Between May and June 2015 experts of the Association for Consumer Protection in Romania (APC Romania), analysed the terms and conditions of use of the Facebook community. The study addressed especially the clauses governing “privacy terms”, “data protection policy” and “statement of rights and responsibilities” in terms of behaviour and consumer protection.
A first finding is that the terms and conditions of use can prove difficult to find and be read by consumers. The APC experts managed to view, print and analyse 134 pages of terms and conditions, available on the website.
An important aspect here is that anyone who creates a Facebook account automatically adheres to the terms and conditions of use of the service, and therefore, gives their consent on the use of personal data by Facebook INC.
Minimum allowed age is 13 years
This “cannot be considered a suitable age, as no age specific protection is offered, leaving juveniles exposed to a number of hazards that they not aware of. An example of this is harassment or online manipulation,” the APC Romania experts say.
Under the terms, Facebook collects both personal data (name / surname, date of birth, gender, telephone number, email address and password required to create an account), as well as other data, such as content of the information posted, number of credit or debit card, account number, billing, delivery or contact addresses, when making purchases on Facebook, but also data on user activity, that Facebook uses for different purposes. Purposes stated by Facebook for collecting such information include improving Facebook and developing their own services, conducting surveys and research, marketing messaging, display advertising and services performance measurement.
“Facebook users should be aware that deleting their Facebook account does not equal deleting the data / information from Facebook’s database. They remain stored even after account deletion, especially if the account is only disabled, if Facebook believes that the information can be used for the intended purposes. Therefore Facebook users grant, by distributing content and information, an unlimited right to their own person, a right to sell, sub-license or royalty free reproduction for any post,” the study warns.
Facebook is a public space
During an unprecedented trial in 2014, the High Court of Cassation decided that the personal profiles on Facebook are to be considered public space, given that the information dispensed can be taken and redistributed.
However, Facebook does not clearly define the data retention period, it does not provide users with information and appropriate warnings about the risks concerning data privacy and it does not provide an age verification software, which creates the premise that minors under the age of 13 years can also create accounts on this platform account.
Considering these aspects, APC recommends Facebook users to:
- • carefully read the terms and conditions of use for Facebook;
- • decline the friendship of strangers, with no profile picture and to not provide information about themselves (education, professional skills, hobbies);
- • use a special email address just for Facebook (Yahoo, Gmail, Hotmail);
- • use two different browsers, one to connect on Facebook and one for all other activities on the Internet, or two different windows;
- • supervise their children upon creating an account and during their activity on Facebook;
- • determine how much of their personal information they want to be known publicly.
The Association for Consumer Protection in Romania is a non-political and non-profit organization, founded on February 28, 1990. APC Romania is the only public benefit organization whose main goal is the defence, promotion and representation by all legal means of consumer rights and interests in relations with operators and institutions.