Facebook forced to implement privacy safeguards

Facebook forced to implement privacy safeguards

Facebook was hauled up before Canada's Privacy Commission by some law students last year for violating the country's privacy laws. Indicting the networking site last month, the Privacy Commission had ordered Facebook to comply with its recommendations within a month. Facebook agreed on Thursday to implement these recommendations to protect users' privacy.

"These changes mean that the privacy of 200 million Facebook users in Canada and around the world will be far better protected,'' said Privacy Commissioner Jennifer Stoddart.

This is extremely important. People will be able to enjoy the benefits of social networking without giving up control of their personal information.  We're very pleased Facebook has been responsive to our recommendations,'' she said.

Under these broad recommendations, Facebook will now not share personal information with third-party developers creating Facebook applications such as games and quizzes.  There are reportedly more than 950,000 such developers for Facebook in some 180 countries.

The site will retrofit its application platform to prevent any application from accessing information without permission from the user. Facebook has also agreed to give users the option of either deactivating their account or deleting their account. If the account is deleted, personal information will also be deleted. Even during the deactivation process, users will have the option to delete personal information.

Even otherwise, personal information of deactivated accounts will be deleted after a reasonable length of time. Facebook has also agreed to include more information in its terms of use statement for non-users who visit the site.

The networking site will also change its policy to explain what will happen in the event of a user's death. Users will have to give consent in case they want to be  memorialized after death. Facebook expects the entire process to take up to one year to implement.
In their complaint to the Privacy Commission, the law students had said that the website was passing on users' personal information to advertisers without their permission.
Listing 21 privacy violations by Facebook, the students had said it infringed the law by failing to identify the purpose for which it collects users' personal information and obtains consent to use and disclose their personal information.

The complaint had said that the "account settings'' page describes how to deactivate accounts, but not how to delete them to actually remove personal data from Facebook's servers.''

After its 13-month-long probe, the Privacy had found Facebook had "serious privacy gaps in the way the site operates'' and given the site a month's notice to respond to its recommendations. More than 12 million Canadians actively use Facebook.

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