Google and Facebook taken to task, Twitter suspected of user data misuse
Ruslan Gattarov, a Russian senator who has recently become an advocate for the privacy of Russian Internet users, continues his crusade against what he perceives as the unlawful actions of the world’s largest Internet companies in Russia.
In late August, he asked the Prosecutor General’s Office of the Russian Federation and Roskomnadzor, the key federal agency for telecommunications and information technologies, to examine Twitter’s confidentiality policy.
Gattarov believes that this policy violates both Russian and EU personal data protection laws. A copy of his request was also sent to the Council of Europe data protection commissioner Eva Souhrada-Kirchmayer, RIA Novosti reported.
Specifically, Gattarov alleged that Twitter’s policy contradicts the 1981 European Convention for the Protection of Individuals. In his opinion, the policy fails to clearly determine the purpose of collecting a user’s personal data – a gross inconsistency with Article 5 of the Convention. Furthermore, Twitter does not allow for a user to request the deletion of his or her personal data from the social network, which may violate Article 8 of the Convention, the senator pointed out.
The senator also alleged that Twitter violated Russia’s Personal Data Law. This law came into effect in 2011 and includes a range of restrictive amendments approved by then President Dmitry Medvedev. Twitter’s grounds for allowing access to a user’s personal data by third parties are “too abstract” and therefore not in line with the law’s requirements.
Finally, Gattarov complained about the lack of a Russian translation of the social network’s confidentiality policy since Twitter automatically translates the rest of its interface into Russian. This represents an infringement of Russian users’ right to comprehensible information about the way their personal data is managed, the lawmaker stated.
In a separate move, the senator has pushed for stricter financial penalties for legal entities tolerating or benefiting from personal data leaks on the Internet
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Twitter is not the only target of this Russian rule-of-law crusader. Gattarov raised similar questions over Google’s policies in July and Facebook’s in August.
He became more content with Google’s stance on personal data protection after a meeting in Moscow with Google vice president Carlo D’Asaro Biondo. At this meeting, he suggested that Russia and the Internet giant cooperate in putting together an international supragovernmental body to protect and keep personal data under the UN auspices.
The senator was far from happy, however, about Google’s tax policy in Russia. He publicly criticized Google for allegedly evading taxes “for years” through manipulations involving local paid contextual ad contractors.
With Facebook, the young legislator’s August 1 finger-wagging about the network’s confidentiality policy was very similar to his most recent complaints about Twitter. As with Google, Gattarov feels that the company is avoiding paying taxes due to its unwillingness to open a national representative office in Russia – a charge that has been leveled against Facebook by countries “from all over the world,” including France, Germany, and the UK, the senator underscored.
Last week, East-West Digital News approached Ruslan Gattarov, Roskomnadzor, and the Prosecutor General’s Office of the Russian Federation for comments. None has provided any update, and the Prosecutor General’s Office surprisingly denied the very knowledge of having anything to do with the probe.