Statement on facebook
facebook is the largest global social network and is used enthusiastically by more than 1.5 billion people to share and communicate with friends all over the world. The use of the portal is free of charge but you have to accept certain conditions regarding privacy policies and the general terms (GTC). This is exactly the crucial point. Those who take the trouble to go through these documents will be confronted with a huge number of unclear and vague guidelines.
According to the currently applicable GTC (as of 30/01/2015) each user has to grant a permit for a worldwide license ‘explicitly’. This allows the corporation to use all contents (texts, pictures and videos) which are posted on facebook and protected by intellectual property rights. Moreover, for all contents which have been shared with others this IP-license does not even expire when you delete your account (Article 2.1).
This means in practice that the right of property and security of every post, every picture, every video, and anything else you publish on your facebook profile must always be handed over to and shared with third parties. As a consequence, the data and IP content are still yours but you have to allow facebook to collect and use them (Article 1). In this regard the possibility to change the privacy settings in order to determine what to share and with whom is also not very helpful. In case you really want to keep the control of your property you can basically not share anything with anyone anymore. However, then both the meaning and the benefits facebook is supposed to offer become increasingly questionable.
In addition to that, the information on data protection offer insights in what kind of data facebook collects, for which purpose and with whom it shares them. This concerns for instance the registration, all posts which are created and even messages. Moreover, facebook collects data on where a posted picture was taken, when a document was created, with whom you interact, which contents you look at, how often you do this, etc. This includes also all information others share about you.
Furthermore, all kinds of devices (computer, tablet, smartphone, etc.) you access facebook and use its services with, as well as other websites which are visited, are affected by this ‘information collecting mania’. Besides, facebook cooperates with third party companies for advertising and analysis purposes to which it transfers the collected data and information, even to the United States. In the end of 2015, the European Court of Justice (ECJ) clearly condemned the transfer of data to the US to be invalid. Also, the German consumer advice centre declared 19 provisions of the user conditions to be against the law and filed a suit against the corporation.
It is likewise complicated to file a lawsuit against facebook as private person. It is in principle possible under certain conditions but much more difficult in comparison to other companies. Legally tricky is the fact that facebook is not active in Germany. As a consequence, the court in California (USA) or the European headquarter of the United Group in Ireland are principally responsible. Finally, the enforcement of a judgment in these countries is very difficult.
The most recent developments concerning facebook are by no means less worrying. At the f8 Facebook Developers Conference the owner of the company Mark Zuckerberg presented his idea of a future universal platform. It is an attempt to additionally control all contents of sites outside facebook, while developing a network that the users are not supposed to leave anymore. A network, in which guidelines which are as unclear and vague as the general terms and the privacy policies decide what contents are feasible and legitimate.
The bottom line is that facebook is simply not a transparent platform. Not the user and his interests are in the foreground, but rather the benefits for facebook and the owner of the platform. All laws for the protection of personal data will be ineffective if they are constantly ignored by Internet companies. For all these reasons, we have as a company deliberately chosen not to be represented on facebook. However, since we support the basic idea of online networking you can find us on other, more user-friendly, platforms. As IT organisation focusing on data protection an security we would therefore also like to call special attention to alternative open source solutions.
One example in this regard is the diaspora* project: Instead of storing data on large centralised servers, which are part of a large organisation and are located in regions with questionable privacy policies, local servers (pods) can be set up anywhere in the world. You only need a diaspora-ID and may then decide yourself in which pod you want to register. Thereby you will always retain the rights over your data. We also support a pod under www.diasporaix.de. Of course, you may opt for any other server (Pod Liste, Pod Statistiken) like for instance the largest diaspora* pod geraspora or several other alternatives from which you can choose your pod yourself (wiki.diasporafoundation.org).
Finally, we would like to commend everyone to consider carefully what information to provide to whom, how, when, where and to be aware of all consequences.
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