Monday, August 17, 2009

Privacy Commissioner to accept Fracebook's friend request

According to the Toronto Star, the Privacy Commissioner is going to accept Facebook's friend request, just on the eve of the deadline to comply with the Commissioner's prevous adverse finding: Canada Facebook, privacy commissioner make friends

Susan Delacourt

Ottawa Bureau

OTTAWA – Friendship, fittingly, appears to have broken out in the dispute between Canada's privacy commissioner and the Facebook social networking site.

Today is the 30-day deadline for Facebook to respond to a strongly worded report issued last month by Canada's privacy commissioner, Jennifer Stoddart, criticizing how people's personal information was being treated by the global giant in online friendships.If Stoddart is not happy with Facebook's response, she has 15 days to decide whether to get the Federal Court of Canada involved.

But the two sides appear to be solving their problems in harmony.

Alexandra Brown, a Toronto spokesperson for Facebook, said a formal response is being sent today to the privacy commissioner's office, complete with timelines for Facebook to respond to the concerns raised in last month's report. Over the past month, the two sides have reportedly been working well together, with privacy-commission officials paying a visit to Facebook headquarters in Palo Alto, Calif., to negotiate a compromise.

"I know there's been lots of discussion and there will continue to be discussion over the next 15 days," Brown said.

Canada's privacy commission was sounding similarly upbeat about the status of the dispute.

Anne-Marie Hayden, a spokesperson for the commission said: "We continue to have very positive discussions with Facebook.... It's going very well."

Neither side was willing to talk about details of their agreement to date or even what is in the report that Facebook sent to the privacy office today. Hayden said that the privacy commission needs time to review what Facebook has filed, and more will be said closer to the next deadline, 15 days from now.

Stoddart's original report on Facebook last month identified concerns in the following areas:

* A lack of adequate safeguards to restrict outside software developers — of games, quizzes and the like — from gaining access to personal profiles of users and their online friends.

* Facebook's indefinite retention of personal information of people who have deactivated their accounts.

* A lack of clarity about how Facebook material can be used in the event of a person dying, which the privacy office calls "memorialization" concerns.

* A lack of protection of information about non-users — people who may not have their own Facebook accounts, but whose personal data may be on friends' or associates' pages.

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