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Canada Opens New Facebook Privacy Inquiry


Canada’s privacy commissioner has announced a second investigation into privacy practices at Facebook, focusing on the new privacy tool Facebook rolled out to its hundreds of millions of members back in December 2009. The new policy, which has been derided as sharing all user’s information with everybody all the time, requires users to review their privacy settings and explicitly select what portions of their profiles, posts, and streams are available to other users. However, the default privacy settings for the tool are to share as much information as possible, a stance Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg as described as a new “social norm.”

The new investigation stems from a new public complaint about Facebook’s privacy practices. “The individual’s complaint mirrors some of the concerns that our Office has heard and expressed to Facebook in recent months,” said Assistant Privacy Commissioner Elizabeth Denham, in a statement. “Some Facebook users are disappointed by certain changes being made to the site—changes that were supposed to strengthen their privacy and the protection of their personal information.”

Denham lead the original investigation into Facebook’s handling of personal information.

Back in mid-2009, Canada’s privacy commission threatened to take Facebook to court over its privacy practices, saying the social networkign services had “serious gaps” in the way it managed users’ personal information. Facebook’s privacy revamp at the end of 2009 was intended, in part, to address those concerns. In the wake the Canadian privacy commissioner’s initial investigation, Facebook agreed to implement a slate of changes to its site within a year.

In the United States, the Electronic Frontier Foundation has lodged a similar complaint about Facebook’s new privacy practices with the Federal Trade Commission.

Facebook had consistently maintained that any changes to privacy settings recommended by its new privacy tool are repeatedly showed to users, who much explicitly accept those changes.