Is Russian social media giant VKontakte sidestepping the GDPR?

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF GLOBAL VOICES)

 

Is Russian social media giant VKontakte sidestepping the GDPR? One user is trying to find out.

As if revealing their users’ personal data to Russian authorities wasn’t bad enough, VKontakte may now run in serious trouble in Europe // Martinsson Serg, CC2.0

Russian social media network VKontakte has been having a bad few months. Multiple platform users have been prosecuted for their posts, and the company has been publicly shamed for its lack of transparency regarding how it shares user data with law enforcement authorities.

Now, VKontakte (VK) is facing a new privacy-related challenge: Kristian Shinkevich, a Belarussian activist living in Poland, is demanding that VK give him all the personal data that it has pertaining to him. The company has yet to comply. And in the meantime, it has suspended his access to the account.

Shinkevich first began wondering about VK’s data collection practices after he faced legal threats for participating in a demonstration in Belarus. Shortly thereafter, he was expelled from his university, where he says an administrator told him that the school had access to all their students’ VKontakte data, including which posts they had liked. In his case, this would have revealed his involvement with demonstrations.

Between this, and the fact that other Belarussian activists have been arrested for VKontakte posts promoting protests (an indication that authorities in Belarus also monitor activity on the social network), Shinkevich found himself wanting to know more about VK’s data collection practices.

So he looked to the European Union’s newly-instituted General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), a set of policies aimed at standardizing the handling of personal information by companies and organizations. Under the GDPR, any company that processes the personal information of EU subjects must comply with certain rules regarding the protection and transfer of such data.

Another provision stipulates that EU subjects have a right to access the personal information that companies retain about them, and that they have a right to know how this information is used.

Although Shinkevich is a citizen of a non-EU state, Belarus, he is entitled to request this information under the GDPR, as an EU resident (or “subject”, as described in the GDPR) in Poland. Additionally, despite the fact that VKontakte is a Russian company, it must still comply because it is providing services to EU subjects abroad and handling their information.

Noncompliance would give EU authorities the power to levy a fine of either 20 million euros or 4 percent global gross revenue, depending on which is higher.

When Shinkevich filed a request to VKontakte Support to get access to all the data VKontakte had collected about him, he received the requested file. He described what he found on Facebook:

Today I have received the file, and that’s freaking serious.

They store:
1. the whole name and surname changes history
2. groups and public pages I’ve managed
3. name of files uploaded, from which IP address, city, links to the deleted files, moreover, even simple voice messages from deleted conversations are there
4. complete list of files I’ve removed from my page, their exact address, name, date added, direct link – no matter that they all have been removed – voice messages, PDF documents etc.
5. adresses [sic] of pictures from Saved Photos album (protected). Direct links can be opened without being logged in
6. complete history of conversations, including removed, up to 27.06.2018 20:43:51 (the first message is dated 01.09.2016 21:40:30), with all the attachments including removed ones.
7. complete history of phone number ever linked to the account
8. history of password retrieval requests
9. all the comments and posts from my page timeline, including ones removed about 1-2 years ago (the section is titled “Messages posted on the user’s wall”)

This file is about 1,5 Mbytes but it has al [sic] the history of my activity on VK since 2016 (when my page was created).

Shinkevich was not surprised by what the file contained — but he was surprised at what it lacked. “I am pretty sure that what they have sent me is not the whole information, and they have much more,” he wrote on Facebook.

Indeed, VKontakte’s privacy policy indicates (in section 4.2.1) that the company processes a wide range of information about users and their activities, including but not limited to information about the “user’s operating system, type of a browser, geographic position, the Internet provider, contacts, data obtained accessing the camera, microphone and similar devices.” The policy does not clearly define how this data is treated after being processed. VK’s terms of service (7.2.5) indicate that “the Site Administration has the right to keep archive copies of the user Content for an indefinite period.”

Do these and other types of information qualify as “personal data”? It depends on where you ask the question. While Russian Federal Law 152 defines personal information as any information directly or indirectly related to a specific individual, the GDPR has a very specific breakdown of this wide interpretation. But as the terms of the GDPR apply to all companies providing services to EU subjects, VKontakte is required by law to follow these terms when dealing with customers in the EU.

When Shinkevich asked VKontakte for the rest of the information, it evaded his request. The company later blocked his access to his account at the end of July. His page is still online, but he cannot log in to it or reset his password.

When Russian news aggregator TJournal reached out to VKontakte, they said:

We didn’t block the user’s page. Access was restricted after the user changed several key parameters, including first name, last name, gender, and so on. Such activity is considered suspicious and could be proof that the account was sold or given to another person.

Restricting access to the page isn’t in any way related to the user’s GDPR information request.

Shinkevich has since filed a complaint with Poland’s personal data security service and has taken the controversial step of advocating that VKontakte be blocked in Poland.  He joins a growing number of voices urging users to stop using VKontakteand delete their pages.

Last year, VKontakte’s total revenue was over $200,000,000.If found in violation of GDPR, their fine would be ten percent of that amount. With upwards of two million EU users, the social network could soon pay a hefty price if it doesn’t address privacy concerns.

Neighbor Calls Police For 12 Old Boy Mowing Lawn

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF ABC NEWS)

 

Neighbors who call police on 12-year-old mowing lawn increase his business, customer says

PHOTO: Reginald Fields has received a new lawnmower and new leaf blower from people in the community after neighbors called the police on him for cutting their grass.WEWS
WATCH12-year-old boy mowing lawn gets business boost after complaint to police

A 12-year-old Ohio boy who operates his own lawn mowing business has gained more customers after one neighbor called the police one him for mowing part of her yard.

Maple Heights resident Lucille Holt had employed 12-year-old Reginald Fields, who owns Mr. Reggie’s Lawn Cutting Service, to mow her lawn on Saturday, she told ABC Cleveland affiliate WEWS.

Reginald’s cousins often help him work, and one of the neighbors called the police on them after the group of kids accidentally cut part of their grass, Holt said in a Facebook video she posted on Saturday.

“They called the police to tell the police that the kids was cutting their grass,” Holt said. “Who does that?”

The patch of grass the neighbors were apparently referring to sits between Holt’s home and theirs. There is no fence there to mark where the property begins and ends.

“I guess I have a line there, that’s not part of my yard,” Holt said.

The video showed a police car parked across the street from Holt’s home and two neighbors sweeping grass debris off their driveway. Holt said that, in the past, neighbors have called the police when her kids were throwing snow balls and another time when her son “was crying ’cause he was getting a whoppin’.”

PHOTO: A police car is seen parked outside the home of Lucille Holt Colden in Maple Heights, Ohio. Lucille Holt Colden
A police car is seen parked outside the home of Lucille Holt Colden in Maple Heights, Ohio.
PHOTO: Neighbors in Maple Heights, Ohio, called the police on Mr. Reggies Lawn Cutting Service because he cut their grass by mistake.Lucille Holt Colden
Neighbors in Maple Heights, Ohio, called the police on Mr. Reggie’s Lawn Cutting Service because he cut their grass by mistake.

“You called the police cause the kids [are] out here cutting the grass, and they cut the grass that wasn’t part of our grass?” Holt said. “I don’t know what part is my grass and what part is your grass.”

She continued, “They should be glad these kids aren’t out there breaking their car windows out,” Holt said. “They should be glad the kids [aren’t] out here stealing their cars.”

Holt then asks one of the boys how old he is. When he responds that he is 9 and went to school with one of the neighbors, she praises him for being productive.

“I’m so glad [you’re] out here doing something positive, she said.

PHOTO: Reginald Fields has received a new lawnmower and new leaf blower from people in the community after neighbors called the police on him for cutting their grass. Lucille Holt Colden
Reginald Fields has received a new lawnmower and new leaf blower from people in the community after neighbors called the police on him for cutting their grass.more +

An officer then comes to talk to Holt, asking her if they can “go inside around the corner so you guys don’t have to look at each other while I talk to you.”

When Holt asks why, the officer says, “‘Cause I don’t want it to turn into anything. I’m trying to make it easy on everybody.”

The Maple Heights Police Department did not immediately respond to ABC News’ request for comment. WEWS reached out to the neighbors, who said they saw the video but declined to comment further.

Holt ended the video saying she was “so angry right now that these babies [are] going through this — getting the police called on them ’cause they’re cutting grass.”

Reginald didn’t realize he was cutting the neighbor’s grass, he told WEWS.

“They said I was cutting their grass,” he said. “I didn’t know it!”

Ever since the incident, which has been viewed more than 150,000 times on Facebook as of Friday, Reginald has been getting more business calls than ever from all over the city, he said.

“People are inboxing me like, ‘How can I get in touch with this children? Where are they at? I got property I want these kids to cut,'” Holt said.

Reginald told the local station that he planned on saving the money he made to buy new equipment and grow his business.

PHOTO: Mr. Reggies Lawn Cutting Service has received a new lawnmower and new leaf blower from people in the community after neighbors called the police on him for cutting their grass.Lucille Holt Golden
Mr. Reggie’s Lawn Cutting Service has received a new lawnmower and new leaf blower from people in the community after neighbors called the police on him for cutting their grass.more +

On Friday, Holt posted video of Reginald receiving a new lawn mower and leaf blower from members of the community who saw her video.

BRAZIL: Politicians Now In Power Will Never Allow An Election With Lula On The Ballot

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE BRAZILIAN NEWS AGENCY 247)

 

Only In America Is It Possible For Politicians To Be This Clueless About China/Reality

(THIS ARTICLE IS FROM ‘ANDY TAI’S’ GOOGLE PLUS WEB SITE ON GLOBAL RELATIONS)

(ONLY IN AMERICA IS IT POSSIBLE FOR POLITICIANS TO BE THIS COMPLETELY CLUELESS TO REALITY, RIGHT?)

in US Congress:
Sen. Dan Sullivan (R-Alaska)…: “Mr. Zuckerberg, quite a story, right? Dorm room to the global behemoth that you guys are,” he began. “Only in America, would you guys agree with that?”
Zuckerberg: “Senator, mostly in America.”
Senator: “You couldn’t do this is China, right?”
Zuckerberg: “Well, uh….well, senator, there are some very strong Chinese Internet companies.”
Senator: “Right but, you’re supposed to answer ‘yes’ to this question. Okay, come on, I’m trying to help you, right? Gimme a break. You’re in front of a bunch of senators. The answer is ‘yes’!”

but the answer is, honestly, not yes.

“Only in America” (Are Lawmakers this Clueless about China)

Good Joke From A Old School Friend On Facebook; Copy Pasted

Good Joke From A Old School Friend On Facebook; Copy Pasted

 

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Billy Graham: The Greatest Act Of Love We Can Do Is…

(I GOT THIS FROM A FACEBOOK FRIEND, I HOPE YOU LIKE IT)

 

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January 21st, 2021—Or maybe sooner—After The Impeachment

(I GOT THIS ONE FROM A FRIEND OF MINE ON FACEBOOK, THOUGHT YOU MIGHT ENJOY THE IRONY AND THE HUMOR)(Bizarro.com/BizarroComics)

 

Coming soon!

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A Post From: Independent Fundamental Baptist Of The World

(THIS IS AN ARTICLE THAT I GLEANED FROM A FACEBOOK ORGANIZATION THAT I AM A MEMBER OF, THE NAME OF THE ORGANIZATION IS: INDEPENDENT FUNDAMENTAL BAPTIST OF THE WORLD)

 

2 Chronicles 29:20
Calls to Leadership for revival
Yesterday I said I was going to share over the next couple of days some things that need to happen in the leadership of our churches if we want real revival. It is not my intent to say I know all there is to know about revival, but I want to see it. I’m not trying to impress you, I am to set in my ways for that. But what would happen if we as leaders did seek God for true revival? Anyway, I am just sharing with you what God is laying on my heart.

Renewed call to worship – 20

The first call was a call to purity, now we look at second call, a call to renewed worship.
1. After the priests and Levites purified themselves and clean the temple for service, Hezekiah called the leadership to a time of worship.
• Anytime there was a dullness of religion amongst God’s people, their worship was the first thing to fall by the wayside! You can attend church, and even preach and still not worship God.
• In every revival recorded in the scripture, a renewed call to real worship was major factor in bringing about change! It started with the leaders!
• How can we expect to lead others to worship God, If we are not worshipping???

2. Worship is more than just coming to sit in a room to hear a message, or preach a message, and sing a few hymns! Worship doesn’t come from the mind, it comes from the heart!
• Scriptural worship always involves sacrifice! In our case, the giving of ourselves totally to God!
• “Romans 12:1”I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service.” act of worship.
Let us check our heart!

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Jesus Isn’t Just The Reason For The Season

(I GOT THIS LITTLE ARTICLE FROM A FACEBOOK POST A FRIEND SENT TO ME, HOPEFULLY YOU WILL ALSO LIKE IT)

 

Billy Graham’s 100th Year

(THIS ARTICLE IS ONE I BROUGHT OVER FROM FACEBOOK, IT WAS POSTED BY SYLVIA LUXFORD)

 

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