Facebook Forced to Adapt Tougher Privacy Policy

Dennis Faas's picture

You can "blame Canada" in a good way for Facebook's recent decision to stiffen its privacy controls. In response to demands from Canada's Privacy Commissioner, the social networking site revealed new guidelines that target third party applications and the information they're allowed to access.

Back in July, the Canadian Privacy Commissioner's office hastened a campaign to identify and publicize the concerns many people have with Facebook's policy towards third-party applications. In the past, some of these applications have been able to access a significant amount of member private data, sometimes even the friends of friends, and so on.

"Serious Privacy Gaps"

Although Canada's Privacy Commissioner Jennifer Stoddart admitted last month that Facebook had made steps towards protecting its members, more needed to be done. "It's clear that privacy issues are top of mind for Facebook, and yet we found serious privacy gaps in the way the site operates," Stoddart said.

In response to these demands, Facebook has announced a set of new changes to third party applications. Specifically, the latter will now have to identify the kind of user data they wish to access and will need to get the 'OK' from users before they can do it. That means that if a third party app wants to exploit a user's birth date, location, or favorite book list, they'll have to do the right thing and ask politely. (Source: v3.co.uk)

In addition, these applications will also need to get permission before they can use the information on a friend's Facebook page.

Canada Leads the Way

The Canadians haven't been the only ones fighting for tougher privacy controls on Facebook. Recently, the American Civil Liberties Union recommended the site do something to limit the amount of data accessible by third party apps.

Still, it's the office of Canada's Privacy Commissioner that has made the issue a widespread public discussion, and Facebook acknowledges that. "Our productive and constructive dialogue with the Commissioner's office has given us an opportunity to improve our policies and practices in a way that will provide even greater transparency and control for Facebook users," noted Facebook's VP of global communications and public policy Elliott Schrage. "We believe that these changes are not only great for our users and address all of the Commissioners' outstanding concerns, but they also set a new standard for the industry." (Source: cnet.com)

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