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Irish data body forces worldwide Facebook changes


Facebook agreed to a series of privacy changes. Photo: AP

Facebook agreed to a series of privacy changes. Photo: AP

Facebook agreed to a series of privacy changes. Photo: AP

FACEOOK has been ordered to tighten its privacy practices and delete unneeded data sooner, after an investigation by Irish regulators.

Widespread changes for the social networking site include making its terms and conditions clearer and giving users greater control over how their data is used.

The office of the Irish Data Protection Commissioner (DPC) carried out the audit on Facebook Ireland (FB-I) as the international headquarters is responsible for all users outside the US and Canada.

Commissioner Billy Hawkes said: "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."

Facebook, which has more than 800 million users, confirmed it was committed to:

:: Enhancing the ability of European users to control tagging and posting on other user profiles and their addition to groups by friends;

:: Changing a number of policies relating 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 into Facebook;

:: Working with the DPC to improve the information that people using Facebook are given.

The study, carried out over the last three months, was the most comprehensive ever undertaken by the DPC.

It focused on complaints addressed by the Europe-versus-Facebook group, the Norwegian Consumer Council and a number of individuals.

One claimed Facebook was creating "shadow profiles" of people who are not members.

The regulator found data is collected about non-users for security purposes, Facebook does not otherwise use it and does not create shadow profiles.

"While certain data which could be used to build what we have seen termed as a 'shadow profile' of a non-user was received by Facebook, no actual use of this nature was made of such data," the report said.

"FB-I is now taking active steps to delete any such information very quickly after it is received."

Richard Allan, Director of Public Policy with Facebook EMEA, said: "The people who use Facebook take privacy and data protection seriously and so do we.

"We work closely with privacy commissioners and regulators around the world to demonstrate our compliance with legal requirements and to improve our policies and practices."

Deputy Commissioner Gary Davis, who led the audit, warned it would be the first of many.

"Facebook is constantly evolving and adapting in response to user needs and technical developments," he said.

"Like any successful technology platform, the service needs to innovate by introducing new products and features in order to adapt to changing circumstances.

"Indeed, the almost Darwinian nature of the site means that there will constantly be an absolute need to have in place robust mechanisms to keep pace with the innovation that is the source of the site's success."