Reijo Aarnio ponders if right to privacy in communications is jeopardised by social network
FinlandÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s Data Protection Ombudsman Reijo Aarnio is following the latest Facebook controversy with keen interest. He says that manner in which the popular social networking website collects information about the movements of users is both dangerous and a violation of the right to privacy.
Ã¢â‚¬Å“The core of the problem is whether or not the users have given Facebook permission to act as it does. If a user has not given consent to having his or her movements followed, then Facebook is doing wrongÃ¢â‚¬Â, Reijo Aarnio says.
Ã¢â‚¬Å“Could it be that Facebook does not violate data protection, but is in violation of mail privacy? The matter needs to be considered, but it does not absolve the company of responsibility. This also applies to Google, iPhone, and other similar mobile services. For now we do not know enough about how they collect information about their customers.Ã¢â‚¬Â
Aarnio is especially concerned about reports that Facebook has collected data on websites visited by users even after they have logged off the service.
The issue was raised recently by Australian data protection expert Nik Cubrilovic.
The possibility to monitor a userÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s online habits reportedly only applied to websites with the Facebook Ã¢â‚¬Å“likeÃ¢â‚¬Â feature.
Facebook now says that it has stopped its practice of keeping track of usersÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ internet habits.
Ã¢â‚¬Å“The company has also collected information about users without exhaustively saying for what purpose.Ã¢â‚¬Â
Aarnio criticises the terms for use of Facebook as one-sided, and the rules can be changed without notice.
Ã¢â‚¬Å“It was some time ago that Henry Ford said that the customer is always right, meaning that a service provider needs to satisfy the customer. Now we are at a point at which customers meet the needs of the service provider – Facebook.”
In the United States, two members of the US Congress have called for a report on the activities of Facebook.
They are also calling on the US Federal Trade Commission to investigate the matter.
IrelandÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s top data protection official has launched an invesetigation concerning the 27 countries of the European Union, including Finland.
Facebook is under scrutiny in Ireland, because its European headquarters are located there.
Reijo Aarnio says that the European Commission is drawing up a proposed directive ordering Facebook to delete all information about the users when they leave the service.