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from the L.A. Times

Facebook has fixed privacy problems, Canadian official says

Canada’s privacy commissioner said Wednesday that Facebook has resolved concerns she raised a year ago over third-party access to the social networking service’s users.

Jennifer Stoddart said in a statement that changes Facebook put in place met the expectations of privacy under Canadian law.

Before the changes, users who wanted to play games or access third-party applications had to make all of their information available. In May, Facebook changed its policy, requiring applications to tell users what parts of their profile the applications want to access and to get permission to access them.

Facebook also changed its privacy settings to give users more control over what information they share and with whom. 

"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," Stoddart said.

But Stoddart said her agency is looking into other complaints, including Facebook's invitation feature and the "Like" buttons on other websites that tell users' Facebook friends what they like there. She said she has asked Facebook to "continue to improve its oversight of application developers" and cautioned Facebook against making more types of information available to everyone on the Internet without giving its users control over that information through its privacy settings.

"Facebook is constantly evolving and we are actively following the changes there -– as well as on other social networking sites. We will take action if we feel there are potential new violations of Canadian privacy law,” Stoddart added.

Facebook, which has more than 500 million users worldwide, 15 million of whom are in Canada, has drawn increased scrutiny from regulators in the United States and abroad over privacy concerns. Facebook is not alone: Google and other large Internet companies have also wrestled with complaints.

Facebook's privacy officer Michael Richter said giving its users control over their information "has always been a priority for Facebook," and that the company has taken significant steps to help users better understand and control that information.

"Making the privacy controls on Facebook comprehensive and easy to understand is an important part of our commitment to giving every person the power to control their own Facebook experience, and will continue to be even though this investigation ... has been concluded," Richter said.

-- Jessica Guynn

 
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