Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Irish Data Protection Commissioner Facebook friend

The Information Officer at the Irish Data Protection Commissioner's Office has responded to my complaint about Facebook.
"Dear Mr. Corrigan

Thank you for your email received by our office on the 16th November, 2012.
The provision of personal data by Facebook Ireland either on a user's account, activity log, the download tool and the enhanced archive is considered by this Office to fully meet the requirements of the Data Protection Acts in relation to access.

If you consider that specific data is not available we need specific information from you as to what data in particular you consider was not made available.

Yours Sincerely

Stewart Fennell
Information Officer
Office of the Data Protection Commissioner Canal House Station Road Portarlington Co. Laois

Ph: 057 868 4800
Fax: 057 868 4757
E: info@dataprotection.ie
Interesting trick that.  The Irish Data Protection Commissioner's Office believe Facebook "fully meet the requirements of the Data Protection Acts in relation to access" and require me to detail the specific data that Facebook have about me that they have not made available.

Yet I don't know the data they hold on me and want to find out. If I can borrow from a certain Mr Rumsfeld, this is a known unknown the details of which are unknown to me and therefore unspecifiable by me.

I've replied to Mr Fennell as follows.
"Dear Mr Fennell,

The point of my original data access request was to find out what information Facebook hold on me.

The company has made clear in its automated response, despite your apparent belief to the contrary, that it does not provide all the data it holds on users through its download tools:

"One tool provides the most common data users are seeking when they make data requests. The second tool, called “expanded archive”, contains additional data.  We will continue to add data to your expanded archive over the next few months."

Could you explain how I provide you with specific information on data that is not made available by Facebook, without having any way of finding out the specific data it does not provide through its download tools?

I would remind you again of the plain wording of section 4(a)(iii) of the Data Protection Act which refers to entitlement to “information  constituting any personal data of which that individual is the data subject”,

I fail to see how a link to a couple of data download tools with restrictive licences and an instruction to use these to mine the Facebook site to see what I might find can be considered by the Data Protection Commissioner to “fully meet the requirements of the Data Protection Acts in relation to access.” Could you therefore provide me with evidence of this and details of the Commissioner’s ruling to the effect that these Facebook tools do fulfil the company’s obligations under the Acts and how and why they do so.


Ray Corrigan"
Update 21 November 2012:  At 10.10am this morning I got another acknowledgement from the IDC's office identical to the first one they sent - they have not yet categorised my communication as a 'query' or a 'complaint' with the same warning in Irish and English that I should not share it with anyone but they will get back to me within 15 days.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Acknowledgment from Irish Data Protection Commissioner

I've received a boilerplate response from the Irish Data Protection Commissioner's office to my complaint about Facebook. The haven't even looked at it closely enough yet to determine whether it is a "query" or a "formal complaint". This kind of 'we have to respond within x days to meet our target' rule is such a waste of time and energy when it leads to automation of these non-responses.

The non response includes a sign off warning I should not share it with anyone else - in Irish and English. Here it is in full:

"To Whom It May Concern

I acknowledge receipt of your e-mail to the Data Protection Commissioner.
Where your email relates to a query (as distinct from a formal complaint under the Data Protection Acts),  you should be aware that in line with our Customer Service Charter we aim to reply within 15 working days and usually much sooner.
 In doing so, we will communicate clearly, providing you with a full response to your query.

If we are not in a position to issue a reply within that period, we will inform you of its status.Regards

Office of the Data Protection Commissioner Canal House Station Road Portarlington Co. Laois

LoCall: 1890 252 231                         Ph: +353 (0)57 868 4800                 Fax: +353 (0)57
868 47 57

Is le haghaidh an duine nó an eintitis ar a bhfuil sí dírithe, agus le haghaidh an duine nó an eintitis sin amháin, a bheartaítear an fhaisnéis a tarchuireadh agus féadfaidh sé go bhfuil ábhar faoi rún agus/nó faoi phribhléid inti. Toirmisctear aon athbhreithniú, atarchur nó leathadh a dhéanamh ar an bhfaisnéis seo, aon úsáid eile a bhaint aisti nó aon ghníomh a dhéanamh ar a hiontaoibh, ag daoine nó ag eintitis seachas an faighteoir beartaithe. Má fuair tú é seo trí dhearmad, téigh i dteagmháil leis an seoltóir, le do thoil, agus scrios an t-ábhar as aon ríomhaire. Is é beartas na Roinne Dlí agus Cirt agus Comhionannais, na nOifígí agus na nGníomhaireachtaí a úsáideann seirbhísí TF na Roinne seoladh ábhair cholúil a dhícheadú.
Más rud é go measann tú gur ábhar colúil atá san ábhar atá sa teachtaireacht seo is ceart duit dul i dteagmháil leis an seoltóir láithreach agus le mailminder[ag]justice.ie chomh maith.

The information transmitted is intended only for the person or entity to which it is addressed and may contain confidential and/or privileged material. Any review, retransmission, dissemination or other use of, or taking of any action in reliance upon, this information by persons or entities other than the intended recipient is prohibited. If you received this in error, please contact the sender and delete the material from any computer.  It is the policy of the Department of Justice and Equality and the Agencies and Offices using its IT services to disallow the sending of offensive material.
Should you consider that the material contained in this message is offensive you should contact the sender immediately and also mailminder[at]justice.ie."
They haven't even bothered to address me by name. Let's see what comes next within 15 days - my guess is an auto acknowledgement that my communication is not a query but a formal complaint which they will be required to address within the requisite time period set out in section 10 of the Irish Data Protection Act.