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Facebook under fire as Google gets green light

It has been a torrid few months for Facebook which has found itself under fire on both sides of the Atlantic for its privacy practices.

As the business is headquartered in Dublin, it has fallen to the Irish Data Protection Commissioner to conduct an audit of Facebook processing after complaints from Austrian citizens about retention of user data. Facebook has co-operated fully with the audit. This came at the same time as a German challenge which found that Facebook “like” buttons on German sites were in breach because they led to the export of data on German citizens to the US.

Meanwhile in the USA Facebook has been in hot water with the Federal Trade Commission about “deceptive privacy claims”, retaining user data – yes that again – and sharing it without consent. The settlement reached with the FTC is pretty punitive and Facebook will be subject to regulatory audit for the next twenty years. Users will now have to give express consent to any changes that Facebook wants to make to privacy settings. Not surprisingly, the business has announced the appointment of two very senior privacy officers and founder Mark Zuckerberg has publicly owned up to a “bunch” of mistakes.

Back in the UK Google has been given good marks after an audit by the ICO. A year ago, Google’s privacy practices were found wanting in a range of different ways and the company had to sign binding undertakings to stave off ICO action. After the audit the regulator found that the company has taken reasonable steps to improve its privacy practices and followed the requirements of the undertaking. But if Google thought that was the end of it, it should think again as the Office is keen for more improvement and has now asked the company to go further to enhance privacy, including ensuring that users are given more information about the privacy aspects of Google products.

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