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Facebook: Changes to come following Irish privacy audit

Facebook says it's making a number of changes to its European site over the next six months following an audit by the Irish Data Protection Commissioner.

Facebook today announced plans to change parts of its service in Europe following an audit by the Irish Data Protection Commissioner (DPC).

In a blog post this morning, the company said that the three-month audit by the DPC resulted in a close look at the company's various privacy features, some of which will be adjusted to better comply with the report's findings.

"We are pleased that following three months of rigorous examination, the DPC report demonstrates how Facebook adheres to European data protection principles and complies with Irish law," said Richard Allan, Facebook's EMEA's director of public policy.

The changes come on the heels of allegations made against Facebook by the DPC, which in October said that the social-networking giant was creating user profiles from information it was acquiring from people who had not signed up for the service.

"Of course, Facebook is always looking to improve our privacy policies and practices, and the DPC's review of our existing operations highlighted several opportunities to strengthen our existing practices," Allan said.

One key change being made is more transparency, Allan said. That includes "work with the DPC to improve the information that people using Facebook are given about how to control their information both on Facebook and when using applications."

That extends to a new notification that explains what the service's photo tag suggestion feature does to users from within the tagging interface, and also offers the option to disable it. That's the feature that begins offering suggestions of who else might be in a photo when tagging a collection of photos that may feature the same group of people.

The company is also adjusting its policies for retaining and deleting user data. Allan said that this includes data logging on third-party sites with Facebook integration.

Facebook said it plans to implement these changes inside of the next six months, and will require "intense work."

"We will be reviewing progress with the DPC and have agreed to a more formal follow-up review in July 2012," Allan said.

Facebook had its privacy practices under the microscope of the Federal Trade Commission in the U.S., with the two groups reaching a settlement last month. As part of that deal, Facebook agreed to let users "opt into" various parts of the service's information sharing with third parties, and have its privacy features audited for the next two decades.