Facebook also building profiles for non-users?

A complaint recently filed in Ireland alleges that Facebook is collecting information about non-users:

Eight hundred million users are not enough. Facebook, the world’s biggest social network, is now building profiles of non-users who haven’t even signed up, an international privacy watchdog charges.

The sensational claim is made in a complaint filed in August by Ireland’s Data Protection Commissioner. It alleges that users are encouraged to hand over the personal data of other people — including names, phone numbers, email addresses and more — which Facebook is using to create…

European law carries heavy penalties for companies that violate “information privacy” laws — in contrast to the relatively lax U.S. laws. But the U.S. has issues with Facebook as well: Privacy rights litigation is proceeding in Mississippi, Louisiana, Kansas and Kentucky. The U.S. Federal Trade Commission is also probing complaints about Palo Alto-based Facebook, while Congress is calling for an inquiry.

Kubasta noted that — for better or for worse — Facebook’s best defense may be a good offense. After all, it’s not alone: Several other websites are undertaking this kind of tracking as well.

“Regardless of what Facebook is doing, many websites collect and propagate personally identifiable information about individuals who have not entered into any agreement with the website. Just a few examples include Spokeo, iSearch, WhitePages.com,” Kubasta told FoxNews.com.

Three quick thoughts:

1. Doesn’t it really depend on what Facebook actually does with this data? If other companies are also doing this, what is so insidious about Facebook doing it? Is Facebook held to a different standard because people voluntarily give their information to them?

2. This sounds like it could have some interesting legal ramifications as companies have to comply with both European and American regulations.

3. I’ve said this before: if you are really worried about your information being collected anywhere on the Internet, the best solution is to not use the Internet at all.

The (statutory) damage is done

I covered the Tenenbaum case earlier in a few posts here earlier this week, but I decided to step back and do a bit a broader analysis in a guest post over at the Citizen Media Law Project blog.  Check it out.