Facebook & Canada reach privacy agreement

Facebook and Canadian privacy commissioner Jennifer Stoddart today announced an agreement to, among other things, “give users more control over the information they share with third-party applications like games and quizzes,” Yahoo Tech News reports. The Vancouver Sun explains that what the commissioner objected to was that, currently, “in order to download popular games and quizzes, Facebook users must consent to share all their personal information, except their contact details. These companies, totaling nearly 1 million, operate in 180 countries.” Now, app developers will have to “specify which categories of data” their software needs, and Facebook will give users the ability to “decide accordingly,” Yahoo News says, adding that “users will also have to specifically approve any access Facebook applications have to their friends’ information,” subject to the friend’s privacy and application settings.” All that sounds pretty complicated, but the agreement also provides for better clarity. In its blog, FB says about the agreement, “We’ll be making a series of improvements that include notifications and information about privacy settings and practices, additions to Facebook’s privacy policy, and technical changes” as mentioned above.

I hope this agreement is a precedent for how governments and social-media companies work together. Not so much in terms of threatened legal action (though of course not to be ruled out) as in where governments get their information. The Sun reports that the Canadian government’s “privacy probe began last year when the Canadian Internet Policy and Public Interest Clinic at the University of Ottawa filed an 11-part complaint, alleging Facebook violated key provisions of Canada’s private-sector privacy law.” The model, here, is reputable companies working with informed policymakers from a basis of understanding the risks involved and arriving at what companies can in fact do about them.

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