One Week In February [KitBits 18.01]

Let’s play a quick game of spot the odd one out.

On Monday 12th February the German Consumer Federation announced it had won a fairly significant court case against Facebook.

The court found that Facebook collects and uses personal data without providing enough information to its members for them to render meaningful consent. The federation of German consumer organisations (VZBV), which brought the suit, argued that Facebook opted users in to features which it should not have.

Heiko Duenkel, litigation policy officer at the VZBV, said: “Facebook hides default settings that are not privacy friendly in its privacy centre and does not provide sufficient information about it when users register. This does not meet the requirement for informed consent.”

+ ‘Facebook personal data use and privacy settings ruled illegal by German court’, Guardian

On Tuesday 13th February the Office of the Data Protection Commissioner, currently responsible for regulating Facebook on privacy matters, published presentations from a January workshop co-hosted by the DPC and the Centre for Information Policy Leadership . Some of the materials used on this training day appear to have been provided by Facebook.

This free and practical hands-on event highlighted and demonstrated accountability in practice, through interactive discussions and presentations for SMEs and the Public Sector.

+ ‘Delivering Accountability under the General Data Protection Regulation’, Data Protection Commissioner

On Wednesday 14th February WIRED reported on Facebook’s Messenger Kids app and the particulars of the external scrutiny it had been subjected to.

IN DECEMBER, WHEN Facebook launched Messenger Kids, an app for preteens and children as young as 6, the company stressed that it had worked closely with leading experts in order to safeguard younger users. What Facebook didn’t say is that many of those experts had received funding from Facebook.

+ ‘Facebook Funded Most of the Experts Who Vetted Messenger Kids’, WIRED

On Wednesday 14th February security and privacy experts began pointing out that Facebook was using mobile numbers of subscribers to ‘re-engage’ them. These numbers had been given to Facebook solely to be used for two factor authentication.

On Wednesday 14th February the Dutch consumer organisation Consumentenbond warned consumers not to use Facebook’s VPN app Onavo Protect.

+ ‘Gebruik beveiligings-app van Facebook niet’, Consumentenbond

On Thursday 15th February European Commissioner for Justice, Verana Jourova issued a statement criticising Facebook’s failure to implement changes to their terms of service which had been requested in 2016.

“I am pleased that the enforcement of EU rules to protect consumers by national authorities is bearing fruit, as some companies are now making their platforms safer for consumers,” Jourova said. “However, it is unacceptable that this is still not complete and it is taking so much time.”

+ ‘EU calls on Facebook and Twitter to urgently implement user protections’, New Statesman

On Friday 16th February a Belgian court ruled that “Facebook had broken privacy laws by tracking people on third-party sites in the latest salvo in a long-running battle between the Belgian commission for the protection of privacy (CPP) and the social network”. Facebook was ordered to stop collecting data on users or “face fines of €250,000 a day, or up to €100m.”

An interesting detail which illustrates the lengths Facebook is prepared to go to in order to prevent any attempts to halt its data harvesting efforts is included in the story

Facebook also disputed the use of English in the ruling including the words “browser” and “cookie”, which the social network said was against Belgian law that stipulates only Dutch, French or German may be used.

+ ‘Facebook ordered to stop collecting user data by Belgian court’, Guardian

Hopefully you spotted the odd one out here.

Image credit: William Iven on Unsplash

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