UK consumer rights legislation is in many cases stronger than EU legislation, especially in the area of online purchases and digital content.
That might currently be the case, however, post-Brexit... can't see the UK government having either the balls or the clout of the EU to walk-the-talk as Germany is doing here...
"post-Brexit... can't see the UK government having either the balls or the clout of the EU to walk-the-talk as Germany is doing here..."
Maybe the current govt might well take an anti-regulation stance. Past UK govts, however have had the reputation of gold-plating some EU regulation - although not in the field of data protection.
"Then how do you explain the IP Act and its predecessors such as DRIPA?"
Easy - the average voting punter doesn't pay any attention to stuff like this, so they can get away with living the draconian dream. The government needs to be careful about taxation and immigration issues, but otherwise they can get away with pretty much anything they like.
It's a bleak view of the situation, but that doesn't mean it's not true.
No, courts don't.
The law is the law, and (at least in the EU), T&Cs and contracts cannot remove any consumer protections whatsoever. (Businesses are assumed to employ lawyers)
What happens is that they either drag it out until the consumer gives up, or they settle out of court.
I always find it interesting how none of these companies every allow a case to get to court if challenged on their T&Cs. Maybe it's because they know damned well that they'd lose? I see Lyft have just bought their way out of a court case too over employment.
HR equivalent of the Pinto problem; pay off in places T&C unfriendly, have massive power in places that allow it.
Long overdue indeed, and definitely heading the right way.
The problem for the companies is that that have no real way of policing the content on their sites. For all this talk of AI, filtering, etc. they cannot be effective at policing content unless there is a human involved in the process.
That means that for every single thing that goes up on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, a human needs to look at it if the company is to be certain that the content is OK. For a Tweet, or picture, that's just a glance. For a video, well how long is the video?
In short, it's unrealistic for these sites to do 100% screening by humans.
Even if they focused on new accounts for an initial period before deciding that the poster was behaving, that just sets up a minor challenge for someone intent on getting dodgy stuff up on the site. Post a few pictures of bunnies, flowers, etc, wait for Facebook to lose interest, then start posting whatever you wish.
The only way to really improve is to be able to truly identify site users, so that transgressors can be effectively barred. At the moment anyone who's account gets closed simply opens a new one and carries on posting. User anonymity (so far as the site operators are concerned. I'm not talking about one's public user name) is what allows users to get away with it.
But how can these sites identify users? Being 'free' means no real identity check.
Their only option is to become not free, to require paid subscription. If there is a financial arrangement with users, then there is a strong link to the user's identity too. Users wanting to post dodgy material are going to think twice about it, or wind up in jail.
That'll put a dent in their business model.
A subscription fee. Very Compuserve. Very AOL.
"Their only option is to become not free, to require paid subscription. If there is a financial arrangement with users, then there is a strong link to the user's identity too. Users wanting to post dodgy material are going to think twice about it, or wind up in jail. That'll put a dent in their business model."
Well said! Sadly for the tech giants, there's no legal principle that says the law has to accommodate your preferred business model. Moreover, whilst I'm not certain of the current legal position around the world, it seems to me that those who deal with consumers, rather than B2B, should be obliged to obey the law of the country where the consumer lives. Otherwise, the practical difficulties of bringing a case in a foreign country makes the business almost literally outlaws as far as the consumer is concerned.
Society should protect the anonymity of those reading the internet (so, sorry advertisers), but ultimately cannot tolerate the anonymity of those writing it (so, sorry social media). (By anonymity I mean whether a court can find out who you are rather than whether your current handle allows anyone else to do so.)
> Society should protect the anonymity of those reading the internet (so, sorry advertisers), but ultimately cannot tolerate the anonymity of those writing it (so, sorry social media).
Writers deserve anonymity too. Without it, you could be fired, blackballed, sued, jailed, or lynched for an offhand remark 10 years prior taken out of context in a future witch-hunt era.
Social media users will NEVER pay for the privilege of being policed/censored. They're already leaving due to lack of privacy/anonymity and a (real or perceived) bias in algorithmic sorting/filtering rules which are nevertheless ineffective. They'll cut out the corporate middleman. Then it'll be impossible to police (for better or worse). Ultimately I predict the internet will reach a chaotic equilibrium OR die from totalitarian censorship.
"Writers deserve anonymity too. Without it, you could be fired, blackballed, sued, jailed, or lynched for an offhand remark 10 years prior taken out of context in a future witch-hunt era."
Your problem in that scenario is the witch-hunt, not the lack of anonymity.
Whilst you are defending anonymity, evil sods are using it to harrass, blackmail and bully people or simply trash their reputations with impunity. Some of those evil sods, for example, are spreading FUD into political life to make it possible for the witch-finders to take power.
Conversely, when the witch-hunt era finally comes along, they won't be deterred by the anonymity of your posts. They'll find some other way. They might, for example, fire, blackball, sue or lynch you for a remark that someone else made but which it is expedient for them to pin on you because of your bad attitude.
"In short, it's unrealistic for these sites to do 100% screening by humans."
As I understand it, that's not what is being asked of them. Germany in particular is asking that Facebook implement a proper complaints procedure which requires Facebook et al to actually act on said complaints in a reasonable time. Germany has posited 24 hours as reasonable. I'm sure that will be subject to negotiation. You don't start that process by offering what you think the other guy will take because no matter what you offer, they will try to "improve" their side of the final agreement. I'm sure Facebook et al will have a whole raft of "technical" reasons why it can't be done in 24 hours, but will probably claim they can do it 7 days. At which point Germany and/or the EU will demand 4 days and they'll probably all walk away happy, both sides feeling they gave a little and took a little from the other.
As I understand it, that's not what is being asked of them. Germany in particular is asking that Facebook implement a proper complaints procedure which requires Facebook et al to actually act on said complaints in a reasonable time. Germany has posited 24 hours as reasonable.
Yes, that's certainly the case. But this, the criticism coming from the UK parliament, and various other things that are going on are all driving the situation towards a point where social media websites are liable for the content on their site. And if it goes that far (and I think it eventually will) then the sites cannot operate as they do today.
I'm sure Facebook et al will have a whole raft of "technical" reasons why it can't be done in 24 hours, but will probably claim they can do it 7 days. At which point Germany and/or the EU will demand 4 days and they'll probably all walk away happy, both sides feeling they gave a little and took a little from the other.
Perhaps that's what will happen, but the time thing is going to be critical. An item of Fake News running round FB, Twatter, etc for 4 whole days just before a general election could do tremendous harm. Especially if it is replaced by a similar item from a different account.
Anything that allows stuff like hate posts, fake news, etc. to persist for any period of time is simply going to result in further calls to stop it getting posted in the first place. And they currently have no way whatsoever of doing that other than 100% screening. The only option is deterrence, but there's no deterrence at all at the moment, especially for those posting something as "harmless" as fake news who can so easily hide behind a screen of effective anonymity granted to them by the site's unwillingness to demand true legal identity prior to granting an account.
I'm sure Facebook et al will have a whole raft of "technical" reasons why it can't be done in 24 hours, but will probably claim they can do it 7 days.
And if the German govt called their bluff and tell them it's 24 hours or fines I'm sure Facebook would find a whole raft of technical reasons that enabled them to do in in 23 hours, 59 minutes and 59 seconds.
"Their only option is to become not free, to require paid subscription. If there is a financial arrangement with users, then there is a strong link to the user's identity too. Users wanting to post dodgy material are going to think twice about it, or wind up in jail.
That'll put a dent in their business model."
Well, yes. Too bad? If it turns out that there is no way to run Facebook without causing massive widespread infractions of the law, then Facebook dies. There are a gazillion business models that would be very profitable if not for those pesky environmental or safety laws, what are we going to do about that?
The government has the duty to force business models to include externalities. If at that point they die, it means they weren't sustainable business models to begin with. They can even run successfully for decades and be very liked by users before anyone notices, but that doesn't change anything.
Yes. About time the social networks and advertisers were reminded that the world doesn't owe them a free lunch and that "what's yours is not [automatically] mine" regardless of what their self-regarding T&Cs may say.
Offer a subscription model which guarantees that my personal data will not be resold and I'll take one out if I think the service offers value for money to me.
I'll even accept adverts provided they are static, don't obscure the content I'm paying for and are guaranteed not to contain or link to malware and the provider accepts liability for adverts or content that fails this last test.
"I'll even accept adverts provided they are static, don't obscure the content I'm paying for and are guaranteed not to contain or link to malware and the provider accepts liability for adverts or content that fails this last test."
Your dreaming, but I'd like to live there too! If you've seen the state of US cable TV with many advert breaks and ads over the bottom of the screen during the show, then you'll realise the "masses" have already been trained to accept adverts on a paid for service. (yeah, most pay channels around the world have ad breaks too, but at least some don't paste an animated ad over the show itself!)
Yeah, good luck with that. All of those companies are located in the United States. Do you really think they won't just cry to Congress and then watch as America craps on yet another treaty. Are you guys prepared for the equivalent of economic armageddon?
If the fines are serious enough to be a deterrent, they will seek legal recompense here, on their home turf, not on yours. If they aren't serious enough, why are you bothering? To make a political statement? Because that's all it'll do: A cheap mean-nothing handed out by your politicians to say "See! See! We're punishing them for their crimes against hum--er, money." If you want to make real change, you'd better make it clear to this country, where the center of this ball of sh*t sits, that you're prepared to hit the entire country where it hurts if they shelter companies like this, allowing them to operate within our borders, while collecting *your* data. And then selling it.
Well, Europe? You got the balls?
Well, Europe? You got the balls?
Yes, we do. The EU has taken them on before and won(*). The EU is too big a market for even US based companies to ignore.
(*)Although personally I think the IE ruling might not have been the best thing for them to do and I dislike the irritating cookie warning.
Well, they've already fined Google quite a lot of money. There was, or is, a bunch of Google shareholders suing Google over the loses associated with that. There's also a criminal investigation into Google's tax affairs in France. And there's a separate inquiry information Google's gouging of the Android market through their control of Android due to the terms under which other manufacturers get Play Services. And that's looking like another few billion down the plug hole.
So there's no fear of chasing these American companies with their distasteful and exploitative terms and conditions.
Why is America not just the home of some very smart people, but also the home of some of the dumbest bravado-drunk brazen know-nothings on the planet? "The equivalent of economic armageddon?" We already had that, thanks to the US underregulating their financial industry. Suing Twitter probably won't have quite as many repercussions, Captain Overstatement.
"Are you guys prepared for the equivalent of economic armageddon?"
Over the rights of US social networks to exploit their users in Europe? Good luck with that.
Worst case scenario is that said social networks become increasingly inconvenient or costly for EU users to use, and said social networks start to lose their EU revenue. Pres. Trump might retaliate with trade sanctions (unlikely, as he doesn't really have anything to gain in California), but no-one was really expecting the USA to be a reliable trade partner under his stewardship anyway (You do realise this, don't you Ms May?). There are also those who would relish the chance for EU-domestic services to spring up to fill the gaps left by US services which don't become EU-compliant.
The USA is a big market, but not big enough to be armageddon-worthy for the EU.
All of those companies are located in the United States. Do you really think they won't just cry to Congress and then watch as America craps on yet another treaty. Are you guys prepared for the equivalent of economic armageddon?
We don't really care about the US any more to be honest. We don't get our fuel, food or technology from there, and we're increasingly unconcerned about upsetting a regime that repeatedly tells us that they will use protectionism to stifle our imports.
So yes, if your companies want to operate in our territories, they will do so in the manner that we deem fit or we will fine them.
With the current T&C it's a wonder why anyone uses their services...
Google is the best search engine around around and very useful. The ads aren't overly intrusive...
But, I've never see the value of FaceBook and Twitter that counterbalances the risks.
Selling people's data has become to much of the new tech world. Now ISP's want to get into the show?
What next- Governments selling it's people's medical history and genetic information?
Boohoo4U - Google is the best search engine around around and very useful. The ads aren't overly intrusive...
Maybe it is the best one around now, but in historical terms, to say it ain't what it used to be is a bit of an understatement.
Once you used to be able to do a proper constrained Boolean search and get back results which were what you wanted. Now you can enter all your search terms and find the first pages littered with results that do not contain all the words you entered. EVEN WHEN ENCLOSED IN INVERTED COMMAS. Instead you will get lots of results from commercial beings who have simply paid to get their results pushed to the top, and which are not what you are searching for. If you want information you had better hope someone has created a Youtube Vid on it their search engine is still useable. Power users and those who are prepared to delve deeply into the conventions of Google can add "+" signs to every word but that's a pain and few even know how to go about finding this feature.
Essentially the internet is only as good as its search engines, and although Google has all the data, SEO and the like has removed the neutrality necessary for it to be accessed.
The shame is that Europe has not been able to create a competitor that has survived.
VPN (AirVPN) solves most of the problems
I have a habit of checking out who operates a service, and AirVPN is presently too opaque for me to trust. The hacker/activist/Tor vibe I get from their site means I would need a lot more transparency first - activism can lead to decisions which are unwise.
We've been looking at a VPN setup, but services that do not appear to distinguish between anonymous and unaccountable will get us into all sorts of compliance problems..
> Maybe it is the best one around now, but in historical terms, to say it ain't what it used to be is a bit of an understatement.
What that person said ↑↑↑
On my phone I do not even bother with Google anymore. On my desktop, very often I have to resort to small search engines like Qwant or use Yandex.ru (not Yandex.com) to find relevant results as opposed to "SEO-optimised" Amazon Turk written content or copy/pastes.
And if do use Google for anything remotely technical, be sure to date-limit your results to the last year max (and then scroll past all the stackoverflow rubbish, as you do) unless you want to get seven years old obsolete info.
Doing your searches in a language other than English (French or German, for example) also often improves the quality of the results. Bizarre.
With the current T&C it's a wonder why anyone uses their services...
Because 99%* give T&Cs the TL;DR treatment?
I take the trouble of actually reading them and spend time understanding them - some are so complex they would not pass the "fair contract" rules of UK legislation, such as Microsoft's and Adobe's. It is the main reason I do not use Google services other than anonymised and not have a Facebook or Twitter account. The work I do makes accepting such T&Cs simply dangerous.
There is every chance I'll close my LinkedIn account too.
The logic is very, VERY simple: if a company has a very high turnover or even profit but doesn't charge for the service, it is not selling TO you - it is selling YOU. In other words, you are paying, just not with money, and that may be a lot more costly than you think.
* Authentic made up statistic, but I think it's fair to claim it's a large majority :)
William 3: No-one is forcing anyone to use Facebook.
Nobody is forcing you to use telephones, but if you don't have one you will be cutting yourself off from billions of people.
The likes of Whatsapp and Facebook, are not neutral media - they suck people in through your friends, family, social circles, and social event organisers expecting you to use them in order to communucate with them.
There is a technical word for this feature of media but sadly I can't recall it right now.
social event organisers expecting you to use them in order to communucate with them.
Thanks for reminding me, I need to ask the various Information Commissioners I know (in various countries) just how legal it is to ask customers to exclusively contact you via social media. As far as I know, that conflicts with the "freely given" aspect of data gathering, but as it's not directly to the organisation in question it may be enough as a get-out clause. That said, we already have a corporate ban on suppliers who do this (our legal department spikes any framework contract if they come across that during due diligence).
The EU does far more to protect the individual than the US or Canada. The EU doubtlessly has its issues, but Trump and his ilk are the new Fascists. Trudeau gets lots of great press but in Canada has made little to no positive change. In both the US and Canada to drift to the Right continues; although at least, in the US the Left seems to be waking up.
"No-one is forcing anyone to use Facebook."
There was a proposal (apparently serious) by the UK gov a year or two back that instead of running their own system of logins they would just piggy-back on half-a-dozen popular social media outfits. This was apparently the product of some young things in the civil service who just couldn't believe that there were people out there (in the UK, in the 21st century, omg!) who didn't have accounts with any of the above and who would therefore be unable to access government services until they picked one and signed up with them.
"No-one is forcing anyone to use Facebook."
The uselss Jobcentre is starting to - for "job brokering groups". And if your main account is locked down in such a way only mutual friends can add you, expect an admonishment until a) you remove the restriction; or b) create one for that specific purpose. Something about it being part of "21st century claimant commitments". Basically they will make you use social media to find jobs, or kiss goodbye to your cash each month until you comply.
This was apparently the product of some young things in the civil service who just couldn't believe that there were people out there (in the UK, in the 21st century, omg!) who didn't have accounts with any of the above and who would therefore be unable to access government services until they picked one and signed up with them.
Oh, those idiots are easy to spot - they already ship your data off without your permission:
$ dig +short mx cabinetoffice.gov.uk
$ dig +short mx digital.hmrc.gov.uk
QED. Especially the last one is fun, because they have all your financial data. Just in case you thought that the blowback of sharing health data with Google would somehow be the end of such stupidity.
Anything else I can help with?
"No-one is forcing anyone to use Facebook.
But after Brexit and the shitstorm if petulance in the EU wank fest, it appears the EU is forcing people to use them."
Ummm, no. The EU is just trying to protect people if they do happen to use Facebook, by threatening Facebook with fines if they don't play fair. Please wipe the froth off your keyboard, the EU aren't the bad guys in this particular issue.
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"In particular, the requirement for any user of the services worldwide to sue the company in the state of California – where most of the companies are based and which has a tech-friendly legal system – is top of the list, with the EC saying it needs to be changed so users can sue the company in their home country."
In this case why was redress in the US considered acceptable for the Privacy Figleaf?
There's been a lot of scary stuff in T&C lists, and at least some of it is about making the internet possible under copyright law. It has always been there, and sometimes the terms have been abusive.
The problem is that the internet depends on making copies of data, and the Berne Convention make the existence of copyright automatic. Part of it is a right to be identified as the creator.
At least the USA is signed up to the Berne Convention, but it's a minimum standard.
And that's why they want their non-exclusive licence to use your material. Just to make it visible to their other customers, there have to be copies.
Doing it in a way that would be clear in court is a bit tricky, but that problem has been as the root of a lot of arguments about the use of content. The scary part for me is that they rarely try to limit the licence to any particular service. It may be that they could be sued under bankruptcy law if Twitter went bust, and their T&C limited that use-licence just to Twitter, so that data had no value
This isn't entirely what the current argument about, though where you might sue an international company is a significant problem that the EU will care about. It comes with free trade. Likewise, where a company pays taxes.
It's another whole giant economy size can of worms that comes with deciding whose national rules apply to content.
1. Quoted searches / Booleans are all but dead up against pay-for results.
2. You're part of the 'Native Peoples' now and simple don't realize it - Read:
It would be nice to think that the European Union leaders are really serious but I have this lurking feeling that this may only be a smoke screen. If it were serious why are they pushing the trade treaties with America and Canada sooooooo hard, this is a bigger threat to the European Nations sovereignty and capability to apply such fines than anything else. Once the trade treaties are signed the Commercial courts will negate any attempts by countries to regulate anything. This means that Safety and Environmental standards and laws will be revoked along with any attempts to maintain consumers rights.
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