Facebook called to answer for its crimes in France

Sep 25, 2012
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In the wake of Facegate, Facebook France has been called to answer to the data watchdog CNIL “The national commission for the liberty of data.” The demand was made by ministers Arnaud Montebourg & Fleur Pellerin, in charge of industrial renewal and the digital economy, respectively. Facebook is being asked to address claims that private facebook messages from 2009 and earlier have been posted publicly on user’s walls; the claim originated in France, and has since become a global scandal, which fell very conveniently on MySpace’s latest teaster video for the revamp of its site.

Facebook has actively denied that there is a bug; however, Facebook is well known to make swift changes in order to test, grabbing isolated subgroups of users. If this is the case, they will have poorly chosen the French market as a place to test anything related to data privacy, as France & the rest of Europe have been constantly looking for grounds to pushback against Facebook. In fact, Facebook recently announced it would be disabling it’s facial recognition software and database in Europe after pressure from European privacy groups.

Facebook has always pushed the limits on privacy – changing everyone’s default email to @facebook.com, defaulting profiles to public, etc. – and this time they may actually have pushed too far. Should it come out that users’ private messages were made public in France, there will be a lot of backtracking for Facebook in terms of privacy liberties.

Facebook will meet with the CNIL today, and while it’s not clear whether Mark Zuckerberg himself will appear for the meeting, an article in the DailyMail seems to suggest that the theoretical bug may be tied to Facebook’s recent rollouts in advanced search capabilities.