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Canadian watchdog to weigh in on Facebook’s privacy changes

In Canada on September 21, 2010 at 21:18

Canadian watchdog to weigh in on Facebook’s privacy changes

Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg talks with reporters at a product launch in August. In a recent TV interview, he spoke of taking the social networking giant public.

Justin Sullivan / Getty Images

Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg talks with reporters at a product launch in August. In a recent TV interview, he spoke of taking the social networking giant public.

Sarah Schmidt, Postmedia News · Tuesday, Sept. 21, 2010

OTTAWA — Canada’s privacy watchdog is set to reveal Wednesday whether the social media giant has done enough to protect the personal information of its 500 million users worldwide in a bid to stymie a battle over privacy rights.

Following a yearlong investigation, privacy commissioner Jennifer Stoddart determined in July 2009 that Facebook was operating outside of the country’s privacy law. One month later, Ms. Stoddart announced a deal with the company, outlining Facebook’s promised undertakings to be carried out over the next year.

The idea was to compel Facebook to implement the commissioner’s directives to provide users more detailed control over their personal information and to curtail the access of outside software and website developers to their data, while acknowledging that some of the initiatives would take some time to implement.

If Stoddart announces Wednesday that Facebook has not lived up to its commitments to bring the company on side with Canada’s Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act, she could launch a narrowly scoped investigation that can be wrapped up within weeks, then go to federal court to ask a judge to compel the company to implement her directives.

In May, a “disappointed” Ms. Stoddart said Facebook had been moving in the opposite direction in the key area of privacy settings. Since then, the commissioner has remained mum about progress with the social media giant on the question of privacy settings or Facebook’s new permissions model for application developers’ access to user information.

However, earlier this week, Ms. Stoddart took a shot at the U.S. government during a presentation before the Canadian Bar Association, chastising Washington for leaving it up to Canada to take on the Facebook and Google “empires.”

“Why is Canada paying for the cost of this enforcement for this technology that’s coming to us out of Mountain View (Calif.)?” she said. “So we’re looking for the U.S. federal government to step up there.”

Situated in California’s Silicon Valley, Mountain View is home to many of the world’s largest technology companies, including Google.

Facebook maintains it is operating in line with Canadian privacy law.

The Canadian Internet Policy and Public Interest Clinic, which launched the initial privacy complaint against Facebook, disagrees, even though the group says the company has increased transparency in some areas.

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