| VIENNA/DUBLIN, July 30
VIENNA/DUBLIN, July 30 An Irish watchdog says it
will determine by early October whether Facebook, the
world's biggest social network, will face legal action under
European privacy laws.
Ireland is the headquarters of Facebook's non-U.S. business,
and the data regulator there is responsible for ensuring that
the company complies with European and Irish data protection
law, which is generally tougher than in the United States.
The Data Protection Commissioner denied on Monday it had
frozen out an Austrian-based group of student activists,
europe-v-facebook, which has succeeded in extracting some
concessions on privacy from Facebook and had been working with
The pressure group's founder told Reuters he feared the
watchdog was favouring Facebook, partly because Ireland prizes
the fact that large U.S. IT firms like Facebook and Microsoft
have made the country their international base.
"Our main concerns are about transparency and control," said
Max Schrems, giving the examples that Facebook still held data
that users believed they had deleted, and was also failing to
provide users with their own raw data.
Facebook was the first American company to debut with a
value of more than $100 billion in its initial public offering
in May, buoyed by its global user base of almost 1 billion, but
had shed one third of its value on its uncertain sales outlook.
The social network is under pressure to boost advertising
revenues, but doing so is a delicate exercise as it must avoid
giving users the impression it is invading their privacy.
The Irish watchdog has already carried out a privacy audit
of Facebook, as a result of which it made recommendations about
Facebook's policies on tagging photos, retaining and deleting
data and the level of control users have over their information.
A second audit is designed to test Facebook's progress in
implementing those recommendations, and to ensure that the
company is complying with the law.
"Failure to comply with any such obligation could result in
enforcement action," the Commissioner's office said.
"It's still all systems go, on getting this work with
Facebook to an end, and from our perspective producing an output
which ensures that Facebook is compliant with European data
protection," Gary Davies, Deputy Data Protection Commissioner
(DPC), told Reuters.
Europe-v-facebook earlier complained that the watchdog had
stopped taking its calls and had sent a text message saying it
would no longer speak to the organisation. It said it feared its
concerns about Facebook were no longer being taken seriously.
The Irish data watchdog said in a statement on Monday:
"Europe-v-facebook performed a useful public service in
highlighting the specific issues raised in its complaints."
"We informed the organisation last week that we had nothing
to add to the answers we had already provided both orally and in
writing and that therefore senior staff members were not
available to discuss such procedural matters any further."
Schrems said a delegation from europe-v-facebook planned to
fly to Dublin next Monday to consult with their lawyers and to
try to meet with the Commissioner.
The Commissioner's office said the purpose of its audit was
not to address the complaints of europe-v-facebook, but that it
would be happy to address any remaining complaints not resolved
as part of the audit process.
(Reporting by Georgina Prodhan)