Canada's Privacy Commissioner Investigates Facebook Again

Only months after new privacy settings were implemented as a result of a new privacy agreement with Canada, the Canada Privacy Commissioner has once again launched a Facebook probe. The new investigation revolves around the privacy transition tool that defaulted a number of users’ privacy settings to public in many instances. Last time around it took less than 3 months, following the initial investigation by the privacy commissioner, for Facebook to make a change.

While there is no guarantee that anything will happen, this investigation, in addition to the one with the FTC, has a relatively high likelihood of resulting in some sort of action. Facebook has defended its position on a number of occasions however that isn’t stopping numerous privacy organizations from criticizing Facebook.

Facebook’s transition tool was clearly a move by Facebook to make user information more accessible via search. As we’ve written in the past, we believe a line was definitely crossed:

When Facebook decided that they would start making these decisions on behalf of users, they crossed the line. Facebook doesn’t need to update their system to ‘reflect what the current social norms are’. Instead, Facebook should give users complete control of their privacy and as a result, user settings in aggregate will effectively ‘reflect what the current social norms are’. Simplifying a system which gives users complete control of their privacy isn’t easy but the value of such a system is priceless and for Facebook it’s necessary.

Forcing the more open settings upon users was probably not the best way to encourage users to make more information visible. Only time will tell whether further investigations result in any change, but if we had to guess, Facebook will have to make some sort of concession in the coming months.