Bloomberg News

Facebook Tells Regulator User Data Isn’t Given to Advertisers

September 20, 2011

Sept. 20 (Bloomberg) -- Facebook Inc. takes data published on its users’ pages to target advertising without passing the information on to other companies, the owner of the world’s largest social network told the Norwegian privacy watchdog.

Facebook said only wall posts, photographs and personal information that users decide to share with third-parties gets passed on, the company said in a nine-page letter published by Norway’s data protection agency today. The letter follows questions regulators in Norway, Sweden, Denmark and Finland sent to Facebook to quiz it on how it collects and handles people’s data.

“Facebook has, for certain areas, to a great extent confirmed our assumptions, while they in other areas state that ‘this is not the case’,” said Bjorn Erik Thon, Norway’s data protection commissioner. “This is useful feedback.”

A group of privacy watchdogs from the European Union’s 27 nations will probe possible violations in a feature on Facebook that uses face-recognition software to suggest people’s names to tag in pictures without their permission, Gerard Lommel, a Luxembourg member of the so-called Article 29 Data Protection Working Party said in June. Authorities in the U.K. and Ireland said they are also looking into the issue.

Facebook said targeted advertising based on data from its more than 750 million users “provides users with the most engaging and relevant advertisements possible.”

“Importantly, no user data is ever shared with advertisers,” the Palo Alto, California-based company said in the letter. Facebook said it considers itself subject to European privacy rules because its European base is in Ireland.

The Norwegian agency aims to have a follow-up meeting with Facebook before the end of the year, Thon said in a statement.

“In the continuous dialogue with Facebook, we will aim to argue the company should give their users the opportunity to ‘opt in’ to new features when they are released, rather than being signed on automatically and then having to ‘opt out’ later,” Thon said.

--Editors: Anthony Aarons, Christopher Scinta

To contact the reporter on this story: Stephanie Bodoni in Luxembourg at sbodoni@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Anthony Aarons at aaarons@bloomberg.net


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