Facebook has been in a lot of hot water over privacy recently with huge attention being drawn to them after a Reddit-backed campaign saw them being inundated with users' requests to access their personal data. Facebook complied with the requests, as they had to under the 'Irish Data Protection Acts 1988 and 2003.'
The conditions of which they make available on the site alert users to their rights: chiefly that Facebook must comply with your request to access to your data by sending you a record on a CD within 40 days of the request being made. However, it seems Facebook is only willing to give you a certain portion of your own personal data, through a means of protecting their IP.
One particular Reddit user picked up on this when he found that on receiving his personal data as requested from Facebook, there was a certain amount missing. Upon querying this, he received this within a reply from Facebook :
"Section 4(12) of the Acts carves out an exception to subject access requests where the disclosures in response would adversely affect trade secrets or intellectual property. We have not provided any information to you which is a trade secret or intellectual property of Facebook Ireland Limited or its licensors."
So it seems that Facebook is unwilling to hand over certain data to users that could compromise or expose their trade secrets; evidently they are being compliant with the Act in doing so.
When your data isn't your own
This case from Facebook is by no means over as it looks like it will progress to court but their stance seems pretty final. Regarding the case, Facebook commented that as they had provided this particular users with over 1,000 pages of data "It is therefore nonsense to say that we are not willing to provide him with his personal data."
The caveat being, seemingly, that they have not provided him with 'all' his personal data. This seems unusual from Facebook's perspective. If it's personal data that you handed over in the first place, then how can Facebook then decide that you don't get to have it back?
Of course, the intricacies of how this can impact their trade secrets are complex and could range from how they collect data to how that data is then used. This case is far from final and it is too early to ascertain that this is Facebook's final policy for all users - hence the question mark in the post title. Yet it presents a worrying reality when you risk losing access to your own data when you participate on a social network.
Many may argue that this is the 'pay off' for getting to access Facebook for free. You sign up to the site and in doing so you are stating that you will comply with whatever guidelines they choose to implement. Unless it begins to cross over into a legal matter, you are under Facebook's discretion and judgement and they are unlikely to make a decision which won't, in the end, benefit themselves. The long-term implications of this remains to be seen, as well as how individual users will react. If we know that we might not get back what we hand over to Facebook, would we be so willing to hand so much over or we would simply accept this as part of the service that we have come to not live without?
We'll keep you updated with this story as it develops.
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