The integration of web content by third party suppliers is not a new phenomenon. At the outset, information was basically limited to stock exchange prices or weather reports; but now that we have moved into a highly interactive age, people have the possibility to post comments or to integrate articles or blogs. To simplify interactivity, social network operators offer website publishers so-called social plugins. And this is where the data protection issues arise.
Back in 2006 we had to deal with a similar problem, that of web bugs. We said at the time that there were a number of data protection issues involved, and we pointed out what actions could be taken by web publishers and Internet users (see 13th annual report in French or German only). The integration of social plugins is a comparable phenomenon, but the problems they raise are exacerbated by their broad dissemination. At issue here are the tracking opportunities given to providers, because websites that have a social plugin automatically transfer information as soon as the page is called up.
In order to meet the requirements of the Swiss Data Protection Act, a website publisher who integrates the content of third party providers must be particularly careful to ensure that the user of his website is fully informed about the data processing that will take place as a result of a visit to his site. Detailed information about the points that should be included in a data protection declaration and how the declaration should be drafted can be found on our website in French and German.
Website publishers have an obligation to provide suitable technical and organisational measures to avoid unjustified privacy infringements. With regard to the specific case of social plugins, we would draw attention to the availability of data-compliant tools that can be found on the Internet (2-click recommend buttons).
Internet users, too, have to take responsibility for their actions. They can do this by adapting their surfing behaviour as well as configuring their software to reflect the situation on the Internet today, striking a balance between ease of use and the protection of their privacy.