Dutch court wants expert to hunt Facebook's systems for lost revenge porn data

A shelf of hard drives in a Facebook cold storage system

A shelf of hard drives in a Facebook cold storage system

A Dutch court won't take Facebook's word it has deleted data that could identify the person behind a now-deleted pseudonymous account from which a sex tape was posted, and wants the company to allow an independent expert to scour its systems for the missing information.

The ruling appears to mean that Facebook and other sites must retain account data if they think there is something fishy going on, and that is at odds with Dutch privacy law, which requires Facebook to store as little information as possible, for as little time as possible, said Menno Weij, an IT lawyer uninvolved in the case.

On Thursday, the Amsterdam District Court ordered Facebook to hand over information that could help a 21-year-old woman find out who posted a sex video of her to the social network. If Facebook cannot produce the data, it must allow an independent expert to check if the data is indeed untraceable.

The video, in which the woman is recognizable, was posted to Facebook on Jan. 22 from an account with a fake name composed of the woman's first name and her place of residence. It was shot by the woman's ex-boyfriend when both were minors. The ex-boyfriend denies he posted the video.

Facebook removed the video the same day, within an hour of it being reported as offensive, according to the court ruling, and the woman also reported the matter to the police the next day.

On Jan. 26, the creator of the pseudonymous account requested its deletion, and 94 days later, on April 30, the woman's lawyer asked Facebook to provide the name and address of the creator of the account.

Facebook deactivates accounts for a short period after receiving deletion requests, during which time they can be reactivated, and only after that period has expired does it begin to delete the data. It can take up to 90 days to delete all the data from Facebook's systems, according to its website.

"The offending account was ultimately deleted before we received any request for user data, so all information about it was removed from our servers in accordance with our terms and applicable law," Facebook said Friday.

During the court hearing, Facebook's lawyers couldn't clarify whether the information could have been stored on a backup server or elsewhere. The court said it couldn't rule out the possibility that at least some information might still be available somewhere, ordering Facebook to hand over within 14 days all known data related to the pseudonymous account, including the name, email address, mobile phone number, date of birth and IP-address used to register the account, or let someone look for it on the court's behalf.

Even if the data has been deleted, it is possible that a team of experts could still find some of it, said Weij, who has experience with cases in which data was retrieved from a laptop two years after it was deleted.

Loek is Amsterdam Correspondent and covers online privacy, intellectual property, online payment issues as well as EU technology policy and regulation for the IDG News Service. Follow him on Twitter at @loekessers or email tips and comments to loek_essers@idg.com

Join the newsletter!

Or

Sign up to gain exclusive access to email subscriptions, event invitations, competitions, giveaways, and much more.

Membership is free, and your security and privacy remain protected. View our privacy policy before signing up.

Error: Please check your email address.

Tags FacebooklegalCivil lawsuits

Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Peter Sayer and Loek Essers

IDG News Service
Show Comments

Brand Post

Most Popular Reviews

Latest Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Emily Tyson

MSI GE63 Raider

If you’re looking to invest in your next work horse laptop for work or home use, you can’t go wrong with the MSI GE63.

Laura Johnston

MSI GS65 Stealth Thin

If you can afford the price tag, it is well worth the money. It out performs any other laptop I have tried for gaming, and the transportable design and incredible display also make it ideal for work.

Andrew Teoh

Brother MFC-L9570CDW Multifunction Printer

Touch screen visibility and operation was great and easy to navigate. Each menu and sub-menu was in an understandable order and category

Louise Coady

Brother MFC-L9570CDW Multifunction Printer

The printer was convenient, produced clear and vibrant images and was very easy to use

Edwina Hargreaves

WD My Cloud Home

I would recommend this device for families and small businesses who want one safe place to store all their important digital content and a way to easily share it with friends, family, business partners, or customers.

Walid Mikhael

Brother QL-820NWB Professional Label Printer

It’s easy to set up, it’s compact and quiet when printing and to top if off, the print quality is excellent. This is hands down the best printer I’ve used for printing labels.

Featured Content

Latest Jobs

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?