Student group files complaints in Europe over PRISM: A student group said Wednesday that it has filed complaints against the European subsidiaries of Facebook, Apple, Microsoft, Skype and Yahoo, saying the firms’ “alleged cooperation” with the National Security Agency’s PRISM program violates European Union data protection laws.

The group, europe-v-facebook.org, argued that firms participating in PRISM violate laws that require them to ensure that data exported from European subsidiaries to U.S. parent companies has an “adequate level of protection” as it is transferred.

The group, which has questioned whether Facebook is abiding by European data laws, said it also plans to file complaints against Google and its video service YouTube, which it said do not use European subsidiaries but have data centers in Ireland, Belgium and Finland.

FTC’s Brill talks big data and privacy: FTC commissioner Julie Brill called Wednesday for credit card firms and data brokers to participate in “Reclaim Your Name.” The program is aimed at providing consumers with the “knowledge and the technological tools to reassert some control over their personal data.”

Brill said that big data, while a useful tool, presents many challenges when it comes to protecting consumer privacy, both within the confines of the Fair Credit Reporting Act and in the wider world of data collection.

These challenges include ensuring that data is collected transparently, that users are given notice and choices about data collection and that data can be unhooked from users’ personal identities.

She said that “Reclaim Your Name” meshes with the Federal Trade Commission’s current work on pursuing a Do Not Track standard.

“There is no reason that big data cannot coexist with an effective Do Not Track mechanism and with a system that empowers consumers to make real choices about how their private information will be used,” Brill said.

Twitter CEO Dick Costolo speaks at Brookings: Twitter chief executive Dick Costolo fielded questions at the Brookings Institution Wednesday morning, touting Twitter as the “global town square” of the modern world.

Costolo said that Twitter makes it easier for almost anyone to hear from experts and communicate their own ideas. And he briefly addressed how the network will handle data requests moving forward in light of this month’s revelations about the government’s PRISM surveillance program.

“We’re going to principled,” Costolo said, but added that the firm will also abide by the specific rule of law in the countries where Twitter operates.

FTC gives search engines guidance on ads: The FTC has sent letters to several top search engines -- including AOL, Ask.com, Bing, Blekko, DuckDuck Go, Google and Yahoo, as well as 17 specialized search engines — offering guidance on the “need to distinguish between advertisements and search results.”

In a release Wednesday, the agency said that it told the companies that “paid search results have become less distinguishable as advertising” in recent years and that the search industry must make those distinctions clear.

“The guidance advises that regardless of the precise form that search takes now or in the future, paid search results and other forms of advertising should be clearly distinguishable from natural search results,” the release said.

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