Facebook Announces Privacy Changes

Facebook to provide users with more control over information shared with third-party applications

After Canada’s Privacy Commissioner Jennifer Stoddart took Facebook to task over its possible failure to protect user’s privacy, Facebook has announced it plans to improve the privacy aspects of the portal, worldwide, not just in Canada.

These changes will include new notifications, additions to Facebook’s Privacy Policy, and technical changes designed to give people more transparency and control over the information they provide to third-party applications.

Specific changes Facebook will be making:

  • Updating the Privacy Policy to better describe a number of practices, including the reasons for the collection of date of birth, account memorialisation for deceased users, the distinction between account deactivation and deletion, and how its advertising programs work.
  • Encouraging users to review their privacy settings to make sure the defaults and selections reflect the user’s preferences.
  • Increasing the understanding and control a user has over the information accessed by third-party applications. Specifically, Facebook will introduce a new permissions model that will require applications to specify the categories of information they wish to access and obtain express consent from the user before any data is shared. In addition, the user will also have to specifically approve any access to their friends’ information, which would still be subject to the friend’s privacy and application settings.

Work on the planned changes will begin immediately. However, some changes will take some time before they are visible. For example, updates to the Privacy Policy will require a notice and comment period for users. In addition, the changes to how users share information with third-party applications will require significant time and resources, both for the updating and testing of the new Facebook API, and for third-party application developers to reprogram and test their applications. Facebook anticipates this entire process will take approximately 12 months.