Canada ends probe of Facebook's sharing of data
Canadian Privacy Commissioner Jennifer Stoddart said an investigation into the way Facebook’s third-party applications obtain user data is over and that her office was “pleased” with the social networking site’s move last May to make its privacy settings simpler and easier to understand.
But the office is still reviewing other complaints that the Internet giant has made some user information available too broadly on the Web. It is looking into whether Canadian privacy laws are violated by invitations to other sites by Facebook and sharing when users click on its “like” feature with other Web sites.
“The issues related to the investigation – and, to be clear, I am only speaking about those issues rather than the site as a whole – have been resolved to my satisfaction,” Stoddart said in a statement.
Specifically, Stoddart noted Facebook’s decision last May to require permission by users to share personal information to third-party applications such as the game Farmville and Mafia Wars. And technical controls block applications developers from accessing any data a user doesn’t agree to share.
Stoddart said the office was pleased that Facebook released simpler and clearer guidelines for how user information is shared on the Web site. In response to complaints by users, privacy advocates and regulators, Facebook simplified data settings last May. It announced one-click options that allow users to more easily keep their information more private on the site.
She noted the challenges of applying privacy laws to the fast-evolving landscape of social networking on the Internet. (Washington Post Co. Chairman, Donald Graham, serves on the board of Facebook.)
“It has been a long road in arriving at this point. These changes are the result of extensive and often intense discussions with Facebook,” Stoddart said. “Our follow-up work was complicated by the fact that we were dealing with a site that was continually changing.”
She said the commission asked Facebook to improve its oversight of application developers and better educate them about their privacy responsibilities. The commission also cautioned Facebook against expanding the categories of user information made available to everyone on the Internet – and which users cannot control through privacy settings.
| September 22, 2010; 11:18 AM ET
Categories: Facebook, Privacy
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