While Facebook users continue to spread false information about privacy on Facebook, officials in Ireland, Norway, Sweden, and Denmark are taking a very real look at recent announcements by the social network.
The Office of the Irish Data Protection Commissioner said it is seeking “urgent further clarification” from Facebook about the changes it proposed last week to its data use policy and statement of rights and responsibilities, and Deputy Data Protection Commissioner Gary Davis said in an email to Bloomberg:
We will be seeking urgent further clarification from Facebook Ireland and, if we consider that the proposed changes require a specific consent from European Union users, we will require Facebook to do this.
We note that this is the consultation stage of the process, and that until that stage is over, these changes will not be tabled to users. We are currently examining the proposed changes and consider that further clarity will be required in relation to the full effect of some of the changes.
Facebook responded in an email to Bloomberg:
As our regulator in Europe, we are in regular contact with the Office of the Irish Data Protection Commissioner to ensure that we maintain high standards of transparency.
Meanwhile, IDG News Service reported that the consumer ombudsmen of Norway, Sweden, and Denmark are threatening court action over Facebook’s use of unsolicited advertisements in its news feed, saying that the social network is violating the European Directive on Privacy and Electronic Communications, which states that email for the purposes of direct marketing may only be sent to subscribers in Europe who have given their prior consent.
Sponsored stories also drew the attention of the ombudsmen, with Norwegian Consumer Ombudsman Gry Nergard telling IDG News Service:
It should be on an opt-in basis, and sponsored stories aren’t opt-in. (Facebook may not be violating the directive because it is) technically designed in such a way that communications are probably not sent to users, which is a condition for considering communications to fall within the definition of email, but are retrieved by, shown, or otherwise presented to the social media user.
She added on the subject of ads in the news feed:
That looks even more like email. We found that it could be illegal. We want to talk first. Another solution would be to take them to court.
A Facebook spokeswoman told IDG News Service:
Facebook engages in an ongoing dialog with stakeholders all over Europe about our product and services.
Readers: How do you think these various dramas will play out in Europe?
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