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Facebook updates data archive tool, upsets privacy warriors

Falls short of handing TOTAL CONTROL to users

Internet Security Threat Report 2014

Facebook is dishing up a more comprehensive archive of the data it stores and tracks, after the Irish data protection commission requested that the dominant social network give its users full control of that information.

But Facebook's updated tool – which allows users to download different types of data held by the company – stopped short of providing all the info it keeps on an individual using the site.

The Facebook account history feature was described by the Mark Zuckerberg-run outfit as a downloadable "expanded archive" of that information. The privacy update comes as Zuckerberg poises himself to take the company public on Wall Street.

Privacy campaigners have already grumbled about Facebook's update to its account history tool, which debuted – facing the immediate derision of data-safeguarding warriors – in 2010.

Austrian-based collective Europe versus Facebook, which last year filed 22 complaints with the Irish data protection commission, said today that the network had only released a "fraction" of the 84 data categories it claimed users should get under EU law.

Facebook, whose European headquarters are in Ireland, said that users could already download a copy of stuff they've shared on the site such as photos, posts, messages and chat confabs.

"Now you can access additional categories of information, including previous names, friend requests you've made and IP addresses you logged in from," it added.

"This feature will be rolling out gradually to all users and more categories of information will be available for download in the future."

It did not say whether eventually all categories of data would be made available to its 845 million-strong userbase around the world.

The Irish DPA published its audit report in December last year, after it had carried out a privacy inspection of Facebook's data-handling business.

At the time it urged Facebook to seek consent of its users before slotting their profile pictures and names in third-party ads. The company's European policy wonk Richard Allan confirmed he would discuss any such move with the commission.

Speaking on 21 December, Allan said: "Facebook has committed to either implement, or to consider, other 'best practice' improvements recommended by the commission, even in situations where our practices already comply with legal requirements. Meeting these commitments will require intense work over the next six months."

An agreed "formal review" is expected to be undertaken by the commissioner's office in July this year. ®

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