Under pressure from Canadian regulators, Facebook said today that it would implement a host of changes to its privacy practices, including a new policy governing the site’s third-party applications.
The policy changes came in response to concerns raised by Canada’s privacy commissioner, Jennifer Stoddart, who had threatened to take Facebook to court if it did not bring its policies into compliance with Canadian law.
“We’re satisfied that, with these changes, Facebook is on the way to meeting the requirements of Canada’s privacy law,” Stoddart told reporters during a news conference this morning.
Facebook said that it will begin requiring developers to provide users with more explicit notice about how their information is collected and used through applications on the site’s platform. Facebook said it will also modify its API so that applications will need to give users more detailed controls over what information they share.
“You can expect that users will have more control over the exact permissions that they’re giving,” Dave Morin, Facebook’s senior platform manager, told reporters on a conference call this morning.
But those tweaks, expected to roll out in the next year, will mean that developers will have to modify the code of the existing applications on Facebook.
“We certainly sympathize with developers that this will be a process that both Facebook and the developer community will have to go through together,” Morin said.
The policy changes announced today build on the set of streamlined privacy controls Facebook said it would adopt in July, which are to be geared toward simplifying the way users manage how their information is shared on the site.
Facebook also committed today to modify its privacy policies to clarify practices on the site, such as the collection of users’ birthdates and how information is used to target advertising.
The company also said it would take steps to educate users about privacy on the site and encourage them to review their settings. New registrants will be invited to take a “privacy tour” explaining how information is collected and shared on the site.
Under the new changes, Facebook agreed to clarify the distinction between deleting and deactivating an account in terms of how their data is stored. Morin said that when a user deletes an account, Facebook purges the information within a couple weeks. But the company said it intends to retain information when a person simply deactivates an account as a courtesy, as many users comes back to retrieve photos and other content even after they have essentially abandoned the site.
The policy changes resolve an inquiry launched more than a year ago by Canadian regulators.