New Zealand privacy commissioner accuses Facebook of breaking the law | News | DW | 28.03.2018
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New Zealand privacy commissioner accuses Facebook of breaking the law

The public rebuke is the latest in a string of criticisms of the social media giant. Facebook has been at the center of a global scandal involving its alleged misuse of private user data.

Facebook broke the law by refusing to hand over data to a man who wanted to know what other users were writing about him, New Zealand's privacy commissioner said on Wednesday.

Commissioner John Edwards said his office wanted to name-and-shame the social media platform after it said New Zealand law did not apply to its operations. 

Read more: Facebook: German justice minister vows stricter regulations

"The social media company said the Privacy Act did not apply to it and it did not have to comply with the Commissioner's request to review the information requested by the complainant," he said.

He added that he "considers it necessary to publicly identify Facebook in order to highlight its demonstrated unwillingness to comply with the law, and to inform the New Zealand public of Facebook's position."

The commissioner's statement allows the unidentified man who requested the data to seek financial damages from Facebook.

Read more: Who is Facebook CEO and founder Mark Zuckerberg?

Facebook responds

The social media giant said Edwards' request was "broad and intrusive," and that it was protecting its users by refusing to comply.

"We are disappointed that the New Zealand privacy commissioner asked us to provide access to a year's worth of private data belonging to several people and then criticized us for protecting their privacy," it said.

The company added that it had probed the man's request, but that it could not resolve it because of a lack of information. It did not respond to Edwards' claim that it should be subject to New Zealand law, despite operating out of Ireland, or say whether it would challenge the commissioner's finding in court.

"We don't believe there's any credible question that it's operating in New Zealand and is subject to New Zealand laws," Edwards said, citing the platform's 2.5 million users in the country and its business with New Zealand-based companies.

Read more: Facebook's Cambridge Analytica data scandal: What you need to know

Latest public reproach

Facebook has in recent weeks been at the center of a global scandal after a whistleblower accused the company of mishandling user data.

Facebook allegedly gave data consultancy Cambridge Analytica improper access to private data of millions of its users.

US and European lawmakers have requested that the company testify in response to the accusations.

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