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The European Union Warns Facebook Over Consumer’s Data Usage

Facebook said it has already updated its terms of service in May to incorporate changes recommended at that point by EU authorities.

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The European Union’s consumer protection chief said Thursday she’s growing impatient with Facebook’s efforts to improve transparency with users about their data, warning it could face sanctions for not complying.

EU Consumer Commissioner Vera Jourova turned up the pressure on the social media giant, saying she wants the company to update its terms of service and expects to see its proposed changes by mid-October so they can take effect in December.

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European Justice Commissioner Vera Jourova attends an interview with Reuters at the EU Commission headquarters in Brussels, Belgium. VOA

“I will not hide that I am becoming rather impatient because we have been in dialogue with Facebook almost two years and I really want to see, not the progress — it’s not enough for me — but I want to see the results,” Jourova said.

The EU wants Facebook to give users more information about how their data is used and how it works with third party makers of apps, games and quizzes.

“If we do not see the progress the sanctions will have to come,” she said. She didn’t specify punishment, saying they would be applied by individual countries. “I was quite clear we cannot negotiate forever, we just want to see the result.”

The EU has been pressing the U.S. tech company to look at what changes it needs to make to better protect consumers and this year Facebook has had to adapt to new EU data protection rules. The concerns took on greater urgency after the Cambridge Analytica data privacy scandal erupted, in which data on 87 million Facebook users was allegedly improperly harvested.

Jourova said she hopes Facebook will take more responsibility for its nearly 380 million European users.

“We want Facebook to be absolutely clear to its users about how their service operates and makes money,” she said.

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An advertisement in The New York Times is displayed on Sunday, March 25, 2018, in New York. Facebook’s CEO apologized for the Cambridge Analytica scandal with ads in multiple U.S. and British newspapers. VOA

Facebook said it has already updated its terms of service in May to incorporate changes recommended at that point by EU authorities.

The company said it “will continue our close cooperation to understand any further concerns and make appropriate updates.”

Jourova also said U.S.-based property rental site Airbnb has agreed to clarify its pricing system in response to complaints that it could mislead consumers.

Airbnb has promised to be fully transparent by either including extra fees in the total price for a booking quoted on its website or notifying users that they might apply, she said.

 

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U.S.-based property rental site Airbnb has agreed to clarify its pricing system in response to complaints that it could mislead consumers. Flickr

The company is complying with EU demands spurred by concerns that consumers could be confused by its complicated pricing structure, which could add unexpected costs such as cleaning charges at the end of a holiday.

Airbnb is also changing its terms of service to make it clear that travelers can sue their host if they suffer personal harm or other damages. That’s in response to complaints that its booking system can leave tourists stranded if the rental is canceled when all other arrangements have been already made.

Also Read: EU Regulators Question Online Retailer Amazon’s Data Usage

Airbnb said “guests have always been aware of all fees, including service charges and taxes, before booking listings,” and will work with authorities to make it even clearer. (VOA)

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Australia Proposes To Strengthen Regulations of Facebook, Google

Facebook has 17 million monthly users in Australia -- 68 per cent of its population -- while Instagram, second most popular site in terms of users - which is owned by Facebook, has 11 million users

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Australia recommends strengthening regulation of Facebook, Google. Pixabay

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) on Monday proposed measures to counter the dominant market positions of Google and Facebook and strengthen monitoring on their access to information, advertising and consumers personal data.

The regulatory body, which recommended 11 preliminary measures in the report, was directed to conduct a public inquiry into the impact of digital search engines, social media platforms and other digital content in 2017 by then treasurer and current Prime Minister Scott Morrison.

“Acting as an intermediary between consumers and news outlets, platforms are inherently influential in shaping consumers’ choices of digital journalism,” said the report cited by Efe news.

This influential position and filtration of news items could place the consumer in a so-called filter bubble, increasing the risk of consumers being exposed to unreliable news, according to the report.

“The algorithms operated by each of Google and Facebook, as well as other policies, determine which content is surfaced and displayed to consumers in news feed and search results,” it said.

“The ACCC considers that the strong market position of digital platforms like Google and Facebook justifies a greater level of regulatory oversight,” Chair Rod Sims said.

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Facebook, social media. Pixabay

The commission called for the creation of a regulatory authority with powers to monitor these digital platforms and recommended establishing an automatic mechanism to take down content that violates copyright.

The ACCC said consumers should be informed about the manner in which these platforms collect and use their data to create personalized advertising.

This would include a reform of privacy laws to require the user’s express consent to data collection and “enable consumers to require erasure of their personal information where they have withdrawn their consent”.

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ACCC said that it found that “competition may have been distorted in multiple sectors where consumer data is used”.

Facebook has 17 million monthly users in Australia — 68 per cent of its population — while Instagram, second most popular site in terms of users – which is owned by Facebook, has 11 million users.

In 2017, Google registered 90 per cent of search traffic originating from Australian desktops and 98 per cent from mobile phones. (IANS)