Facebook has serious privacy gaps, Canada says
Report: Site violates country’s privacy laws, lacks adequate safeguards
OTTAWA – The popular social networking site Facebook is not doing enough to protect the personal information it gets from subscribers, and it gives users confusing and incomplete information about privacy matters, Canada’s privacy commissioner said on Thursday.
“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,” Privacy Commissioner Jennifer Stoddart said in a report on a probe into Facebook.
The report said Facebook violates Canada’s privacy laws by keeping the personal information of people who have deactivated their accounts in its databases indefinitely.
It provides confusing information about privacy practices, for example showing users how to deactivate accounts but not how to delete them.
The report also accuses Facebook of disclosing users’ personal information to developers who make software for the site and collecting personal information of non-users.
Facebook told the commissioner it needed to keep personal data for those who shut down their accounts because about half of its users reactivate accounts that they had deactivated. Additional comment was not immediately available, but the report said Facebook had strenuously objected to the commissioner’s preliminary conclusions.
Facebook has 200 million active users, including about 12 million in Canada — more than one in three Canadians.
Stoddart also said Facebook lacked adequate safeguards to prevent unauthorized access to users’ personal information by third-party developers. There are more than 950,000 developers in 180 countries.
She said Facebook had resolved some issues and she gave Facebook 30 days to comply with a series of “recommendations.”
The investigation was launched in response to complaints by the Canadian Internet Policy and Public Interest Clinic at the University of Ottawa. Stoddart has the power to ask the Canadian courts to have her recommendations enforced.