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Canadian Government Forces Facebook Changes

| 27 Aug 2009 18:09
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Facebook has agreed to implement new policies to better protect its users' privacy following a complaint from the Canadian Internet Policy and Public Interest Clinic.

Facebook began negotiating with the Canadian government over changes to its privacy policies after a report by the Office of the Privacy Commissioner last month found that its existing policies violated the Personal Information and Protection and Electronic Documents Act. The Commission, acting on a complaint made by the Canadian Internet Policy and Public Interest Clinic at the University of Ottawa, found that Facebook often provided "confusing or incomplete" information about its handling of user information and privacy issues.

As a result, Facebook has agreed to change certain aspects of its operation: It will no longer allow third-party applications like games and quizzes to access user information without "express consent for each category of personal information"; users will now be able to either deactivate or delete their accounts, with all information in deleted accounts being entirely and permanently removed; reminders will be issued to users that they need permission before posting information about non-users; and its privacy policy will be updated to note that profiles of dead users will be kept so friends can "pay tribute."

Facebook executives said the cost of making these changes is unknown but that the process will take roughly a year to fully implement. "This is going to require some time and resources here at Facebook in order to both build and test the changes," said Senior Platform Manager Dave Morin. "We're going to take our time to ensure that the outcome is something users understand and the developers have ample time to adapt to."

Many of the changes are largely symbolic (have you actually read the Facebook privacy policy?) and Privacy Commissioner Jennifer Stoddart noted that most of them will simply provide more information to users about what is being done with their personal information. It's up to the individual to protect his or her privacy, she warned, adding that information that's already been released cannot be taken back.

The changes were requested by the Canadian privacy commissioner but will be rolled out worldwide, Facebook said, because similar concerns have been raised by other countries. The Facebook case is expected to serve as a model for other social networks that may need to update their own privacy policies and Stoddard said one had already been in contact with her office seeking assistance with the process, although she declined to name it.

Source: CBC

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