Canadians Clear Facebook's Privacy Changes

Facebook’s sweeping overhaul of privacy in May this year have received the seal of approval from Canadian authorities.

Canadian privacy commissioner Jennifer Stoddart said her office was finished with its investigation into the way Facebook’s third-party applications obtain user data, the Washington Post reports. She specifically mentioned her satisfaction with Facebook’s decision to require users to give permission before sharing personal information with third-party applications such as games.

The office is still reviewing other complaints about whether some Facebook user information is available too broadly on the web, such as invitations to other sites by Facebook and sharing when users click on its “like” feature with other sites.

Outside Canada few people would be aware that the Canadian privacy commissioner was even looking at Facebook’s privacy policies. But it highlights a bigger challenge for Facebook as it grows internationally. The site now has 500 million users – a bigger population than every country in the world besides China and India. While Facebook is based in Palo Alto, California, only 30% of its users are in the United States.

The site is subject to the laws of every country in which it operates and it must be quite a challenge for the policy team to strike the right balance between operating the site in the best way possible for the business versus what lawmakers and the law enforcement community. This has been an issue in Australia, for example. Both Facebook and democratic governments would argue they have the users’ interests at heart but they often have very different visions of how best to protect them.