How to download your Facebook data

Facebook Logo - © has been criticised in some European countries recently for the amount of data that they collect about their users and how it gets used.  Some parts of Germany in particular have been very active on this issue, but it was a law student from Vienna that finally got things moving by officially requesting information on the data that was being stored about him.

EU Data protection legislation – and that of many member states – allows people to request companies about which data is being stored about them, and the companies are required to respond.  Often within a set time frame.

Facebook falls under this rule because of their European headquarters in Dublin, which makes them subject the Irish data protection commissioner.

Now at first Facebook allowed you to apply on-line for your data, but then you had to submit a scan of some form of ID and jump through a few hoops to get hold of your data, which apparently was sent out by post.

I guess in the end too many people were asking for this because now the whole things has become automated. [Read more…]

Have you read Google’s new privacy policy?

Google logo with magnifying glass - ©’s new privacy policy came into force at the beginning of this month, despite protests from the EU.  The chances are, that if you use any of Google’s services, you have accepted it.  Either you accepted it in advance by clicking on the button that appeared when you logged in, or you ignored it and have now silently accepted the new policy by continuing to use whatever services you may have accounts for.

But have you actually read it?

If you haven’t then you should because I think it is a good example of a clear and easy to understand policy.  Which makes you wonder what all the fuss is about. [Read more…]

Bye bye, ELENA!

Paragraph Symbol - ©Can Stock Photo Inc. / froxxAt the beginning of last year the German Government introduced ELENA – the Elektronischer Entgeltnachweis.

Put simply, since then employers have had to report information about their employees to a central database, such as how much their earn, the number of days holiday that they took and whether they went on strike.  The form is about three pages long, per employee, per month.

The whole system was criticised for collecting too much data about everyone, without it being strictly necessary.  Under the old system, much of the information was only required when applying for benefits, most notably unemployment benefit, at which point the company had to fill out a form (4 pages long if I remember correctly) about their former employee.

If someone had worked for more than one company within a certain amount of time, then all their previous employers had to fill one out.

With ELENA, the data would be collected month for month, meaning that the unemployment office would be able to access it without bothering or even waiting for the employers.

Except, of course, there were problems.  Who could guarantee that the data would not be used for any other purpose?  How would the unemployment offices be able to access the data of just one person, and only with their permission?

And, of course, it meant a lot more work for every employer every month of the year.

Due to all of these problems and criticism, and new law was introduced to the Bundestag to scrap ELENA.  However having been approved, it still did not make its way onto the German statute book until 3rd December, so between July and November employers have been sending in the data, knowing that it would not be used, but not wanting to risk a fine for not doing so.

So what, you may ask, did the German Government do with all the data that had been collected?

Did they keep it to use in the manner that had been intended?  Or did they delete it?

The answer is: neither!  Instead, they destroyed the encryption key that is needed to access the data.  The data itself is to be deleted over the next few weeks.

Which begs the question: if the key is destroyed, how is the data going to be deleted without wiping the entire database on which it resides?

… and what happens to the backups?

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