Facebook faces UK privacy probe

The U.K. Information Commissioner's Office to investigate claims a user lodged about the deactivating of Facebook accounts

Facebook's data protection policies are to be investigated by the U.K.'s Information Commissioner's Office (ICO), after a user complained that they were unable to fully delete their profile after terminating their account.

Currently, Facebook users who wish to remove their profile are given the opportunity to deactivate their account. However, although the information from deactivated accounts is no longer accessible, it remains on Facebook's servers so the account can be reactivated at a later date. According to Facebook, this is in "full compliance with U.K. data protection law" and the social-networking site says it does not use the information from deactivated accounts.

"We take the concerns of the ICO and our user's privacy very seriously and are committed to working with the ICO to maintain a trusted environment for all Facebook users and ensure compliance with UK law," said a statement from the site.

Facebook advises its users to "log in and delete all profile content," but this concerns the ICO as it can be a very laborious process.

"If the onus is entirely on the individual to delete their data, they might not find themselves motivated enough to delete information that's about them on their wall or other people's sites," explained Dave Evans, senior data protection practice manager at the ICO.

The ICO feels that organizations should only hold information as long as necessary and will be looking at Facebook's privacy policy, the rights to data the company asserts and the privacy implications of applications embedded in Facebook.

The clarity of information users receive on signing up with social-networking sites is also one of the central concerns of the ICO.

"We'll be working with the site to achieve better quality information for users to make it absolutely clear to people what exactly will happen to their information once it's posted," said Evans.

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Carrie-Ann Skinner

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