Why is Facebook Disclosing Less Data to Requesting Users than Before?

facebook_logo_darkA few months ago, a group calling themselves “Europe v. Facebook” emerged. This group consisted mostly of Europeans who were sick and tired of how Facebook allegedly violates a person’s privacy and keeps more data about the user than was originally intended. The group, headed by law student Max Schrems, filed 22 complaints with Ireland’s Data Protection Commissioner, listing the details of Facebook’s alleged violations of EU law.

But they did not stop there. The group also set out on a mission to ‘annoy the heck’ out of Facebook by sending an overwhelming number of data CD requests. Facebook is required by European Law to provide users a copy of their data if so requested and they do so by sending CDs through snail mail. The group’s call to fellow Europeans turned viral and the company soon became overwhelmed with so many requests that it was forced to send out an email explaining and apologizing for its inability to accommodate everyone.

Those who did receive their CDs soon found out that some of their data was missing, such as his interactions with ads, location based data, and others. Schrems, in particularly, mailed Facebook about the missing data, asking them to provide it as well, only to receive a reply stating that the company had already catered to his request and that any further requests would only be entertained until what they deem a ‘reasonable’ amount of time has lapsed. The company apparently states that they are not required to disclose data that they consider to be their ‘intellectual property’.

Since then, Facebook has decided to direct requesting users to a feature which allows them to download their personal archive, which supposedly contains everything the user has shared on the site, including photos, messages, posts and the user’s friend list. This feature has been around for a while and is actually nothing new. Facebook did announce a new e-mail (datarequests@fb.com). However, if you do send a request there, you’ll only get an automated reply directing you back to the download page.

Schrems says that this method gives out far less of the user’s data than even the data CD. The CD contained 57 different categories, while the download only encompasses 22. Of course, Facebook says that this is to make things simpler for most people and to make sure that the users aren’t burdened with a bulk of impractical raw data. Some privacy advocates think that such a move by Facebook is highly audacious, especially now that they’re currently facing an audit.

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