Canada approves Facebook Privacy Changes

September 23, 2010

Jennifer Stoddart, Canada’s Privacy Commissioner approves of the changes made by the popular social networking site Facebook, regarding privacy issues that were highlighted following an investigation of the social media network last year.

Stoddart said that Facebook had “vastly improved” the sharing of personal information with third-party developers, and now provides users “with clear information” about privacy policies.

In May the social network came under further scrutiny from the Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada after Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook’s CEO, acknowledged that they had “missed the mark”, and moved too quickly in implementing changes to its privacy settings. He went on to announce then wide-ranging changes to the site’s user settings, in response to pressure from privacy commissioners and campaigners around the world.

Facebook had been facing criticism from regulators around the world including the European Commission and advocacy groups like the Electronic Frontier Foundation, regarding the complexity of the site’s privacy settings, that led users towards sharing information, instead of keeping it private.

Anotheer of the major concerns of the Canadian commissioner was the way Facebook gave third-party developers “virtually unrestricted access” to Facebook users’ personal information. The new policy forces developers to inform users of the data they need and seek consent to use it.

“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,” said Ms Stoddart, although she added that it is by no means the end of the matter, “It has been a long road in arriving at this point. These changes are the result of extensive and often intense discussions with Facebook,” she said.

“Facebook is constantly evolving and we are actively following the changes there. We will take action if we feel there are potential new violations,” she warned.

Jennifer Stoddart was appointed Canada’s Privacy Commissioner by the Governor in Council, on unanimous resolutions adopted by both the House of Commons and the Senate. Since taking on this role, Commissioner Stoddart has overseen a number of important investigations, including those concerning the privacy policies and practices of Facebook and a massive data breach at U.S. retail giant TJX, which owns Winners and HomeSense stores in Canada. The Commissioner also led efforts to help private sector organizations understand their obligations under the Personal Information and Electronic Documents Act (PIPEDA) in the first years after the legislation came into force.

Jennifer Stoddart is also working to promote online privacy for young people through the Office’s new website,

More Information:
Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada