Responding to the latest public outcry, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg recently announced a number of new policies and settings; however, the changes may not be enough to satisfy regulators and critics. The Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada (OPC) recently responded to Facebook’s new privacy settings, warning that Facebook has not gone far enough to satisfy its commitments to the OPC.
Recent Changes to Privacy Settings
In the past, Facebook has been criticized for requiring users to adjust multiple buttons across several different pages to control privacy. The new simplified privacy controls aim to make this process easier by reducing and simplifying the number of privacy settings.
Users will also have the ability to set up lists of different kinds of friends. For example, family members, individuals from work, or teammates from sports can set different privacy preferences for each category of friend. Facebook’s “social plug-ins” will additionally allow users to set who can see their friends and show the pages they’ve "liked.” Previously, these fields were automatically made public.
Facebook has also made it easier to turn off the controversial “instant personalization” function, which allows people to share their information through other web services like Yelp, Pandora, and Microsoft Docs. Now, users can opt-out of this with one click.
Previous OPC Investigations of Facebook
The OPC conducted an in depth investigation of Facebook in response to complaints from University of Ottawa law students interning at the Canadian Internet Policy and Public Interest Clinic (CIPPIC). It struck a settlement with the social media company in 2009 to agree to comply with Canadian privacy laws.
The investigations and the settlement were followed by further changes to Facebook’s privacy settings and another OPC probe commenced this January 2010 in response to a complainant who “alleged that the new default setting [at that time] would have made his information more readily available than the settings he had previous put in place.”
OPC Response to Recent Changes
The OPC’s initial response to the recent changes indicates that the OPC believes that Facebook has not gone far enough to satisfy the commitments it made to the OPC in its 2009 settlement. The new settings do not affect what Facebook refers to as users’ “basic directory information”, including name and profile picture, pictures, gender and networks to the broader internet. The OPC remains concerned that users are still by default required to reveal personal information to the internet public when Canadian law demands greater user control.