In the latest privacy-related skirmish between European countries and social networks, Swiss and German privacy authorities have told the Associated Press that they are looking at how Facebook — and possibly Google and other sites as well — allows its users to upload email addresses, photos and other content that either belongs to or includes people who haven’t given their consent to appear on the service. According to the AP story, this would likely include uploading pictures without getting the permission of everyone who appears in the photo, and could also affect the automated importing of email addresses that Facebook, Google and other social networks provide as a way of finding your friends when you join a new service.
“The way it’s organized at the moment, they simply allow anyone who wants to use this service to say they have the consent of their friends or acquaintances,” Swiss commissioner Hanspeter Thuer said of Facebook’s practice of letting users upload photos and email addresses. Thilo Weichert, data protection commissioner in the northern German state of Schleswig Holstein, told AP that Facebook’s assertion that it gets consent for the posting of personal information is “total nonsense.” He said that the state has written to Facebook “and told them they’re not abiding by the law in Europe.”
Europe seems determined to play the role of wet blanket for social networks and social media of all kinds. Both Google and Facebook have come under fire from multiple countries and from regulators at the European Union itself over privacy issues. Google has been criticized repeatedly for its Street View service, and Italy recently took the unprecedented step of finding three senior Google executives guilty of privacy law violations for a video that was uploaded to YouTube. But Europe isn’t the only one criticizing the way Google and Facebook handle (or don’t handle) privacy controls: sociologist Danah Boyd gave a talk at the recent South by Southwest Interactive conference slamming both companies for their practices.
Want to help Facebook handle some of the privacy conflicts it’s running into in Europe? According to a couple of recent job postings, the social network is looking for a manager of privacy and policy in both Paris and Hamburg to “monitor legislative and regulatory matters at EU and member state level, participate in policy discussions, and lead the company’s interactions with the European Commission and governments in several EU countries.”
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