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Europe to ban Facebook selling users' secrets

The European Commission is set to pass a law clamping down on the way Facebook gathers data about its users to pass on to advertisers.

At present, the social network 'eavesdrops' on its 800 million subscribers using sophisticated software that gathers info about their political opinions, sexuality, religion and even their whereabouts. The information is collected irrespective of the user's individual privacy settings.

In response to privacy concerns about this data being made available to advertisers in order to target services to specific users, the EU is to introduce a directive in January to ban Facebook from displaying targeted advertising unless the user explicitly allows it.

Targeted advertising represents a major revenue stream for Facebook, and the setback of a ban could affect the social network's plans for a stock market flotation. Even though most of this user data is held on computers based in the US, failure to comply with the EU legislation could mean massive fines for the company - a risk investors will not be prepared to take.

Facebook's European opperation is currently under investigation by Irish Data Protection authorities after a number of Facebook users including Austrian student Max Schrems, who founded campaign group Europe vs Facebook, complained that the social network did not disclose all data it held about individuals in response to subject access requests made under European law.

To submit a request to see what personal info Facebook holds about you, follow thinq_'s how-to guide here. monitors all leading technology stories and rounds them up to help you save time hunting them down.