VIENNA (Reuters) – An Austrian student group plans to go to court in a bid to make Facebook Inc, the world’s biggest social network, do more to protect the privacy of its hundreds of millions of members.
Privacy campaign group europe-v-facebook, which has been lobbying for better data protection by Facebook for over a year, said on Tuesday it planned to go to court to appeal against decisions by the data protection regulator in Ireland, where Facebook has its international headquarters.
The move is one of a number of campaigns against the giants of the internet, which are under pressure from investors to generate more revenue from their huge user bases but which also face criticism for storing and sharing personal information.
Europe-v-facebook has won some concessions from Facebook, notably pushing it to switch off its facial recognition feature in Europe.
But the group said on Tuesday the changes did not go far enough and it was disappointed with the response of the Irish Data Protection Commissioner, which had carried out an audit after the campaign group filed numerous complaints.
“The Irish obviously have no great political interest in going up against these companies because they’re so dependent on the jobs they c! reate,” europe-v-facebook founder Max Schrems told Reuters.
Gary Davies, Ireland’s deputy data protection commissioner, denied Facebook’s investment in Ireland had influenced regulation of the company.
“We have handled this in a highly professional and focused way and we have brought about huge changes in the way Facebook handles personal data,” he told Reuters.
Schrems, who has filed 22 complaints with the Irish regulator, said more than 40,000 Facebook users who had requested a copy of the data Facebook was holding on them had not received anything several months after making a request.
The law student also questioned why Facebook had only switched off facial recognition for users in the European Union, even though Ireland is the headquarters for all of Facebook’s users outside the United States and Canada.
Facebook is under pressure to reverse a trend of slowing revenue growth by selling more valuable advertising, which requires better profiling of its users.
Investors are losing patience with the social network, whose shares have dropped 40 percent in value since the company’s record-breaking $104 billion initial public offering in May.
Last month, Facebook proposed to combine its user data with that of its recently acquired photo-sharing service Instagram, loosen restrictions on emails between its members and share data with other businesses and affiliates that it owns.
Facebook is also facing a class-action lawsuit in the United States, where it is charged with violating privacy rights by publicizing users’ “likes” without giving them a way to opt out.
A U.S. judge late on Monday gave his preliminary approval to a second attem! pt to se ttle the case by paying users up to $10 each out of a settlement fund of $20 million.
Ireland also hosts the European headquarters of other high-tech firms including Microsoft and Google thanks to generous tax breaks.
Europe-v-facebook said it believed its Irish lawsuit had the potential to become a test case for data protection law and had a good chance of landing up in the European Court of Justice.
Schrems said the case could cost the group around 100,000 euros ($130,000), which it hoped to raise via crowd-funding – money provided by a collection of individuals – on the Internet.
(Additional reporting by Conor Humphries in Dublin; Editing by Mark Potter)
(This story was corrected to fix the headline, lead and the first paragraph to show that the campaign group plans to sue Irish regulator, not Facebook, in the first instance)
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Could we be seeing the end of routine doctor visits?
Scientific American reports that researchers are testing a new system for electronic doctor visits that could potentially eliminate the need for patients to see a doctor for routine illnesses.
Patients would simply enter their symptoms and health record into an online system, and doctors would use this information to send a diagnosis and, when necessary, a prescription.
Early reports suggest that such diagnoses were just as accurate as those given in person, although there are still some kinks that need to be ironed out:
Researchers analyzed some 5,000 doctor visits for sinus infections and 3,000 visits for urinary tract infection. Less than 10 percent of all visits were electronic. One possible e-visit drawback: doctors were more likely to prescribe antibiotics after an e-visit than a face-to-face.
But patients with an e-visit had just about the same rate of follow up as those who had an office visit. Which suggests that there was not a higher rate of misdiagnosis or treatment failure online. E-visits were also cheaper.
Detractors will note that this program only applies to relatively routine illnesses, but even so, this is nothing to sneeze at.
One of the primary goals of Obamacare was to cut down on the use of expensive emergency room visits for routine medical care, which was clogging up emergency rooms and leading to millions of dollars in unpaid medical bills. This looks like a much cheaper and simpler way to accomplish the same thing.
Naturally, we’ll need to see more studies before these programs can be rolled out on a national scale, but this looks like a good place to start toward improving the ! efficien cy of the health care system. Massive, top-down reforms like Obamacare get most of the attention, but it is smaller innovations like these will do the most to shape the healthcare of the future.
It also seems clear that letting consumers benefit from cheaper prices is a way to push the health care system as a whole toward less costly methods. E-visits for routine problems (and ultimately, perhaps, e-visits to nurses rather than to physicians) can offer better, faster, more convenient service at a lower price. Moving in directions like this is the kind of health care reform we desperately need.
Source: Incentive Targeting
Gripe and moan about it all you like, but public transport is a fundamental part of keeping any big city running—and this data visualization shows just how complex New York City’s public transit setup is.
Put together by YouTube user STLTransit, the video is a visualization of a single day’s public transit, between 4:00am and 4:00am. It’s made possible by the open source General Transit Feed Specification data from the MTA. Personally, I love the way that the routes become obvious as the city wakes up. [YouTube via Verge]