Facebook likes to play games with member’s privacy and for the most part they seem to get away with it – except when it comes to Canada.
Back in July 2009 Canada’s Privacy Commissioner told Facebook that it was violating Canadian laws by keeping user information after members had closed their accounts with the service. As well the commissioner accused Facebook of making member personal information available to third party developers. This prompted Facebook to revamp its its data retention policy as well it first of many tweaking of their privacy settings.
At least one Facebook user has filed a complaint with the Canadian government about exactly that, and the Privacy Commissioner of Canada said this morning that it’s opening an investigation into the matter. According to the Commissioner’s office, the probe “focuses on a tool introduced by Facebook in mid-December 2009, which required users to review their privacy settings. The complainant alleges that the new default settings would have made his information more readily available than the settings he had previously put in place.”
From the press release issued by the Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada announcing the investigation.
In July 2009, Privacy Commissioner Jennifer Stoddart released findings of an in-depth examination of the privacy issues raised by the California-based site, which now claims 350 million users worldwide.
Key concerns highlighted in the report related to Facebook’s transparency and clarity – specifically, the need to better explain how it handles the personal information in its care. The report also recommended that Facebook provide users with increased control over their personal information. In August, following intensive discussions, Facebook agreed to modify its site in ways that would address the Commissioner’s concerns.
Since then, however, changes to the site’s privacy information, settings and tools have sparked criticism from users who feel that personal information posted to the site is, in some instances, even more exposed now than before.
The Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada will investigate the complaint it has received, while continuing to follow up with Facebook as it introduces new changes to its site. The company committed last August to resolving within a year all of the concerns raised in the first investigation report.
The Privacy Commissioner of Canada is mandated by Parliament to act as an ombudsman, advocate and guardian of privacy and the protection of personal information rights of Canadians.
Nice to see someone cares enough about our privacy to at least investigate what Facebook is doing.