Facebook agrees to data changes following Irish audit

The power of transparency

Facebook agrees to changes following Irish audit

Facebook has agreed to make key changes to the data it currently keeps indefinitely about which adverts its non-US users click on.

Because its headquarters are located in Ireland, an audit by the country's data protection commissioner (IDPC) has brought about recommendations and immediate changes from the social network.

"Audit reports are not frequently made public, but in this case, the DPC and Facebook agreed at the outset that - in the interests of transparency - the contents of the audit should be made public, in full, immediately upon completion," blogged Facebook's director of public policy in Europe, Richard Allan.

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Best way

"We believe this is the best way for users and policymakers around the world to understand how thoroughly the DPC performed its examination and how closely we will be working together in the future," he added.

Interestingly, Facebook's targeted advertising (based on the user's profile) was considered legitimate and the 'real name policy' in which people are not allowed pseudonyms is valid and justified.

The controversial "suggested tagging" system – which stirred up huge controversy – did lead to some criticism from the IDPC: "The introduction of Tag Suggest, a popular tool to make the tagging of large numbers of images quick and easy, could have been done in a more transparent fashion," added Allan.

"Despite these concerns, the DPC did not find that the launch of Tag Suggest breached Irish data protection law, and confirmed that the function used to delete the user's facial profile is invoked when the user disables "tag suggestions."

"The DPC recommended we take a 'best practice' approach in this area and display additional notifications to users in Europe, to help them learn more about the feature."

Among the other key commitments from Facebook are:

  • Offer additional notifications to European users about Facebook's photo Tag Suggest feature so that they can decide whether or not to use this feature to help people tag them in photos
  • Change a number of our policies related to retention and deletion of data including how data is logged when people access websites with social plugins to minimise the amount of information collected about people who are not logged in to Facebook
  • Work with the DPC to improve the information that people using Facebook are given about how to control their information both on Facebook and when using applications.

"We work on a daily basis with regulators around the world, and we appreciate the investment of time and effort by the DPC and its leadership to improve the experience of Facebook users," concluded Allan.

"We have benefited from the open, honest and cooperative relationship and look forward to continue working together."