Reddit users overwhelm Facebook with data requests

Summary:Reddit users appear to have flooded Facebook with personal data requests. The social network has sent an e-mail to many of them saying it just can't keep up and they will have to wait.

Reddit users have flooded Facebook with personal data requests via the service's official form. This appears to have overwhelmed Facebook's Data Access Request Team, forcing the group to send out e-mails telling users there will be a significant delay.

It all started with a Reddit submission titled "How to annoy Facebook" by Reddit user realbigfatty. At the time of writing, it is number three on the "what's hot" section of Reddit's frontpage, and number one on the same section under the Funny subreddit.

The submission links to an image with the following four-step tutorial:

  1. Open this site: https://www.facebook.com/help/contact.php?show_form=data_requests
  2. Enter your personal information
  3. Make a reference to the following law: "Section 4 DPA + Art. 12 Directive 95/46/EG"
  4. Click on Send

The image then goes on to explain that because of Britain's 1988 Data Protection Act (DPA), Facebook has to send you your data on a CD within 40 days. It's worth noting that this is a mistake, the DPA in question is Ireland's. The CD contains a PDF that is typically more than 1,000 pages long and more than 100MB in size.

These steps seem to be adapted from the Europe versus Facebook webpage. That page also notes that Facebook will likely try to change your mind and discourage you by explaining how to log onto the social network and see your data. You may thus have to send one or two responses insisting you want all your data sent to you.

That being said, they won't be getting back to you anytime soon. While this option has been available for a while, it appears that Reddit users have managed to overload Facebook's staff, according to another Reddit submission titled "I got a reply from Facebook after doing the 'How to annoy Facebook'" by Reddit user endroop. At the time of writing, it is number 17 on the "what's hot" section on Reddit's frontpage, and number three on the same section under the Funny subreddit.

The submission links to an image of an e-mail Facebook sent to the Reddit user. According to the comments on the submission, other users from all around the world have received the same automatic reply. Here is what it says:

Hi,

We have received your subject access request (the "Request").

Due to the volume of personal data access requests that we have recently received, we are experiencing significant delay in processing such requests. We therefore are unlikely to respond within 40 days of your initial request. We appreciate your patience and will respond as soon as possible.

We are presently refining our request response processes and approach to align the present high volume of access requests with the resources available to process these requests. We appreciate your patience and will respond as soon as possible.

Please be aware as well that we are not required to comply with any future similar requests, unless, i nour opinion, a reasonable period of time has elapsed.

Again, we appreciate your patience and will respond as soon as possible.

Thanks for contacting Facebook, Facebook User Operations - Data Access Request Team

I doubt Facebook will end up agreeing to every single request, but even a small portion of these will result in many needless CDs being burned and sent to Reddit users. If you participated in this troll, I hope that you don't insist on getting your CD from Facebook. If you requested the data because you actually really do want a copy, then by all means, exercise your rights.

I have contacted Facebook for more information on how it is dealing with this issue.

See also:

Topics: Social Enterprise

About

Emil is a freelance journalist writing for CNET and ZDNet. Over the years, he has covered the tech industry for multiple publications, including Ars Technica, Neowin, and TechSpot.

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