Europe's Privacy Concerns May Hinder Facebook

[qi:063] The European Commission, which has been a staunch protector of privacy, may consider tighter regulations about sharing a user’s data with third-party sites, The Financial Times is reporting. It also wants to subject marketers that use social media sites like Twitter to tougher regulations. Under such regulations, a company like Facebook, which opens up some of a user’s information to third-party application developers, may find itself facing tighter data privacy restrictions. An opinion paper by an EC working group revealed the potential for European scrutiny of sharing a user’s personal data with third-party applications. According to the FT:

The views are contained in an unpublished opinion paper from a group made up of Europe’s national data-protection and privacy commissioners. The group, known as the Article 29 working party, acts as an advisory body to the European Commission. While the views do not carry any formal authority, they are designed to guide individual national regulators.

Given how much digitized data is shared online, and how emerging data analytics can make such a wide body of data relevant and useful to marketers, the debate over how to protect consumers’ privacy online is only going to get louder. However, since digital data can be posted and shared so easily (and without much thought for privacy implications) it’s hard to know how to prevent a personal collection of zeros and ones from being shared without someone’s knowledge, mined for demographic information, or even used without a person’s consent. Unless you attach some form of privacy indicator to each packet of data, it seems like trying to keep sand from slipping through your fingers.