EU Warns Facebook It Faces Sanctions Over ‘Misleading’ T&Cs

from The Guardian

Brussels has warned Facebook it will face sanctions unless it changes what the European commission calls its “misleading” terms and conditions.

The EU commissioner in charge of consumer protection, Vera Jourová, said she had run out of patience with the social network after nearly two years of discussions aimed at giving Facebook’s European users more information about how their data is used.

“I will not hide the fact that I am becoming rather impatient because we have been in dialogue with Facebook almost two years,” Jourová told reporters. “Progress is not enough for me, I want to see results.”

Facebook has been given until the end of the year to change its terms of service. “Facebook will face sanctions from national authorities,” she said. “They will look into sanctions after the new year in case they do not see sufficient progress.”

More here.

Posted in International, Law, Social Media and tagged , , , .

6 Comments

  1. End User License Agreements or EULA are requirements for almost every software technology service. They are the rules for how you can use the software without the company who created bringing litigation against the end user. EULAs generally contain information on what and how the company will use the user’s information. Without agreeing, they cannot use the service, so mostly people just click agree without even reading it. Facebook, with it’s large budget and team of lawyers, can use all kinds of jargon to make it so even if the user did read it, they won’t be able to understand it. This gives them the chance to write any number of things into the agreement and users will be none the wiser.

    I think the EU is making a good step here by focusing on consumer protection. Facebook and its data handling procedures have been in the news with the Cambridge Analytica scandal, and users have the right to know where their data is going if they use a service. Yes it can be argued that the user has the responsibility to read the EULA and agrees to it. But the company gives the user and all or nothing choice. If the user disagrees with the EULA they cannot use the service, and when that is at play, they are just going to agree especially if they need the service. I also don’t think it is reasonable to expect the average consumer to sit and read the whole contract of each program and service they use, as that is just inefficient. At the end of the day, I think the EU is setting a good precedent for software companies by protecting the consumer and forcing less jargon into user agreements.

  2. I think that this is a good situation not just for Facebook, but for all large companies. Most of us just simply agree to the terms and conditions without reading them, whether we are signing up for a website, buying a car, or making an online purchase. This is for two reasons: because the company will not allow us to do what we want without accepting their specific terms, and we just generally trust the company because it is widely known. We often tend to forget the factor of privacy and just ignore it without thinking of the consequences involved. The EU is definitely making a huge change for Facebook users because it will let them know more about how their information is being used, which is a key factor for privacy. Companies do not think about protecting their users because they are it does not affect them, therefore it is the consumers’ job to repeal the terms and get what they want. Being forced into agreements should not exist; instead people should have more options. They should be allowed to pick what policies they would like to accept, but still be allowed access to what the company has to offer.

  3. This article brings up a bigger picture about big data and its uses. Facebook is a prime example of a company misusing its consumers’ data. The world of analytics and big data has gotten so large that it seems as though there is too much information to go off of. This is where companies such as Facebook involve themselves in misuse of private data as seen in the Cambridge Analytica scandal. This is something than can potentially get even more troubling with the rapid innovation of technology and expanding world of big data. The EU is definitely trying to protect the consumer in this case. The steps being taken by the EU are beneficial for all consumers along with Facebook and the business they are running. As mentioned in the article, Twitter is still trying to catch up to being more open and transparent about sharing consumer data. Facebook cannot be the only ones changing their ways about protecting the consumer. All large social media companies should follow suit.
    As far as Facebook and social media goes, the terms of service and telling the truth need to be more refined. When an individual signs up for a Facebook account or any social media site, they are prompted to read tens or hundreds of long pages to which they must agree to. No average person has the time or will to read even half of what is shown. Most people just accept the terms and move on. They are essentially agreeing to something that they did not even truly agree to. To use the service, there is really no choice anyway for the consumer. If the consumer declines, they will not be able to use the service. This means that the consumer agrees to give private data without knowing it. Facebook uses this against them by using that data as they please. The ethical problem is that social media sites like Facebook try to hide important information like this that impacts consumers greatly. This was seen during the Cambridge Analytica scandal where millions of consumers’ private data was leaked. A business such as Facebook should have their own guidelines and terms of service as they please. However, it should be easier for the consumer to know what their privacy is like and how their personal data will be used if at all. I believe this simple change would clean up a lot if ethical issues as well as make the service better for consumers and businesses.

  4. The fact that the EU is cracking down on social media networks because of the usage of big data is necessary. Many of never read the terms and agreements. We simply agree to them. I have never read the Facebook’s term and conditions but they are cracking down on how Facebook and how their data is used. Let’s not forget about the Cambridge Analytica scandal. Earlier in 2018, it was discovered that Cambridge Analytica, which is a political consulting who worked for the Donald Trump campaign, got information when Facebook exposed data of over 87 million users. Facebook allowed a third party developer to create an application whose purpose was to gather data. Not only did the people who use the app got the their information recorded, so did their friends. That scandal had affected Facebook’s image. People change their security settings so they feel comfortable on the site. They share the information they want to to the people they want to see it. The scandal was and invasion of privacy. People put their trust in Facebook and believed their information would not be exposed. This is an example how Facebook managed their big data.
    Facebook has been under the microscope and it is understandable why the EU is demanding change, not just progress. The term and conditions of the social media site should be specific and state how Facebook uses Facebook European data. This scandal left many people exposed. I understand that the EU wants Facebook to update their terms and conditions to clearly state how they will use the data we put on their site. I believe that they need to be more specific but they also need to be more concise. The terms and conditions is usually very long and the majority of users do not bother reading it. Even if Facebook were to include what they would do with the big data, many people will still not know. I believe that social media sites should find another way to get their message across because I do not know one person that sits down and reads the term and conditions word for word.
    I do believe what happened with Cambridge Analytica was an ethical issue. The firm found a way to access people’s information, even if they did not take the quiz. This invasion of privacy may make users question the site later on. Even though people did not deny the site to take their data, they did not say yes. They retrieved the data without their permission. I understand the EU is looking out for Facebook users after this incident but Facebook could still find a way to access your information. Even though I grant them access, it does not give them the right to take my friend’s data. Facebook can easily clean up this mess. All they have to do is be more specific in the terms of conditions. People will still continue this site because everyone is invested in social media. This is just for legality reasons.

  5. It’s seems that Facebook cannot keep itself out of the spotlight. Like in most cases regarding mass networks of consumer data, this scandal is about what Facebook does with its users information. The EU states that Facebook is violating EU consumer standards by not having a completely true and clear “terms and conditions”. V?ra Jourová states that Facebook will receive sanctions if they don’t change their terms of service before the end of the year. This situation is unique not because it is about protecting user information, but because it’s about making clear to the consumer on exactly what they are agreeing with when they agree to a web services Terms and Conditions. The EU exclaims that they don’t want Facebook to change what they do with user data, but include everything that happens to users data in the Term and Conditions of the site. This would be the first time that Facebook would receive negative attention/penalties from foreign governments. The commission states that Facebook has already made some changes but the terms and conditions don’t include that the users data is used for commercial purposes. This situation is another great example of what problems that may arise to major data collecting and processing companies. If Facebook wants to continue to flourish while protecting user rights and information, they must appeal to all foreign governments and international consumer standards.

  6. I agree with the EU’s commissioner, Vera Jourová. She is trying to protect citizens and make tech companies like (and including) Facebook transparent and accountable. The Cambridge Analytica scandal was just one example of what tech companies can do with mined consumer information. It is a show of how powerful these companies are, how valuable consumer data is, and to what lengths some unscrupulous companies will go to.

    Though for the most part, the tech companies complied with the commissioner’s requests, Facebook appeared to drag its feet. What was the reason for moving so slow or resisting? I am sure Facebook has a more than capable legal team that could have made the changes much sooner and without threat of sanctions from the commissioner. It seems being transparent threatens Facebook. Facebook has historically relied on consumer data freely with misleading terms and conditions which consumers may not have clearly understood.

    I speculate that companies with power and wealth sometimes intentionally mislead or perform some type of action that they know will get them in trouble and end up costing them money. They do so because the costs and legal processes are simply the cost of conducting business to them. With power, comes having connections to work the legal system. With power, comes having the financial capability to pay for the cost of conducting business. It may be cynical to think we have a rigged system, but if the writing’s on the wall, the writing is on the wall.

    I look forward to hearing about how Facebook moves forward with the commissioner’s requests. So far they’ve said their terms are now much clearer on what is and isn’t allowed on Facebook and on the options people have, and that it would continue “close cooperation” with regulators “to understand any further concerns and make appropriate updates”. Let’s see how it all pans out.

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