Facebook, social networks, businesses 'must adhere' to EU law

Facebook, social networks, businesses 'must adhere' to EU law

Summary: An updated European directive will shake the cloud computing industry to the core, as lawmakers single out social networks as a prime target for change.

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BRUSSELS -- The European Commission (EC), the governing body of 27 European member states, wants non-European businesses and social networks, including Facebook and Twitter, that store information on European citizens, to be subject to updated European data protection laws.

The European Commission's justice commissioner Viviane Reding met with German Consumer Protection Minister Ilse Aigner, said in a joint statement:

"We both believe that companies who direct their services to European consumers should be subject to EU data protection laws. Otherwise, they should not be able to do business on our internal market. This also applies to social networks with users in the EU. We have to make sure that they comply with EU law and that EU law is enforced, even if it is based in a third country and even if its data are stored in a cloud".

But social networks like Twitter and Facebook could face extreme difficulty in complying with the new law.

Two excerpts from the statement should send shivers down the spine of Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg. His company was recently found under the privacy spotlight, after one Austrian student disclosed the vast amount of data the social network has on its users, even after the data was seemingly deleted.

In a previous interview with The Register, Reding was hostile towards the practices of the Palo Alto-based social networking giant, saying that Facebook "has nowhere to hide".

"EU law should require that consumers give their explicit consent before their data are used. And consumers generally should have the right to delete their data at any time, especially the data they post on the internet themselves".

European parliamentarians have discussed the notion of 'deleted' data, and how users should be given the right to delete data that belongs to them or relates to them.

Even at the European Parliament's Privacy Platform in September, a spokesperson for Facebook who appeared as part of the questioning panel was rebuked by other members of the panel, as well as sitting MEPs, for its data practices and data protection policies -- or lack thereof.

But as the statement went on it was made clear that European law will continue to be enforced, even if the company is based in a non-European country, and has its properties, datacenters or consumers outside the European zone.

Facebook, along with many other companies, should be worried. The wide-ranging changes expected from the new and updated directive could shake the cloud computing industry to its very core.

Read more: Europe's data protection laws are changing, to prevent the U.S. government from invoking its post-9/11 counter-terrorism laws such as the Patriot Act from accessing EU-based data. See the article here.

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Topics: Government UK, Collaboration, Data Centers, Data Management, Government, Networking, Storage, Social Enterprise

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12 comments
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  • I don't get it...

    So, unless the company as such has an organizational presense in that country why should the laws of that country apply to it? I undrestand EU laws applying to 'Facebook Germany' if such branch existed, but why should they apply to 'Facebook' in general which is based in USA. More so, how do they expect to enforce this? By blocking Facebook from all local DNS and ISP?
    I still don't understand how changing a law in Europe affects a company that has european citizens as clients but has effectively no operations there
    raul.vejar@...
    • Because you said so

      It's called LawyerMagic. It's the same method US CongressCritters use to shut down servers that host P2P content. If you have no idea what you're talking about, it's easy to write down a bunch of talk, call it a law, and tell the folks back home that you've solved the problem.
      Robert Hahn
      • RE: Facebook, social networks, businesses 'must adhere' to EU law

        @Robert Hahn Many EU citizens, and especially German citizens, after being subjected to 2 dictatorships in the last century, which collected waay too much information on its population and misused that information, are very sensitive about their personal data and its misuse.

        That is why there are strong data protection laws in place. And the laws state that those laws local to the consumer / user have precidence. Which means, that if companies want to have European users in their customerbase, they have to respect the privacy laws they are subjected to.

        It seems America has gone from the "Land of the Free" to the "Land of the freely exploited by corporate greed," and many of the citizens just take it and react startled, when somebody would even think of questioning it.

        I like Jeff Jarvis, and his new book, Public Parts, is very interesting, but he doesn't seem to understand the German (and to a lesser extent European) sensitivity to privacy.

        He seems to think, that if we show naked breasts in advertising and go naked into the sauna, we shouldn't have any problems with photos and stories about us being plastered all over the internet and misused by corporate entities, like Facebook and Google...
        wright_is
      • Fooling everybody, all the time

        @wright_is
        You too are practicing LawyerMagic. You are telling us why such laws might be good things, instead of noticing the fact that such laws are basically unenforceable, and hence are "feel good" exercises and opportunities for politicians to pretend they are "doing something" while in fact doing nothing at all.
        Robert Hahn
      • RE: Facebook, social networks, businesses 'must adhere' to EU law

        @Robert Hahn In what respect "Lawyer Magic"? I live in Germany and the law here guarantees me a certain level of privacy in my online activities.

        They have already made it essentially illegal for German sites to use Like and +1 buttons, without first getting the visitor's consent.

        This is the next step. Why should MeinVZ have to protect my privacy, but Facespook not? If Facebook want to "do business" in Europe (i.e. have European users), then they should abide by the privacy laws affecting those users or accept the consequences.
        wright_is
    • RE: Facebook, social networks, businesses 'must adhere' to EU law

      @raul.vejar@... If they want to store data on EU citizens, they need to adhere to the privacy laws affecting those customers.

      If I ran a company in some banana republic, which had a clause in their law which said, I can shoot people who are 30 seconds late paying their bill, I wouldn't expect to be able to travel to America and start shooting my customers, becuase they hadn't paid on time - well, maybe in Texas... <img border="0" src="http://www.cnet.com/i/mb/emoticons/wink.gif" alt="wink">

      Okay, it is an extreme example, but it is the same thing. The users are in Germany and they expect the same protections as when they use MeinVZ, StudiVZ etc.

      It is one of the main reasons that the Facebook "Like" and Google +1 buttons in Germany are technically illegal - heise.de, one of the major IT publishers in Germany even came up with an extension to jQuery, which gets around this by displaying an on/off slider switch for FB Like and +1 icons (and Twitter etc.), only after the user flicks the switch from off to "on" is the Facebook Like image loaded and the relevant Facebook JavaScript code injected into the page.

      <a href="http://www.heise.de/extras/socialshareprivacy/" target="_blank" rel="nofollow">http://www.heise.de/extras/socialshareprivacy/</a> for more details (documentation in German).
      wright_is
  • RE: Facebook, social networks, businesses 'must adhere' to EU law

    If these companies aren't in Europe they should tell the EU to go piss up a rope.
    Rootsid
    • In which case...

      @Rootsid
      ...they might not be allowed to do business in the EU anymore.

      In practice, I think this is intended to lead to negotiations between the U.S. and the E.U. If it doesn't, then I think social networks will end up having to host their servers in the jurisdiction in which they're incorporated/headquartered, which wouldn't be a bad thing (then users know what they're getting).
      John L. Ries
    • RE: Facebook, social networks, businesses 'must adhere' to EU law

      @Rootsid And if I lived in a country, where I could shoot customers for late payment, I should tell the US Government to go piss up a rope, when they try and stop me from shooting their citizens, when they default on payments?

      Their customers / users are in Europe and those customers / users are protected by European law. If they want to keep those users, they have to respect their rights. Just because the American Government has eroded the freedoms and rights of their citizens, doesn't mean that that erosion of freedom should be forced on non-US citizens.
      wright_is
      • RE: Facebook, social networks, businesses 'must adhere' to EU law

        @wright_is
        You know your argument kinda has merit except for one thing. No one forces the EU citizens to join. If i choose to do business with a banana replublic country then i will get what i deserve. These EU citizens choose to be on facebook an american company following american laws. If they dont like it they shouldnt be on it. Reversing your argument if i joined MeinVZ, StudiVZ and became a member I should expect them to follow American Law? Or would i have the brains to figure they would go by German law?
        NoThomas
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    dy506
    • Apply the law

      Does anyone here live in a country where it is legal to shoot spammers? Failing that, can you blow up their web servers? How about sticking them with 10,000 pins? Surely, in some jurisdiction somewhere, one of these things is legal.
      Robert Hahn