A Victory for Process: Facebook Privacy Policy to Change

My July 18th blog post referenced issues with Facebook not meeting Canadian privacy laws. This week, announcements were made indicating that following the consultation process with the Canadian Privacy Commission, Facebook would indeed make changes to bring their practices in line with Canadian privacy requirements.

During the upcoming months, Facebook will make several changes to its privacy policy. This will include clarifying messages on the site that inform users about their control over their personal information when they join, deactivate or delete an account or sign up to use an application.

Specific changes Facebook will be making:

• Updating the Privacy Policy to better describe a number of practices, including the reasons for the collection of date of birth, account memorialization for deceased users, the distinction between account deactivation and deletion, and how its advertising programs work.

• Encouraging users to review their privacy settings to make sure the defaults and selections reflect the user’s preferences.

• Increasing the understanding and control a user has over the information accessed by third-party applications. Specifically, Facebook will introduce a new permissions model that will require applications to specify the categories of information they wish to access and obtain express consent from the user before any data is shared. In addition, the user will also have to specifically approve any access to their friends’ information, which would still be subject to the friend’s privacy and application settings.

My View:  To me, this represents more than a victory for privacy. It is a vote of confidence that the process works – and it worked through the identification of issues, consultation, collaboration and resolution. This is powerful and more effective than some ugly court case. The efforts of those involved in this entire process will positively impact the current 200 million Facebook users and all future Facebook users. Three cheers for a great process!!!

Related Reading:

Original complaint by the Canadian Internet Policy and Public Interest Clinic

Original Findings and Recommendations

Facebook Press Release

Globe and Mail perspective

New York Times perspective

 

~ Mark

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