Canada forces global Facebook privacy change

A year-long investigation by Canada’s Privacy Commissioner, Jennifer Stoddart, has resulted in Facebook agreeing to implement changes to its policies from next year. The outcome will apply to all users of the social network and has implications for the revenues the site derives from behaviourally-targeted ads and applications.

Stoddart was investigating a complaint raised by the Canadian Internet Policy and Public Interest Clinic of University of Ottawa about inadequate notifications relating to sharing of personal information. Facebook has 12 million Canadian users and 200 million worldwide. The site has agreed to implement changes to provide better protection.

“During our investigation, one of the biggest concerns we raised was the over-sharing of users’ personal information with third-party developers who create popular Facebook applications such as games and quizzes,” Stoddart announced last month.

“Facebook has agreed to retrofit its application platform in order to prevent developers from accessing users’ personal information – unless users provide explicit consent.”

Canada is the first country to have investigated the privacy practices of a global social networking site in this way and its work has attracted the interest of the European Union and Australia. Throughout the process, Facebook co-operated and agreed to make changes that ensure its compliance, including altering default settings to opt-out.

“In this case, we had a social networking site based in another country collecting and using the personal information of Canadians in a way that was not in compliance with Canadian laws. As Privacy Commissioner, I would hope that, in the future, more due diligence in the area of privacy will be done by global technology firms,” said Stoddart.

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