Facebook responds in retaliation to study that claims it has violated EU privacy law, accepts there was a ‘bug’

Facebook rubbishes claims of EU privacy law violation, acknowledges that there was a ‘bug’.

Facebook garners a lot of attention sometimes either for its privacy practices or when it is sued.

Partially in its defence, a platform which is just shy of 1.4 billion users is bound to attract a lot of attention in whatever it does. For the major part, Facebook is mostly reticent, abides with the laws where it operates and carries on about its business.

However, a little over a week ago, a Belgian privacy study implied that Facebook’s practices was not keeping the company abreast with the current data and privacy regulations in Europe. A claim that it refused to accept at that time.

In a more steady response, the company published an foreign post responding to the Belgian study that had suggested it was in breach of EU data laws for placing of cookies without consent and the tracking logged out users.

At the time of the report’s publication, a spokesperson said that “this report contains factual inaccuracies. The authors have never contacted us, nor sought to clarify any assumptions upon which their report is based.” Having glazed on it for a little over a week, the company accepted that it was indeed correct first time around.

“Over the past week, a team of privacy experts and engineers at Facebook analyzed the claims presented in a recent report authored by a group of researchers in Belgium. Our findings: The report gets it wrong multiple times in asserting how Facebook uses information to provide our service to more than a billion people around the world,” Facebook stated in its most recent post.

What then follows is a point-by-point reply of the claims made in the research, followed by a little more details, for example:

Claim: Facebook doesn’t respect people’s choice to opt out of behavioral ads when they visit websites and apps off of Facebook.

Fact: If someone opts out, we no longer use information about the websites and apps that person uses off Facebook to target ads to them.

Each of the claims and Facebook’s replies are available for all to see, if you wish to.

More interestingly perhaps, the one point in the research that seemed particularly relevant first time around was that some users who hadn’t visited Facebook were having cookies placed on their devices after using Facebook social plugins. While Facebook also says this isn’t its standard practice, it also acknowledged that there was a bug in the system.

Claim: Facebook wants to use Social Plugins to add cookies to the browsers of people who don’t use Facebook.

Fact: We don’t, and this is not our practice. However, the researchers did find a bug that may have sent cookies to some people when they weren’t on Facebook. This was not our intention – a fix for this is already under way.

Exactly when the solution will roll out, or how many people “some users” relates to is not known at this point, although Facebook has been questioned about this.

Although Facebook is clearly not very happy with the report, it appears that it did help it find a “bug” in its system that could have had an effect on the privacy of its users – any company that genuinely cares about the privacy of its users should really be grateful for that.

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