An EU lawmaker called for tighter control of on-line social networks
under a data protection regulation now being debated after some Facebook
users said their personal messages appeared on their public profiles.
regulators are in the midst of writing new legislation that could give
internet users greater control over how their personal data is used by
big technology companies. One part of the regulation requires companies
to get permission before "processing" people's personal data, although
exactly how and when such consent would be needed is still subject to
On Tuesday the French data protection regulator asked to
meet Facebook after thousands of users complained private messages
dating back to 2007 were visible on their Facebook timelines the start
page of a person's profile on the website.
Jan Philipp Albrecht, a
German Green member of the European Parliament who is in charge of the
legislature's work on the draft regulation said the incident shows that
users need more control over their data.
"The informed and
explicit agreement of all those affected by data processing must be a
guiding principle," Albrecht said in a press statement. "There will be
very few exceptions if any."
Facebook said it has not done
anything wrong and that the messages are in fact called wall posts, one
of the website's features for leaving comments which usually appears on a
person's profile page.
Before the Facebook timeline was
introduced in February, wall posts were visible on user's profile pages
but could also be hidden from the public depending on each user's
"A small number of users raised concerns after
what they mistakenly believed to be private messages appeared on their
Timeline," the company said in a statement.
Nevertheless EU lawmakers are taking the incident seriously.
case shows that some companies simply don't take privacy issues as
seriously as their share price," the Commissioner for Justice behind the
regulation, Viviane Reding, said at a meeting with regulators in Dublin
The Commission, the European Parliament and the 27
member states have to agree on the regulation before it can become law.
The parliament will begin submitting amendments later this year.
companies like Google, Facebook and Yahoo, which rely on their user's
data to tailor their services to people's interests, have said they are
wary of the regulation's principles on seeking users' consent. These
companies' business models are also based on selling targeted ads
matched to people's profiles.
Some say they worry that asking
permission for the use of people's data more than they already do could
hamper their services with consent-seeking pop-ups and encourage people
to opt-out rather than in.
Copyright Thomson Reuters 2012