How to Get Facebook to Surrender Its Data about You

[ A blacked-out excerpt of a Facebook user's data. ]

Facebook members in Europe, listen up: European Union and Irish data-protection laws mean you have the right to get a copy of all the personal data Facebook has on you -- not just the data you uploaded but everything. The laws apply to Facebook because of its Dublin-based international HQ.

Austria-based Europe-v-facebook, which started its campaign in August, explains here how to request your data and which laws to cite [ listed below ]. Interestingly, you need to give Facebook a copy of your government-issued ID so the company knows it's giving the information to the right person. Facebook has 40 days to deliver a CD with your data.

The organization includes four examples of received information with sensitive information -- from check-ins to photos to chats -- blacked out. However, no one who has requested their data via old-fashioned mail has received a response, Europe-v-facebook notes.

UPDATE [2:44pm PDT ]: On the number of people who have requested their data from Facebook, Max Schrems of Europe-v-facebook tells LAUNCH, "We got tons of e-mails concerning this issue by users and had about 48,000 hits on the request page, so there must be a substantial number of people that requested there [sic] data."

Max also points out that that data requests have revealed that Facebook keeps data that users delete -- including tags, pokes and messages -- as detailed here.

It appears the campaign may be working: a Facebook rep told the organization it is planning an automated system to process data requests though it's not clear how that system will work [ see the ZDNet UK story ]. Max confirms that Europe-v-facebook is in contact with Facebook management and notes the company appears to be waiting with answers to data requests "until it is up." We have asked Facebook to verify that an automated system is in the works.

Ireland's Data Protection Commissioner is investigating the complainst Europe-v-facebook has lodged, and Facebook is cooperating with the investigation [ see story. ]

Thought bomb: what if 10K folks requested this from Facebook right now? What if 1M requested it as a sort of protest? Would Facebook rethink it draconian data practices?"


Ireland's Data Protection Act of 1988, section 4:

Directive 95/46/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 24 October 1995 on the protection of individuals with regard to the processing of personal data and on the free movement of such data