Privacy campaigners barred from releasing Facebook's response to complaints

Europe-v-Facebook says it will fight what it calls a "gag order" from the Irish Data Protection Commissioner

Campaign group Europe-v-Facebook received Facebook's response to complaints about the social networks' privacy policy on Tuesday, but was barred from publishing them by the Irish Data Protection Commissioner.

Europe-v-Facebook wrote to the DPC over two years ago alleging that a lack of transparency and user control over data held by the social network violates European data protection law. The DPC's and Facebook's responses to the complaints have left it unsatisfied.

"After two years of constant battling we finally received the 'counterarguments' by Facebook today," the group wrote on its website on Tuesday.

The DPC released Facebook's responses to 14 of the 22 complaints originally made by Europe-v-Facebook. The group now has until Oct. 17 to comment on the responses, and on eight others it has already received. The DPC will then circulate a draft of its decision to relevant parties for comment before publishing the final decision. It gave no timetable for that process

The DPC released the documents just a few weeks after the group requested it make a final, legally binding decision in the ongoing case.

The counterarguments take up more than 200 pages, but Europe-v-Facebook said that at first sight they are hardly dealing with the merits of the complaints.

Facebook users interested in the case will have to take the group's word for that, however, as the DPC released the information on condition that it not be shared with any third party, the Irish DPC wrote in a letter to the group's front man Max Schrems.

Schrems' legal advisors directly involved with the issue would not be considered third parties, DPC senior compliance officer Ciara O'Sullivan clarified in an email to IDG News Service. She declined to comment on other aspects of the matter because it is the subject of an ongoing statutory investigation.

Europe-v-Facebook said it will fight what it described as a "gag order," and has asked the DPC to justify the legal basis for restricting disclosure.

Facebook for its part is fully cooperating with the Irish DPC in seeking a resolution to the complaints, a spokeswoman said in an email. "We respect the procedure that has been established by the DPC and expect other parties to show them the same respect. This is the best way to resolve these issues fairly and in accordance with the law."

Loek is Amsterdam Correspondent and covers online privacy, intellectual property, open-source and online payment issues for the IDG News Service. Follow him on Twitter at @loekessers or email tips and comments to loek_essers@idg.com

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