An Austrian student has kicked off a movement that pits EU privacy rules against Facebook's data collection practices. Max Schrems requested a copy of the data Facebook had collected on him (which Facebook is required to provide under EU law) and found himself with more than 1,000 pages of data that demonstrated several clear breaches of EU privacy laws. Kim Cameron has a good writeup on the ensuing complaints that Schrems filed:
Max is a 24 year old law student from Vienna with a flair for the interview and plenty of smarts about both technology and legal issues. In Europe there is a requirement that entities with data about individuals make it available to them if they request it. That’s how Max ended up with a personalized CD from Facebook that he printed out on a stack of paper more than a thousand pages thick (see image below). Analysing it, he came to the conclusion that Facebook is engineered to break many of the requirements of European data protection. He argues that the record Facebook provided him finds them to be in flagrante delicto.
The logical next step was a series of 22 lucid and well-reasoned complaints that he submitted to the Irish Data Protection Commissioner (Facebook states that European users have a relationship with the Irish Facebook subsidiary). This was followed by another perfectly executed move: setting up a web site called Europe versus Facebook that does everything right in terms using web technology to mount a campaign against a commercial enterprise that depends on its public relations to succeed.
Europe versus Facebook, which seems eventually to have become an organization, then opened its own YouTube channel. As part of the documentation, they publicised the procedure Max used to get his personal CD. Somehow this recipe found its way to reddit where it ended up on a couple of top ten lists. So many people applied for their own CDs that Facebook had to send out an email indicating it was unable to comply with the requirement that it provide the information within a 40 day period.