Thursday, May 7, 2015

EU vs Facebook

Nick Elvery-Privacy Policy
While the internet seems to be safer and provides more privacy, have you paid attention to keeping track of your own personal information and privacy? Do you know how much information that you are revealing to the social sites that are used for commercial uses? Most people do not. Why privacy? Some people might say, I have nothing to hide; social media can collect their information, government can collect their information. Well, my response would be:”Are you uncomfortable showing me your bills from last year?”,”Do you have curtains?” If you say yes, that means you care about privacy. Imagine if you go to a bookstore and buy a book about a guy cooking meth and then the day after you are arrested because you bought the book and also have some suspicious transactions on your account. Would it be OK to freeze a person’s account for no reason only because he has had some abnormal uses? Would it be ok to arrest somebody even if he has not done anything wrong? Everybody has something to conceal or to hide. Even though people don’t realize it, privacy does matter. In my opinion, social sites are doing a bad job of keeping users’ information private and need to do a better job.

Facebook has become the focus of concern. According to The Guardians- a Pulitzer winning website, Facebook tracks all visitors, leaving information in cookies without users’ consent. EU privacy law states that prior consent must be given before issuing a cookie or performing tracking, unless it is necessary for either the networking required to connect to the service or to deliver a service specifically requested by the user. Facebook breached EU’s law by tracking and ignoring users’ privacy. Also according to an EFF expert, users’ can’t limit their data and Facebook takes not only behavioral data, but location data as well. Another case in 2013, employees in AT&T took the security numbers and phone numbers of users’ to track down the unlock codes of the phones and after that AT&T was fined $25 million. So they did a bad job on keeping privacy for not giving enough options for the users’ to opt out the unwanted tracking and should provide more privacy.

US-EU Safe Harbor is a streamlined process for US companies to comply with the EU Directive 95/46/EC on the protection of personal data.(PrivacyTrust) But in a case, an Austrian law student was filed with complaints to the social firms. After Irish Data Protection Commissioner Billy Hawkes refused to investigate Schrems' claims surrounding the mass transfer of Facebook users' data to the US's National Security Agency (NSA), citing Safe Harbor rules, Shrem claimed that “Ireland's Data Protection Commissioner Billy Hawkes erroneously interpreted and applied the law when he rejected a complaint about the mass transfer of Facebook users' data to the US National Security Agency.” A group called “Facebook vs EU” led by Shrem started campaigning. They claimed that “ that the manner in which Facebook processes its users' information lacks transparency and user control” and is illegal according to EU’s law. After that Facebook agreed to change the privacy policy but the group claimed that the changes are not far-reaching enough. Then the case was elevated firstly to the Irish High Court to ask for a review on the commissioner's decision. The court decided on Wednesday June 20th, 2014 that “the issue at question was not the actions of the Data Protection Commissioner himself, but rather the effectiveness of the Safe Harbour agreement”. Now the case has elevated to the European Court of Justice (ECJ).This case breached the Safe Harbor agreement between the US and EU and this is also a big intrusion on international privacy.

People who disagree with me might say, they are not invading privacy of the users’. As mentioned above, Facebook has already made some changes on their privacy options. And in 2013, after the PRISM project was revealed, Zuckerberg, CEO of Facebook announced personally that Facebook and himself had never heard of PRISM and never sent any information to the government without carefully reviewing the request. But personally I do not think he was being honest. In Shrem’s case, the group mentioned that Facebook’s data processing lacks transparency and user control. Which means that they might take data other than just cookie and transfer them to the NSA.

In conclusion, according to the cases above, the group Europe vs Facebook claims the mass data transfer to the NSA, Facebook tracks cookies and location, so all these come up to one point, social medias are doing a bad job at keeping the privacy, they need to think about not only profit, also how not to make the cyber environment an unease place to stay.

Conclusion, updated May 26th, 2015
Privacy in our digital lives is very important, but some social sites did such a bad job that some users are campaigning for privacy policy changes. So I think people need to be more aware of their own privacy in their digital lives. But the thing is some people say they don’t value privacy that much because of the “I have nothing to hide” thought. And this will make the internet an uneasy place to stay, imagining when we are under surveillance all the time and we know it but can’t do anything about it. So it is necessary to speak up to the social sites that are using our personal information and privacy to gain profits. I had some great comments in my blog, and people asked good questions. Some of the comments make me think a little bit more, for example like why Facebook never wants to change the policy even though they know users will not be happy with it. I think it is because of money; ads in Facebook helps generate a large revenue, and ads that targeted specific interests are even more efficient in earning money. And this is what I never thought of, or did not pay much attention to. One of the comments also reminds me that Facebook has a lot of pressure on it too and cannot fix the problems in every country in Europe. I realized that Facebook needs time to fix the problems and we should not go too far on pushing Facebook to finish fixing the privacy policies. Some of the comments let me realize that I need to clarify some examples, and some comments made me do more research on the question they asked to help me answer them more persuasively. Overall I felt it is a fresh experience as a blogger and it is very cool. After I finished my blog I felt like it is an great accomplishment and getting to know deeper in a subject is always an exciting thing for me. I really enjoyed writing the blog and want to say thank you to the viewers and comments.


  1. Well done, JX. Your article was quite interesting. I'm usually not a big fan of rhetorical questions, but I really like the ones you posed in your first paragraph, especially the one about the curtains. Personally, I find all of the information collection and cookies a bit creepy. I can connect with your feeling that websites are doing a bad job of keeping user information private, especially when I go to site like Amazon and the next site I visit has ads exactly what I was just looking at. For further reading, take a look at the Information Facebook Collects. This article tells you a lot about the things that Facebook does with your private information.

    1. Thank you for commenting on my post Kattikes. I agree with you that the collecting information parts is creepy. The website actually supports my idea, Facebook gives more privacy options for other people but not Facebook itself. Facebook claims one thing but does the opposite in the "dark". Thanks again for commenting on my post. -Jasper Xin

  2. I really like your topic JX.
    Your post was most interesting and I agree very strongly. I find that if I were to leak my very private information on the internet, there would be nothing to talk about with my friends or any money left in my bank account. This article on
    NBC News encapsulates unfair privacy laws. Thank you for the post.

    1. Hi Pseudo-Anonymous, thank you for commenting on my post. I think you are right that privacy leaking is serious, but I don’t think losing money in a bank account is what Facebook would do… I agree with what the article talks about, the internet firms are not really trustable. I can’t say selling users’ information is common, but it happens and maybe it’s happening when I am typing the comments in Blogger and we can’t notice it. It is somewhat terrifying when I say that. Thanks again for commenting on my post. -Jasper Xin

  3. Hey JX I think that this is a great topic. I really liked how you were able to tell many stories of past incidents with companies privacy issues to really prove your point on that this topic is serious. I agree with the statement you made in the first paragraph about how people say they have nothing to hide, but really everyone does have something to hide. If you are interested in reading more about facebook's privacy settings this article would be good to look at Great work on your blog!

    (sorry about the link, It was not working properly).

    1. Thank you for commenting on my post Basil Dahan. A lot of the major social sites have problems with privacy and people somewhat heard about it but don't really care. But the problem with it is social sites don't really help keep the privacy of the users and thus make the internet not an enjoyable place to stay. The link you sent me proved what I said too. This article shows that even if they provide the option to change the ads profiles they still can get more information out before you alter ads profiles. Thanks again for commenting on my post. -Jasper Xin

  4. Hi JX! I liked reading your article on Facebook's failure to comply with European privacy laws. This seems to be an ongoing problem for the company. One of the issues is whether compliance with Ireland's laws (where Facebook has its EU offices) should be enough for all European countries. A recent report from a Belgian investigation of Facebook concludes that the company still violates EU laws in profiling for 3rd party advertisers and collecting location data. Facebook has argued that having to comply with different laws in each country will impact its delivery of timely service to its European customers. Do you think Facebook has a point? Thanks for raising important points about privacy concerns in Europe, JX!

    1. Hi Ms. Riches, thank you for commenting on my post. I think Facebook’s concern is right, there are too many countries to deal with and there are a lot of work to be done. However, privacy is a larger problem that the users’ should care more about than just new cool features. Just like education, building the root is hard, but the fruit will be sweet, for the users and Facebook itself. As one of the largest social sites in the world, Facebook wants to earn more money which is not surprising, so the privacy policy is not surprising. I think people should really pay more attention to the problem and it will make things easier since pressuring Facebook will let them change their policy and changing the policy will let the users happy and let Facebook focus on developing new features. -Jasper Xin

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