In August, we wrote that the Canadian Government had given Facebook 30 days to comply with 24 aspects of Canada’s Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act or enforcement by the Federal Court may be requested.
Facebook has announced that it will be making changes to its API, the interface third-party services use to request information from Facebook and its users. The changes would require application developers to specify which pieces of information they would like to access in a user profile and why. Users will also be able to deny access to specific pieces of information. Up until now, the nearly 1 million application developers had almost unrestricted access to profile information.
As many have rightly pointed out, it seems contradictory to participate in a social network and to then attempt to restrict access to some or all of your personal information.
To us at the Office, users should have the chance to find out what information is being collected by the social networking site or a third-party application, and for what reason. Third-party applications have long been a concern to members of the privacy advocacy community, since they have had relatively free access to the information stored in your Facebook profile.
I’m incredibly happy that the Canadian government undertook this privacy investigation. After all, the changes that Canada is requiring of Facebook will not only make the site safer for Canadians but for all Facebook users. These changes, and others requested by the Commissioner, may take months to implement. That said, the Privacy Commissioner is “satisfied Facebook is on the right path to addressing the privacy gaps on its site.”
For a full outline of the issues that the Canadian government brought up, and Facebook’s response, read here.