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August 17, 2009

Facebook faces privacy watchdog, by Sarah Schmidt, Canwest News Service, August 17, 2009












http://www.canada.com/Facebook+faces+privacy+watchdog/1901017/story.html


Time is up for Facebook to find a way to live up to Canada's privacy law after this country's privacy watchdog gave the social-networking website one month to close its "serious privacy gaps."

And if Jennifer Stoddart, Canada's privacy commissioner, isn't satisfied with Facebook's final response today, she has two weeks to take the California-based company to Federal Court in Ottawa to try and get a court order requiring it to change its business practices to comply with Canada's Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act, the country's private-sector privacy law.

A spokeswoman for the commission said it's premature to say whether the feud will end up in court. This would be an international first for Facebook, which has grown to more than 200 million users since its launch in 2004.

The privacy probe began last year when the Canadian Internet Policy and Public Interest Clinic at the University of Ottawa filed an 11-part complaint, alleging Facebook violated key provisions of Canada's private-sector privacy law. In addition to an "overarching" concern relating to the "confusing" or "incomplete" way in which Facebook provides information to users about its privacy practices, Stoddart concluded Facebook's policy to indefinitely keep the personal information of people who have deactivated their accounts is contrary to the act.

But the bigger dispute over Facebook sharing personal information to companies that operate third-party applications on its site is another matter, he said.

In order to download popular games and quizzes, Facebook users must consent to share all their personal information, except their contact details. These companies, totalling nearly one million, operate in 180 countries.
© Copyright (c) Canwest News Service

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