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Facebook and Google under continued privacy pressure

Both Facebook and Google have had a busy time defending their privacy practices recently. As leaders in the online and social networking world they have been singled out by regulators who want them to ensure that their services always have “privacy by design” at heart.

Facebook has incurred the displeasure of
the Article 29 working party for changing its default settings to the detriment of users’ privacy. Although only one of twenty social networking sites targeted, Facebook was singled out in the working party’s efforts to persuade all sites to adopt default settings which opt users out of allowing their profiles and contacts to be seen. Attacking some sites’ advertising models, the regulators also made it clear that they believe any access by third parties should be subject to explicit consent. Facebook has responded by rolling out simplified privacy options, although these have not received universal approval from regulators.

Meanwhile Google had to own up to harvesting personal information inadvertently from Wi-Fi networks when its Street View cars surveyed public areas in several European countries. The ICO has already demanded that the information is destroyed but regulators in Germany want Google to hand over their hard drives. Spain, France and the Czech Republic are also said to be investigating.

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