Daily Dose of iQ: Which of Your Facebook Data is Actually 'Personal'?

Oct 13, 2011 — Allan Pulga

The world's largest social network knows a lot about us. In fact, Facebook knows stuff about us that we probably didn't even know it could access.

As Emil Protalinski of ZDNet reported yesterday, however, Facebook says it can't give you a copy of some of your personal data because it could reveal the company's trade secrets and intellectual property.

Ahem, excuse me?

"An Austrian group called called Europe versus Facebook has so far made 22 complaints regarding the social network’s practices," Protalinski wrote. "In the process, the organization has stumbled upon an important tidbit: Facebook says it is not required to give you a copy of some of your personal data if it deems doing so would adversely affect its trade secrets or intellectual property."

Europe versus Facebook published instructions on its website about how to request a copy of your personal data on Facebook. According to Ireland's 1988 Data Protection Act, Facebook must send you your data on a CD within 40 days of a request.

The organization "accidentally" got Reddit involved, Protalinski adds, and its users recently overwhelmed Facebook with data requests. As a result of this overload, Facebook e-mailed all users requesting data, saying it would be unlikely to respond within the required 40-day period.

Europe versus Facebook has made 22 complaints against the social network, which have been actively covered in the media. The data in question relates to pokes, tags and untagging, personal data via its iPhone app and "friend finder," deleted posts, deleted messages, removed friends, photo privacy settings (apply to the link only, not the photo itself), adding users to groups without their consent, and frequent policy changes.

Another complaint that I identified with personally was that Facebook runs an opt-out system instead of an opt-in one. The latter is required by European law.

Protalinski says the Irish Data Protection Commissioner will have trouble going through all these complaints, but not as hard of a time as Facebook will have in its attempts to prove that sending you portions of your personal data "would adversely affect trade secrets or intellectual property."

In a follow-up article, Protalinski reaches out to Facebook on this issue. The social network responded in saying that it won't hand over all your personal data because that's how the law works. "The company says it is also complying with the Irish Data Protection Commissioner," Protalinski adds.

And so ensues the back-and-forth between legal entities representing Facebook users and Facebook itself. Color me bewildered.

Topics: Privacy, Mobile Industry, Retail Marketing

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