Facebook says it passed first privacy audit, still has work to do

Facebook says it passed the first in a series of independent privacy audits that were required under a previous legal  settlement with the FTC.  But in a statement Thursday, the company said the audit also “helped us identify areas to work on as Facebook continues to evolve.”

It’s not clear which areas, however. Facebook’s statement doesn’t offer any details, and the Associated Press is quoting a company spokeswoman who says the company won’t go into specifics because of “contractual obligations and the possibility of security and competitive vulnerabilities.”

Nonetheless, Facebook says the new audit “confirms that the controls we have put in place to safeguard people’s information are working as intended.”

Facebook’s settlement with the FTC , which was first announced in 2011, stemmed from changes made in 2009 that critics said effectively altered users’ privacy settings without their knowledge.  In addition to the audits, the settlement also requires Facebook to obtain users’ express permission before changing settings that govern their personal information.

While some of its other recent changes have drawn more fire from critics, Facebook has addressed one frequent complaint by moving to make its privacy settings simpler and easier to use.  Analysts say Facebook has good reason to want users to feel comfortable with sharing information — as the company works to deliver more targeted advertising and develop new products like its Graph Search feature, which people can use to sift through information that other users have shared.

Facebook won another small victory in the privacy arena this week when a German court upheld the company’s policy of requiring its members to use their real names on the network.  German regulators had argued that the policy violates local laws intended to protect privacy and free speech online.  But the court said the German law didn’t apply to Facebook because it’s European headquarters is in Ireland.

Brandon Bailey Brandon Bailey (350 Posts)

Brandon Bailey covers Google, Facebook and Yahoo for the San Jose Mercury News, reporting on the business and culture of the Internet.