Facebook facing data protection questions

November 20, 2007

Very interesting story on the Channel 4 website today.

Apparently, a Facebook user has logged an official complaint with the UK Privacy Watchdog after it transpired that trying to leave Facebook didn’t actually mean that your data was all deleted and removed from their servers. Actually, when you try to leave Facebook all it does is deactivate your account and keep the data on their servers so anyone who changes their mind can easily sign back up again.

Now that’s all well and good, but storage of personal data and photos of someone who doesn’t actually want to use your service is blatantly against the UK Data Protection Act (I believe). The act is designed to protect people like you and me from having their personal data misused in any way. Facebook definitely have the resources and technical know how to offer a way to delete the data for those who really want to delete an account. By not doing so they are making it very difficult for users to clean up their trail of data, it could take hours to go round the site deleting everything you’ve ever posted or uploaded.

Will be interesting to see how this pans out! I do wonder whether MySpace and Bebo etc offer this full deletion service or whether they are also possibly infringing on ex-users privacy.

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