Facebook earns ire of privacy watchdog

Facebook is not doing enough to protect the personal information it gets from subscribers, according to a privacy watchdog.

Facebook earns ire of privacy watchdog

“It’s clear that privacy issues are top of mind for Facebook, and yet we found serious privacy gaps in the way the site operates,” says Canada’s Privacy Commissioner Jennifer Stoddart in a report.

The report claims Facebook keeps the personal information of people who have deactivated their accounts in its databases indefinitely

The site is criticised for lacking adequate safeguards to prevent unauthorised access to users’ personal information by third-party developers. There are more than 950,000 developers in 180 countries.

The report also accuses the site of providing confusing information about privacy practices, for example showing users how to deactivate accounts but not how to delete them.

Facebook told the commissioner it needed to keep personal data for those who shut down accounts because about half of users reactivate accounts that they had deactivated.

Canada is the first country to publish a formal privacy investigation of Facebook’s practices, and could influence the actions of other countries.

Facebook now has 30 days to comply with a series of “recommendations” and could be taken to Federal Court if it does not comply.

“Given that we’ve had very productive conversations, I would be surprised if things move in that direction,” says Facebook’s chief privacy officer, Chris Kelly. “Now, that being said, we don’t believe that there is any violation of Canadian law here and we think that a court would find that, were either party to go in that direction.”

He claims Facebook does not want to end up with too many notifications interrupting users, and says any solutions should “reflect the fact that people come to Facebook to share information as opposed to hide it.”

The investigation was launched in response to complaints by the Canadian Internet Policy and Public Interest Clinic (CIPPIC) at the University of Ottawa.

In a written statement, Facebook claims it is “pleased that the Canadian federal privacy commissioner has dismissed most of the inaccurate claims brought by CIPPIC, and that we were able to collaboratively resolve other issues raised in the complaint.”

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