Privacy commissioner sees improvements with Facebook's privacy settings

by Liam Britten

Privacy commissioner of Canada Jennifer Stoddart has completed her review of Facebook, and has noted marked improvement in privacy options available, as well as the ease of implementing them.

From a press release:

The changes Facebook has put in place in response to concerns we raised as part of our investigation last year are reasonable and meet the expectations set out under Canadian privacy law.

The investigation has resulted in many significant changes.  Facebook has put in place measures to limit the sharing of personal information with third-party application developers and is now providing users with clear information about its privacy practices.

A major concern during our investigation was that third-party developers of games and other applications on the site had virtually unrestricted access to Facebook users’ personal information.  Facebook has since rolled out a permissions model that is a vast improvement.  Applications must now inform users of the categories of data they require to run and seek consent to access and use this data.  Technical controls ensure that applications can only access user information that they specifically request.

We’re also pleased that Facebook has developed simplified privacy settings and has implemented a tool that allows users to apply a privacy setting to each photo or comment they post.

However, the commissioner noted there are still areas for improvement. Specifically:

  • Facebook should improve oversight of application developers and keep them aware of their privacy responsibilities.
  • Facebook was advised to make its default settings for photos more restrictive than “everyone on the Internet"
  • Problems still exist with Facebook’s invitations feature and the “Like” buttons on other websites.

She also said that Facebook users need to be part of the solution, noting, “They need to inform themselves about how their personal information is going to be used and shared. The investigation has led to more privacy information and improved privacy tools — Facebook users should take advantage of those changes.”

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Liam Britten

Liam Britten

Liam Britten is a writer and editor with a journalism background operating out of Vancouver. In addition to his work at Techvibes, he has been published in student publications across Canada, as well as local newspapers such as The MapleRidge-Pitt Meadows TIMES and The Langley Advance. An aficionado for the finer things in life — such as video games and sports — Liam is plugged into the tech... more

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