Friday, September 24, 2010

Striking a blow for cyber-privacy

Canadian Privacy Commissioner Jennifer Stoddart has a fan at the Edmonton Journal:

Striking a blow for cyber-privacy

Privacy commissioner Jennifer Stoddart has been a true friend of Canadians -- both in the old analog meaning of that word, and in the digitized, social media sense.

For seven years, she has been rock solid in recognizing that we are in the midst of a rapidly unfolding communications universe that is popular with consumers but has the capacity to do real damage to them if unchecked. Straddling the exploding information revolution while protecting the basic rights of individuals and organizations is a tricky, potentially dangerous business, a no-win scenario in shaky hands.

Stoddart has single-handedly put Canada on the global map among tech-savvy nations seeking to find an acceptable balance that encourages innovation while determined to protect privacy rights. Once a little-known bureaucrat in a middle-sized country that certain multinational corporate tech giants took for granted, Stoddart no longer has to worry about her e-mails and phone calls being returned by the heavyweights of Google, Apple and dozens more. She's got their attention by being smart, tough and informed.

And she's getting results. Tuesday, following a year-long investigation, Stoddart's office ruled that Facebook has made significant strides in complying with Canadian privacy law.

"Facebook has put in place measures to limit the sharing of personal information with third-party application developers and is now providing users with clear information about its policy practices," she said in a statement.

That said, the commissioner also announced a new probe on Facebook's popular "Like" button, which allows users to "vote" on products and services, media stories and other content.

In fact, those preferences are being widely shared on the Internet with interested parties to attract more web traffic. Other investigations are also underway.

Still, Stoddart pushed her own "Like" button, allowing that "we're also pleased that Facebook has developed simplified privacy settings and has implemented a tool that allows users to apply a privacy setting to each photo or comment they post."

No doubt, she will continue to be assiduous at the task of keeping global tech firms sensitive to the needs of legitimate privacy protection without smothering creators with undue bureaucratic strictures.

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