Facebook gets 6 more complaints over ‘like’ button

SIX more complaints about Facebook have been lodged with the Data Protection Commissioner (DPC) over how the social network giant handles personal information.

It brings to 22 the number of complaints made to the data watchdog by an Austrian privacy lobby group called Europe v Facebook. The DPC said it has also received some complaints from Britain regarding Facebook.

The DPC is being sent these complaints as Facebook Ireland is the company’s headquarters for outside North America. The DPC is to carry out a detailed audit of Facebook’s databases and systems next month as part of its investigation.

“We can confirm we have received six more complaints and have passed them on to Facebook,” said Gary Davis, deputy data protection commissioner.

“We will assess them in the context of our investigation of Facebook, including a detailed audit of Facebook’s use of personal information.”

The complaints generally relate to claims about how the social network giant gathers, handles and uses the personal data of members.

One of the six new complaints centres around the “like” button, which is prevalent on many websites and allows Facebook to track the activity of any web users, members and non-members.

A spokesman for Europe v Facebook said: “Today we have filed another six complaints with the Irish Data Protection Commissioner against Facebook Ireland Ltd. One of the complaints is targeting the disputed ‘Like’ button.

“Others are, for example, concerned with Facebook’s privacy settings that seem to be rather easy to circumvent or ‘deleted’ pictures that are still public on the internet after deletion.”

Digital rights expert and law lecturer TJ McIntyre told the Irish Examiner that there was concern over the Like button.

“The question is, should Facebook be able to track you as you browse other websites, even if you are not logged onto Facebook or a Facebook member?”

He said that once a user downloads a website containing the like button, the website and the user’s computer IP address is relayed to Facebook. This could potentially let Facebook build a profile of users’ browsing habits and deliver targeted ads to them.

Mr Davis said their probe had begun and they were awaiting responses from Facebook. He said the initial response was due next week. They will assess it before conducting an audit in the company’s offices in October.

Mr Davis said they had also just received other complaints from Britain. The office has not received any complaints from Irish users to date.

* See www.dataprotection.ie or www. europe-v-facebook.org

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