Ireland, Facebook Engaged on Ad Tracking Off Switch

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By Ali Qassim

Sept. 17 — Facebook Inc. plans to introduce new privacy safeguards by allowing users to switch off the ad-tracking function within the social network's settings, Facebook's Global Deputy Chief Privacy Officer Stephen Deadman recently announced.

Previously, users who wished to opt out of Facebook's online interest-based ads could use Digital Advertising Alliance's AdChoices program which provides a mechanism that allows users to opt out of these ads across more than 100 companies. They could also make changes to the advertising controls in Apple's iPhone OS and Android devices.

The new tool will make turning off these ads easier by providing a “master control” for online interest-based advertising across all of a user's devices and browsers where they use Facebook, Deadman said in a Sept. 15 statement.

“We sometimes hear from people that the ads they see aren't as useful or relevant to them as they could be,” he said.

Facebook last year began to roll out online interest-based advertising—ads based on people's use of other websites and applications.

“We hope that the ads people see will continue to become more useful and relevant and that this new control will make it easier for people to have the ads experience they want,” Deadman said.

Irish DPA to Review New Settings

John O'Dwyer, a spokesman for Ireland's Office of the Data Protection Commissioner, told Bloomberg BNA Sept. 17 that the Irish data protection authority “welcomes the changes to the controls” and will continue to engage with the social media giant to ensure they are effective.

Asked about the influence the Irish regulator had on the introduction of the privacy controls, O'Dwyer said the OPDC “has continual interaction with Facebook Ireland in relation to all data protection issues.”

“Among issues discussed in recent months were the changes made by FB in relation to their user settings for on-line behavioral advertising,” he said.

As Ireland is home to the European headquarters of Facebook and many of the world's leading technology companies including Google Inc., Apple Inc. and Twitter Inc., the ODPC has an “engaged approach” with businesses, as Data Protection Commissioner Helen Dixon outlined in her first annual report.

As part of this engaged approach, the ODPC said in its annual report that it provided input when Facebook introduced “user facing” elements of the social media giant's terms and agreements introduced last January.

To contact the reporter on this story: Ali Qassim in London at correspondents@bna.com

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Jimmy H. Koo at jkoo@bna.com