Canada's Office of the Privacy Commissioner warned that Facebook is not complying with federal privacy laws despite major fixes unveiled Wednesday that give users more control over how their data is shared on the sprawling social media network.
"They have dialed it back a bit in terms of openness, but we don't think they have gone far enough ... we don't think users are comfortable," said Elizabeth Denham, Assistant Commissioner. Ms. Denham oversaw an investigation into Facebook's privacy practices that led to a ground breaking settlement with the Palo Alta, Calif.-based company last year.
Under terms of the settlement, Facebook agreed to comply with Canada's privacy laws by giving Canadian users full control over how their data is shared and used by outside companies. The social media giant fine-tuned its privacy settings last year in response to the Canadian probe and the regulator gave the social media giant until August to introduce other protections.
Hours after Facebook's founder Mark Zuckerberg introduced a number of simplifications to make it easier for its 500 million users to shield personal information, Ms. Denham cited concerns in an interview.
She said Facebook's new settings continue to require users to publicly reveal their names, profile information, pictures, gender and networks to the broader Internet. Under Canadian law companies are bound to give consumers full control over how their personal data is used.
Another issue is Facebook's recent move to allow outside software developers to cull users personal data and track their Internet movements. Facebook had committed last year to give members the ability to block such Internet trespassing by August.
"We are still waiting for Facebook to honour all of its commitments. I am disappointed in the direction they have taken," Ms. Denham said.
Mr. Zuckerberg said Wednesday that the company will be introducing new controls that allow it to block outside companies, but the details will not be available for a few weeks. Ms. Denham said her office will pay close attention to the changes.
Christopher Cox, Facebook's product vice-president, said the company spent a lot of time listening to users, privacy advocates and politicians - including Canadian Privacy Commissioner Jennifer Stoddart.
"We wanted to make sure we were reflecting all their concerns," he said.
Asked about Ms. Denham's concerns, Mr. Cox said: "We're always working on making this stuff simpler," and that the company will consult with the Canadian privacy commissioner further to get a better idea of the specific concerns. He did not say whether Facebook will make any more specific privacy changes between now and August.
Mr. Cox said the site did significant user testing before rolling out the changes, which he described as allowing users to manage Facebook's hundreds of privacy settings with just two clicks. He said the site will continue to allow users to navigate the individual settings if they so choose, as the company continues to strike a balance between "granularity" and simplicity.
"I think every time we change something, there's people who will be angry," he said.
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