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 challenges. 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 four weeks.
“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 outlook.
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.