Tag: Facebook

Regional Court of Vienna judges in Schrems against Facebook case

6. July 2020

On June 30th, 2020, the Vienna Regional Court passed judgement in the case of Max Schrems against Facebook Ireland Limited, in the case number 3 Cg 52/14k-91 (in German). In the following, we will be presenting the case and the court’s judgement.

Facts of the case

In the years 2011, 2012, 2013, 2015 and 2019, the plaintiff submitted requests for information in accordance with Art. 15 GDPR. The defendant initially responded to these requests with an 18-page pdf file dated 09.06.2011 and a CD with further pdf files of 1,222 A4 pages. Despite the information provided, the plaintiff felt that his rights as stated by the GDPR had been violated, as none of the consecutive requests had been answered. From his point of view, the information provided was neither sufficient in terms of content nor was the number of responses in relation to the number of requests made sufficient for him.

Furthermore, the plaintiff was concerned by the data processing by third parties, about which he received no clear information. He also stated that he was “Controller” in the sense of the GDPR. The defendant had not fulfilled the resulting requirements, as Data Processor, of concluding a Data Processing Agreement with the plaintiff. Finally, the defendant had violated Art. 9 GDPR by failing to obtain consent in respect of his interests and further sensitive data, for which the plaintiff demanded injunction for future data processing.

Guiding principles of the judgement

The Regional Court judged on the following guiding principles in the case:

  • the defendant must provide the plaintiff with complete information in writing and free of charge within fourteen days about all personal data of the plaintiff processed by it, stating the exact origin and, if applicable, the exact recipients of the data,
  • and pay the applicant the sum of EUR 500 in damages within fourteen days.

Reason for decision

The regional court’s guiding principles on the case were the only points in the plaintiff’s claim in which they judged in his favour. The court has stated that the tools used and information given by the defendant to inform the plaintiff about the processed personal data is not enough to meet the requirements of Art. 15 GDPR’s right of access. This results in a lack of control of the plaintiff over his own personal data, which goes against his fundamental right to data privacy. Therefore, the court has ruled damages in the sum of EUR 500 as adequate compensation for the infringement of Mr. Schrems’ privacy.

Regarding Mr. Schrems’ other points, the court ruled that because the plaintiff uses the Facebook platform in light of private/family activities, he cannot be a Controller of the processed personal data due to the fact that according to Art. 2 II lit.c GDPR, the regulation does not apply to him. This also applies to social media and online networks, as mentioned in Recital 18. Therefore, Facebook is not a Data Processor in the terms of those private activities and purposes, which negates the requirement of a Data Processing Agreement according to Art 28 GDPR.

Further, the court sees no sensitive data in the lines of Art. 9 GDPR to be at risk. In light of the personalisation of the platform, such as personalized ads and suggestions, the court stated that this belongs to the core of the defendant’s business activities. As such, there is no consent needed, as the defendant states that the processing of the data is for the purpose of a contract. The plaintiff, according to the court, has entered into such a contract knowing of the terms of service and on his own behalf in order to use the platform’s services. An injunction regarding the future processing of such personal data is therefore not to be applied.

Assessment

Overall, the Regional Court’s judgement has only a minimal practical relevance, as it is hard to fully assess the consequences of the passed judgement. One can neither say how the conduct will affect the future management of the company, nor is it certain whether the judgement will even become final in the first place. However, the plaintiff has already announced on NOYB’s homepage that he will lodge an appeal, and it therefore will remain to be seen what practical relevance can be drawn from the case in the future.

Facebook releases new Privacy Tool for global use

31. January 2020

On Data Privacy Day, Facebook launched its new privacy tool, which gives its users control over how they are tracked across the net.

In a blog post, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg introduced its “Off-Facebook Activity” tool, which had been promised since May 2008, to social network’s worldwide audience. It originally had slow roll-outs throughout different countries since August 2019, but is now officially available globally.

Facebook is known for its vast reaching tracking of internet activity, ranging from doorbell apps over sellers’ websites to health apps. It had been criticized by law-makers for its tracking practices, especially considering the social network keeps tracking your data when you deactivate your account.

Now, wanting the start into the new decade to be more privacy oriented, Mark Zuckerberg is prompting Facebook users to review their privacy settings. On top of deleting your tracking history, it is now possible to turn off future tracking altogether. Though it is important to keep in mind that Facebook does not stop advertisers and businesses from targeting ads based on other factors.

Overall, the tool is supposed to complement Facebook’s Privacy Checkup feature, to allow for users to regulate their privacy more thoroughly, and more importantly, on their own terms.

Facebook collects location data despite deactivation

19. December 2019

Facebook has admitted at the request of several US senators that they continuously collect location data, even if the user previously deactivated this feature.

In case of deactivating this feature, location data is collected, for example, by IP address mapping or user activity. This includes, for example, a self-conducted location-tag in a certain restaurant or at a special location, but also the case of being linked by friends to a photo that contains a location-tag.

In the letter that Senator Josh Hawley published on Twitter, Facebook states that they have only the best intentions in collecting the data. According to the statement, this is the only way, for example, to place personalized ads or inform a user when someone logs in to a completely different location than usual with their account.

While Facebook states that the location data – based on e.g. the IP address –  does not indicate an exact Location but only the postcode, for example, it means that there is no way for users to opt-out of the collection of location data.

Category: General
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Advocate General’s opinion on “Schrems II” is delayed

11. December 2019

The Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) Advocate General’s opinion in the case C-311/18 (‘Facebook Ireland and Schrems’) will be released on December 19, 2019. Originally, the CJEU announced that the opinion of the Advocate General in this case, Henrik Saugmandsgaard Øe, would be released on December 12, 2019. The CJEU did not provide a reason for this delay.

The prominent case deals with the complaint to the Irish Data Protection Commission (DPC) by privacy activist and lawyer Maximilian Schrems and the transfer of his personal data from Facebook Ireland Ltd. to Facebook Inc. in the U.S. under the European Commission’s controller-to-processor Standard Contractual Clauses (SCCs).

Perhaps, the most consequential question that the High Court of Ireland set before the CJEU is whether the transfers of personal data from the EU to the U.S. under the SCCs violate the rights of the individuals under Articles 7 and/or 8 of the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union (Question No. 4). The decision of the CJEU in “Schrems II” will also have ramifications on the parallel case T-738/16 (‘La Quadrature du net and others’). The latter case poses the question whether the EU-U.S. Privacy Shield for data transfers from the EU to the U.S. protects the rights of EU individuals sufficiently. If it does not, the European Commission would face a “Safe Harbor”-déjà vu after approving of the new Privacy Shield in its adequacy decision from 2016.

The CJEU is not bound to the opinion of the Advocate General (AG), but in some cases, the AG’s opinion may be a weighty indicator of the CJEU’s final ruling. The final decision by the Court is expected in early 2020.

Phone numbers of 420 million Facebook users in online database

5. September 2019

A database with more than 400 million phone numbers of Facebook users was publicly accessible online. Most of the records belong to American Facebook users (133 million), 50 million to users from Vietnam and 18 million to users from the UK. In each case the phone number was connected with the user’s Facebook ID, a long, unique and public number associated with the account.

As a result of the publicly accessible data the concerned users are put at risk for spam calls and SIM-swapping attacks. Furthermore, the passwords of the accounts can be changed so that the user cannot access his own Facebook profile.

IT-expert Sanyam Jain found the database and contacted TechCrunch after being unable to find the owner. TechCrunch verified the authenticity of the found data and then tried to determine the owner – without success. So they contacted the web host who turned the site down.

The database is not accessible at the moment, but it is still unknown how the data was collected and who uploaded the information. It is possible, that the ability to find friends by phone number on Facebook was misused to create the database. This feature was disabled by Facebook in April 2018. In connection to this new infringement, Facebook just announced that there is no evidence for a hacking attack.

Update: on Friday September 6th 2019 a copy of the database appeared on the internet, so that the data is currently publicly accessible again.

Privacy incidents cost Facebook 5 billion dollar

15. July 2019

According to a report of the Washington Post the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has approved a $ 5 billion (approx. € 4,4 billion) settlement with Facebook. The settlement was reached between the FTC and Facebook due to various Data Protection incidents, in particular the Cambridge Analytica scandal.

The settlement relies on a three to two vote – the FTC’s three republicans supported the fine the two democrats were against it- and terminates the procedure for investigating Facebook’s privacy violations against users’ personal information. The fine of $ 5 billion is the highest fine ever assessed against a tech company, but even if it sounds like a very high fine, it only corresponds to the amount of the monthly turnover and is therefore not very high in relative terms. So far, the highest fine was $ 22,5 million for Google in 2012.

The decision of the FTC needs to be approved by the Justice Department. As a rule, however, this is a formality.

This is not the first fine Facebook has to accept in connection with various data protection incidents and certainly not the last. Investigations against Facebook are still ongoing in Spain as well as in Germany. In addition, Facebook has been criticized for quite some time for privacy incidents.

Italian DPA fines Facebook

2. July 2019

The Italian Data Protection Authority Garante (Garante per la protezione dei dati personali) fined Facebook due to the Cambridge Analytica Scandal of 2015, which was discovered in 2018. The Cambridge Analytica Scandal is connected to the presidential campaign of the current president of the USA Donald Trump.

The Garante has imposed a fine of EUR 1.000.000 for abusing the use of data of more than 200.000 Italian Facebook users and their Facebook friends. According to the Garante, the abused data has not been transferred to Cambridge Analytica, which was also confirmed by a Facebook spokesman.  Nevertheless, the high fine was imposed.

The fine is still based on the old Italian Data Protection law because at the time of the abusive use the GDPR, which now applies throughout Europe, was not yet in force.

Facebook has to answer to the scandal not only in Italy. Legal consequences are also looming in the USA.

 

Consumers should know how much their data is worth

27. June 2019

US Senators Mark R. Warner (Democrats) and Josh Hawley (Republicans) want to know from Facebook, Google and Co. exactly how much the data of their users, measured in dollars and cents, is worth to them.

Last Sunday, the two senators announced their intention for the first time in a US talk show: Every three months, each user is to receive an overview of which data has been collected and stored and how the respective provider rates it. In addition, the aggregated value of all user data is to be reported annually to the US Securities and Exchange Commission. In this report, the companies are to disclose how they store, process and protect data and how and with which partner companies they generate sales with the data. All companies with more than 100 million users per month will be affected.

The value of user data has risen enormously in recent years; so far, companies have protected their internal calculations as company secrets. In addition, there is no recognized method for quantifying the value of user data; only when a company is sold or valued by means of an initial public offering (IPO) does it become obvious. In the case of the WhatsApp takeover it was  $ 55 per user, in the case of Skype it was $ 200.

But one can doubt the significance of these figures. A further indication can be the advertising revenues, which are disclosed by companies per quarter. At the end of 2018, Facebook earned around $6 per user worldwide, while Amazon earned $752 per user. These figures are likely to rise in the future.  “For years, social media companies have told consumers that their products are free to the user. But that’s not true – you are paying with your data instead of your wallet,” said Senator Warner. “But the overall lack of transparency and disclosure in this market have made it impossible for users to know what they’re giving up, who else their data is being shared with, or what it’s worth to the platform. […]” Experts believe it is important for consumers to know the value of their data, because only when you know the value of a good you are able to value it.

On Monday, Warner and Rawley plan to introduce the  Designing Accounting Safeguards to Help Broaden Oversight And Regulations on Data (DASHBOARD) Act to the parliament for its first reading. It remains to be seen whether their plans will meet with the approval of the other senators.

Google Introduces Automatic Deletion for Web Tracking History

7. May 2019

Google has announced on its blog that it will introduce an auto delete feature for web tracking history.

So far, users have the option to manually delete data from Google products such as YouTube or Maps. After numerous requests, however, Google follows other technology giants and revised its privacy settings. “We work to keep your data private and secure, and we’ve heard your feedback that we need to provide simple ways for you to manage or delete it,” Google writes on it’s blog.

Users will be able to choose a period for which the data should remain stored, lasting a minimum of 3 months and a maximum of 18 months. At the end of the selected period, Google will automatically delete the data on a regular basis. This option will initially be introduced for Location History and Web & App Activity data and will be available over the next few weeks, according to Google.

Google’s announcement came the day after Microsoft unveiled a set of features designed to strengthen privacy controls for its Microsoft 365 users, aimed to simplify its privacy policies.

On the same day, during Facebook’s annual developer conference, F8, Mark Zuckerberg announced a privacy roadmap for the social network.

Latest Facebook Data Breach

25. April 2019

Since May 2016 Facebook uploaded email-contacts without respectively against the will of 1,5 million users.

Facebook itself discovered the mistake in March 2019 and according to it’s own statement has now corrected it. The data was uploaded unintentionally and not shared with third parties. The data will be deleted and Facebook will contact the concerned users.

Facebook was able to read the email-contacts of 1,5 million users, but the concerned amount of data subjects is a lot higher due to that many  users have thousands of contacts. Facebook denied that e-mails have been accessed by its employees. It expects a fine of three to five billion dollar in the USA.

Category: Cyber security · Data breach
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