When Max Schrems lodged a formal request with Facebook asking the social network to provide him with a full record of the data it had collected on him, he received more than 1,000 pages of content, including photos and online conversations he had deleted years earlier.

That, says the Austrian student, is typical of Facebook’s “privacy policy,” and Schrems says it is in violation of European Union laws about data collection and use.

He then took his complaint to Ireland’s Data Protection Commissioner (DPC) and started Europe v. Facebook, an initiative he hopes will pressure the company into improving its transparency. All EU Facebook users access the site via its headquarters in Ireland.

Schrems blames U.S. corporate culture for Facebook’s privacy policies, saying “Americans don't understand the concept of data protection,” and that the run-in with European law is a “shock of civilisations.” The social media giant says it currently hosts 800 million users worldwide on its network.

Facebook’s privacy policies are revealed in detail in its Terms of Service agreement, but privacy advocates say it is long and complicated enough to discourage most users from even reading the document at all.

Facebook also routinely tracks EU users’ IP addresses, which reveal the physical location of users’ computers. It has stopped doing so in Germany after complaints.

Max Schrems joins the show via Skype to discuss his initiative and the broader implications of EU privacy law on Facebook’s policies.



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