Written question – Facebook data – E-005711/2014

Parliamentary questions

9 July 2014


Question for written answer

to the Commission

Rule 130

Ramon Tremosa i Balcells (ALDE)

Subject:  Facebook data


A total of 689 000 Facebook users were used as guinea-pigs in a week-long psychological study, without being asked whether they wanted to take part in it. The researchers were trying to establish whether a link exists between what Facebook users read on the social network and what they end up writing themselves. The study manipulated users’ timeline to see how they reacted when they read posts.

They found out that if users’ timelines filled up with negative posts from their friends, they tended to reflect the same tone in their posts. The possibility that users’ state of mind could be artificially altered by manipulating their timeline has a number of implications, such as whether a population group could be swayed prior to elections, or an audience held captive to ensure more time is spent visiting certain pages so as to increase advertising revenue.

In the light of the above, does the Commission intend to take action to protect the privacy of European users of Facebook?

What steps does it intend to take to prevent the mass manipulation of Europeans’ feelings?

Original language of question: ES

Last updated: 24 July 2014

via Written question – Facebook data – E-005711/2014.


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Parliamentary questions
22 August 2014
Answer given by Ms Reicherts on behalf of the Commission
The EU rules on protection of personal data (Directive 95/46/EC) require inter alia that processing of personal data shall comply with the principles of purpose specification and limitation and of fair processing. The monitoring of the application of EU data protection rules by individual companies is within the responsibility of the national supervisory authorities in the Member States and of national Courts without prejudice to the competences of the Commission as guardian of the Treaties.

The Commission’s proposal for a General Data Protection Regulation aims to maintain and strengthen those rules, in order to ensure that citizens can reclaim control over the own data. It is also drafted in a technologically neutral way, ensuring that new processing techniques, such as the ones mentioned in your question, are tackled. Furthermore it aims to ensure a consistent approach of the data supervisory authorities throughout the EU, notably by the creation of a mechanism for national data supervisory authorities’ cooperation and mutual assistance, and by a new European Data Protection Board, for dealing with cases concerning individuals in several Member States.