Facebook Announces Privacy Improvements in Response to Recommendations by Canadian Privacy Commissioner

Facebook to provide users with even greater control over information shared with third-party applications, and revisions to privacy policy

PALO ALTO, Calif. — August 27, 2009 — Facebook today announced plans to further improve people’s control over their information and enable them to make more informed choices about their privacy. These improvements 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.

The changes announced are a result of the company’s work with the Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada, which has spent more than a year reviewing Facebook’s privacy policies and controls. In their report, The Office of the Privacy Commissioner gratefully acknowledged Facebook’s cooperation in the course of the investigation and commended Facebook for providing its users with extensive privacy settings. The Commissioner also made a number of recommendations, to which Facebook has responded with commitments for significant enhancements that will be implemented over the next 12 months. The Commissioner has reviewed these proposals and is satisfied with the commitments Facebook has made.

“Our productive and constructive dialogue with the Commissioner’s office has given us an opportunity to improve our policies and practices in a way that will provide even greater transparency and control for Facebook users,” said Elliot Schrage, Vice-President of Global Communications and Public Policy at Facebook. “We believe that these changes are not only great for our users and address all of the Commissioners’ outstanding concerns, but they also set a new standard for the industry.”

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 memorialization 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.

“We strongly believe that the changes to the permission model for third-party applications will give users more confidence in Platform and will, thus, help ensure the long-term health and vitality of the ecosystem that has grown around Platform,” said Ethan Beard, Director of Platform Product Marketing at Facebook. “We will be communicating regularly with developers about the changes and we’re going to take our time to make sure the outcome is something users understand and that developers have ample time and notice to adapt.”

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