Facebook passes Irish privacy commissioner’s test

By Anne Collier

“Facebook’s handling of its user data in Ireland is legitimate,” The Register cites the just-released report of the Irish data protection commissioner’s office as saying. So basically, FB passed Europe’s privacy test (Ireland is Facebook’s international headquarters, responsible for all non-US and Canadian data since last year). “The reality was that Facebook isn’t breaching European law,” The Register said the commission found after a months-long audit of Facebook practices. In the press release, Irish Data Protection Commissioner Billy Hawkes said, “This Audit was the most comprehensive and detailed ever undertaken by our Office,” and it “found a positive approach and commitment on the part of FB-I[reland] to respecting the privacy rights of its users.” But the Commission suggested that Facebook could go farther: “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,” said Deputy Commissioner Gary Davis, who headed up the audit. So the Commission asked Facebook to make some changes in the coming six months, the BBC reports. According to the Washington Post, the changes include “asking European users if they wanted to partake in its Facial Recognition, reworking its policies of retaining and deleting private data, and reducing the amount of information collected about people who are not logged into Facebook.” The so-called “shadow profiles” widely referred to in the news media are non-existent, Fox News reported the Commission as finding, calling this “vindication for Facebook of allegations it has hotly denied.” Fox News said that “the sensational allegations emerged in a complaint filed in August by Ireland’s Data Protection Commissioner. It alleged that users are encouraged to hand over the personal data of other people – including names, phone numbers, email addresses and more – and that Facebook used such data to create ‘extensive profiles’ of non-users.” Commissioner Hawkes told reporters no such profile of non-users has been “formed.” The report was released just weeks after Facebook’s proposed settlement with the US Federal Trade Commission – here’s my post about that.

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