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Facebook given 4 weeks to FULLY SATISFY Irish data commissioner

Review mainly leads to whiskey doubles all round

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Facebook has four weeks to respond favourably to the Irish data protection commissioner's demands for improved privacy controls for European users of the social network.

Gary Davis - the Irish DP authority's deputy commissioner who led the initial audit and follow-up review of Facebook - said:

The outcome reflects months of detailed engagement between Facebook Ireland and this Office. The discussions and negotiations that have taken place, while often robust on both sides, were at all times constructive with a collective goal of compliance with data protection requirements. There were a number of items on which progress was not as fully forward as we had hoped and we have set a deadline of four weeks for these matters to be brought to a satisfactory conclusion.

Among other things, the dominant social network - whose European headquarters are in Ireland - has been asked to supply more detailed information about the use of the "fr" cookie and to also explain the consent collected for this cookie.

That cookie, which provides a browser ID and an encrypted version of the logged-in user's Facebook identity, was uncovered by the auditors working for Ireland's data protection watchdog.

Facebook said the cookie in question was only being used to deliver a series of news ad products such as real-time bidding.

Facebook, in a move considered significant by the Irish commish, has also agreed to delete collected template data for EU users relating to its photo recognition and tag suggestion features by 15 October. Any new EU users of the network are no longer served the photo tag feature.

But then, that's hardly surprising given that the European Union's data watchdog recently grumbled about websites needing to gain "informed consent" from its users first. It was a suggestion that would have proved something of a technical headache for Facebook to implement.

The company has been told that a "robust process" needed to be in place to "irrevocably delete user accounts and data upon request within 40 days" of being told to do so.

On that matter, the Irish authority said it was seeking a satisfactory response from Facebook within the next month regarding how it plans to satisfy requests to remove images and accounts from the site.

The Irish DP commissioner's office also asked Facebook to address its concerns about the possibility of targeted advertising utilising sensitive data on the network within the next four weeks.

Facebook's head of data protection in Ireland, Katherine Tassi, said in response to the review:

FB-I [Facebook-Ireland] is proud of its accomplishments over the last six months and is grateful for the productive engagement with the DPC. We also recognise that the innovative nature of our business will require ongoing and close attention to our data protection obligations. We are devoting and will continue to devote the resources necessary to ensure that we fully meet those obligations.

She added that Facebook's data storage and processing structure was "highly complex", but claimed the company had "gone above and beyond all comparable industry members" when it comes to protecting and handling information provided by its users.

The review can be viewed here [PDF]. ®

Updated to Add

An earlier version of this article - incorrectly, in an Irish context - used the spelling "whisky" in the subhead. The responsible staff have been appropriately disciplined. - Ed

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