Facebook agrees to privacy changes after Irish audit

Posted by Emma Woollacott

Facebook's agreed to make several changes to its privacy policies following the publication of a critical report from the Irish Data Protection Commissioner.

For the last three months, the Commissioner's been producing a report into the way the company stores and uses customer data. Facebook's European headquarters is in Ireland, and has responsibility for all users outside North America.

"This was a challenging engagement both for my Office and for Facebook Ireland. The audit has found a positive approach and commitment on the part of FB-I to respecting the privacy rights of its users," says data protection commissioner Billy Hawkes.

"Arising from the audit, FB-I has agreed to a wide range of 'best practice' improvements to be implemented over the next six months, with a formal review of progress to take place in July of next year.”

Users should now be given a mechanism to choose how their information is used and shared on the site, including the way it's used by third party apps. They will also, says the Commission, have a right to see all personal data held on them.

Facebook's also promised to delete redundant information much sooner than it does at the moment.

Users will be given more ability to control tagging and posting on other user profiles, and to control whether they're added to Groups by friends.

The Commission says it'll check up on six months' time to see whether the recommendations have been put into practice.

"This report is not the conclusion of our engagement with Facebook Ireland.  It is rather the first significant step on a road that can place it at the forefront of the technology sector in meeting users’ legitimate privacy expectations as to how their personal data is handled and empowering them to make informed choices when sharing that information on the site," says deputy commissioner Gary Davis, who led the audit.

"Taking a leadership position that moves from compliance with the law to the achievement of best practice is for Facebook Ireland to decide but if it continues to display the commitment I witnessed throughout the audit process it is certainly achievable. ”