Facebook Not Living Up To Canada’s Privacy Law

    July 17, 2009

It wouldn’t be a day in business any more if the main focus wasn’t government intervention, would it? It appears that all of the freedom that the Internet was supposed to offer is maybe a little too much for the folks to our north. The Canadian government has issued a report that tells Facebook that many areas concerning privacy for the social networking site don’t meet the standards of Canadian privacy law.

In order to comply with Canadian privacy law, Facebook must take greater responsibility for the personal information in its care, the Privacy Commissioner of Canada said today in announcing the results of an investigation into the popular social networking site’s privacy policies and practices.

Excuse me while I take a deep breath. Ok. So the Canadian government is now telling a private American company just how they are to conduct business to their standards? I can see where the Canadian government may be concerned to one degree but there is a rub. Everyone who puts a profile on Facebook opts in and agrees to the privacy policy. It’s that little thing about people making their own choices. If they were concerned about privacy issues do you think anyone would be on Facebook? Some people treat it like they live in a glass house that shows everything they do all the time; by choice.

For all of you fans of more regulation of everything I hear where there may be concern that something may happen that could upset a citizen or two. At what point though do you stop telling the general public that they simply are not smart enough to make a decision on their own so the government will make it for them?

Yes this is a bit of a rant but I think this is ridiculous. Here is some of the press release on the Canadian government site:

An overarching concern was that, although Facebook provides information about its privacy practices, it is often confusing or incomplete. For example, the “account settings” page describes how to deactivate accounts, but not how to delete them, which actually removes personal data from Facebook’s servers.

The Privacy Commissioner’s report recommends more transparency, to ensure that the social networking site’s nearly 12 million Canadian users have the information they need to make meaningful decisions about how widely they share personal information.

The investigation also raised significant concerns around the sharing of users’ personal information with third-party developers creating Facebook applications such as games and quizzes. (There are more than 950,000 developers in some 180 countries.) Facebook lacks adequate safeguards to effectively restrict these outside developers from accessing profile information, the investigation found.

So the Canadian government has told Facebook to make changes. Facebook has made some but not all. The story says that the Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada will have 30 days to review any changes that Facebook has made then Commissioner Jennifer Stoddart can take the issue to the Canadian federal court for enforcement.

I’ll say it again, people are opting in and with that comes inherent risk. At what point will the Canadian government feel comfortable with how well the data is protected and if it isn’t will they stop their citizens from using the service? Maybe I’m getting Canada confused with another country that starts with a C and their Internet policies: China.