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More complaints over Facebook and its 'like' button

The Data Protection Commission has received another six complaints about the social networking site – including one about its ‘like’ button.

THERE HAVE BEEN more official complaints made about Facebook – including its ‘like’ button – to the Data Protection Commissioner (DPC).

The DPC received six more complaints about the site in recent weeks, following on foot of complaints received in August.

The first batch of complaints, which came from the Europe v Facebook group, are currently being investigated and the DPC is awaiting Facebook’s reply.

According to the complaint about the ‘like’ button:

The Like Button is creating extended user data that can be used to track users all over the internet. There is no legitimate purpose for the creation of the data. Users have not consented to the use.

The complaint also states that as “like” buttons can not only be found on pages such as news, company or entertainment sites, but also on pages that “contain sensitive information” such as pages of political parties, action groups, churches, porn  sites, “the user does usually not know if the website has a “like” button before visiting it and can therefore not make informed and specific choices”.

If the complaint is successful, Facebook may be forced to change the way it operates its ‘like’ feature – or potentially face court action demanding that the feature be disabled.

The group behind the complaints is based in Austria but the complaints are being filed with the Irish DPC because Facebook’s Terms of Use declares users outside the US and Canada to be in a contract with Facebook Ireland Ltd, the company’s Dublin operation. This office acts as its headquarters for Europe, the Middle East and Africa.

In August, the data protection commissioner in the German state of Schleswig-Holstein, Thilo Weichert, deemed that the ‘Like’ button was a breach of local, federal and EU law – and said institutions in his state would be fined if they did not remove the button from their sites.

The new complaints centre on:

  • New policies, as they are “changed very frequently” and users are not asked for their consent
  • Groups – the fact users can be added to groups without their consent
  • The fact Facebook is only deleting the link to deleted pictures, which are still public on the internet for a certain period of time
  • That privacy settings only regulate who can see the link to a picture and the picture itself is “public” on the internet
  • That Facebook has certain obligations as a provider of a “cloud service” such as “not using third party data for its own purposes or only processing data when instructed to do so by the user”.

The DPC will investigate these complaints and then seek the views of Facebook on the matter.

Read: Irish data chiefs set to test if Facebook ‘like’ button is illegal>

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