* Facebook mostly complies with review - Irish watchdog
* Deadline of 4 weeks given for outstanding issues
* Facebook sees no impact on advertising strategy
By Padraic Halpin
DUBLIN, Sept 21 Facebook Inc has
tightened up its privacy controls sufficiently to satisfy a
review by the body that regulates the social networking company
outside North America, removing the immediate threat of legal
The world's biggest social network makes most of its money
from advertising, but has to walk a fine line to avoid giving
its over 950 million users the impression it is invading their
privacy to boost revenue.
It was told by Ireland's Data Protection Commissioner last
December to overhaul privacy protection for its users outside
the United States and Canada after a probe found its privacy
policies were too complex and lacked transparency.
The regulator said it was particularly encouraged by the
decision to turn off a piece of facial recognition technology,
the so-called "tag suggest" feature, for new users in the
European Union and by next month, existing users as well.
The Irish watchdog, which oversees Facebook's activities
because the group's non-U.S. business is headquartered in
Dublin, said on Friday most of its instructions had been
adopted, with progress still to be made on others over the next
"We would hope that the progress reported in the review will
have dealt with the various complaints we have received in
relation to Facebook Ireland," Ireland's Data Protection
Commissioner Billy Hawkes told a conference call.
Privacy cases can prove costly for social networking sites
like Facebook, which was the first American company to debut
with a value of more than $100 billion in its initial public
offering in May, before its share price slumped on an uncertain
It had to settle a case for $9.5 million after its now
defunct "Beacon" service violated its members' privacy rights by
not requiring their consent to allow the company to broadcast
their internet activity.
Ireland's watchdog had said the company risked facing legal
action under European privacy laws if it failed to comply and
said on Friday the social network would have to continue to
engage with it as new features are introduced.
In its report, the regulator said Facebook had made
particular progress in providing better transparency for its
users, handing them more control over settings and the ability
to more readily access their personal data.
Facebook's director of policy for Europe, the Middle East
and Africa Richard Allan told Reuters the company was committed
to bringing the tag suggest feature back once it had taken steps
to put it in line with EU guidance.
Allan said the move should also remove the threat of legal
action from Germany's Hamburg Data Commissioner over the
"Clearly the announcement today means we think there are no
grounds for them to proceed with that," Allan said, adding that
Facebook's privacy changes would have no impact at all on its
Pivotal Research Group analyst Brian Wieser agreed that
Facebook's advertising business and its ability to let marketers
aim pitches at different groups of users would not be affected.
"They could probably have a lot less data and it would still
dwarf other comparable alternatives," he said. "They'll still
be able to target better than others."
The regulator said the outstanding areas of concern included
minimising the potential for advertising to target users based
on words that could be considered as sensitive personal data,
but both it and Facebook said they were confident that these
issues would be dealt with speedily.
An Austrian-based group of student activists,
europe-v-facebook, which has succeeded in extracting some
concessions on privacy from Facebook, said the law had been
waived for the tech group.
"The Irish ODPC says that Facebook has not fully implemented
the suggestions and that further work has to be done, but there
seem to be no consequences or fines for not complying with these
suggestions," said the group in a statement.