Facebook privacy under attack from EU

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Despite being the biggest social networking site available, Facebook often comes under criticism on how it deals with user’s privacy and content. Today we have news that the EU is to get tough with Facebook with a crackdown on secrets being sold on.

The European Commission is looking to make a move and stop Facebook gathering user’s personal information that it uses to create targeted advertising. According to The Telegraph the site uses special software to gather information from user’s activities on Facebook, no matter what their privacy settings are that is then made available to advertisers.

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But this practice has caused concern and a new EC Directive will come into force in January 2012, which will ban the practice unless users allow it. Most of the information gathered is then stored on computers in the US, but if Facebook doesn’t abide by the new rule it could face legal action or a big fine.

This move may also hit the sites plans to float on the Wall Street stock exchange next year as it will hit the way it makes its money. Vice President of the European Commission, Viviane Reding, wants sites such as Facebook to be more open to how they operate and what data is collected.

An investigation has found to what extent that Facebook gathers information from users, which is not restricted to likes and what is put on walls. Details are also gathered about a user’s friends and family’s as well as changes to lifestyles. A user planning a wedding can be targeted with ads from the likes of wedding photographers for instance, and even what type of music they like is made available.

The software can even get information from keyword searches and provide advertisers information on a user’s political beliefs or sexual preferences. Even messages and chats are allegedly kept on the sites database even when they have been deleted; but the site says it doesn’t use this information for advertising.

Recently an Austrian student asked what information the site held on him, which led to him receiving a CD that contained 1,222 pages of data. After complaining to watchdogs it was found that the site had more information that was not handed over.

When users first sign up to the site they agree to let Facebook use of any personal information, which is approved via a 4,000 word contract. This allows the site to use their data as it wants to and can be viewed by using a link among the small print at the bottom of each page.

Facebook have responded by saying that advertisers could only see “anonymous and aggregate information”. This is alleged will only allow them to target campaigns and not individual users. Does it worry you how Facebook users your information?