Social network giant Facebook's privacy policies are back in the spotlight and this time the companies Irish offices are being audited.
The latest investigation began when 24-year-old Austrian law student Max Schrems asked Facebook for a copy of all his personal data in June 2011. In reply Facebook sent him a CD containing 1,200 pages of data, which included pages and comments that he had liked, his friend and de-friend history, and all of his chat logs.
But to his amazement Schrems discovered that the data he had previously deleted was also returned unchanged on the CD. Although he believed it had been all been trashed forever, Facebook had in fact retained his information.
Thanks to that discovery, Facebook's Ireland offices will be audited soon, and the company could face a possible $138,000 fine for retaining data deleted by users, The Guardian reports.
After making his shocking discovery, Schrems proceeded to start an initiative called 'Europe versus Facebook,' and he filed 22 individual claims about the social network’s practices.
Schrems' complaints include some of the ways that Facebook retains deleted user data, and his new initiative highlight some of the more controversial aspects of Facebook's Terms of Service and business shortcomings.
"Postings that have been deleted showed up in the set of data that was received from Facebook," says one complaint. "The privacy settings only regulate who can see the link to a picture. The picture itself is public on the internet. This makes it easy to circumvent the settings," says another.
Schrems discoveries have already prompted Ireland’s Data Protection Commissioner (DPC) to call for an audit of Facebook’s offices, which according to Mashable.com will reportedly take place before Christmas.
If the DPC find's that Facebook has indeed breached Irish data protection law, it can demand the company change the way it handles personal data. If Facebook fails to comply with the request, it could then face a fine of up to $138,000.
The political reality for Facebook is that the negative publicity could be even more damaging than the amount of the fine.