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Canada's Privacy Act - the World's standard for social networking sites?

15. 09. 2009

Over the last 14 months much discussion has stirred up about Facebook's privacy policy and its non-compliance with Canada’s privacy act, PIPEDA.

The issue of interest concerns the way in which Facebook stores its approximately 200 million Canadian members' personal information. Essentially third-party application developers connecting to Facebook's data also have access to users' personal information.  The other concern pertains to account deactivation.  It wasn't clear what was happening with a member's personal information after their Facebook account was closed.

Just last week Facebook and Canada's Privacy Commissioner agreed on a number of changes which will ensure that Facebook complies with the Canadian federal privacy law. The modifications which will be implemented in the next 12 months promise members much better control over their personal information.

Facebook will prevent any third-party application access to personal information without consent.  They will clarify within their new privacy policy the options available when either deactivating or deleting a member account.  In addition, invitations to non-users will not be provided for marketing initiatives and will require consent from a member entering a non-user's email address.

Many social networking websites have been waiting to see the outcome of this particular privacy misdemeanor which would set an example for other online companies.  According to Facebook, meeting Canada's requirements would satisfy other countries like Australia, New Zealand and many countries in Europe.

Our company has encountered similar international privacy issues with some of our clients who conduct email marketing.  When deploying an email campaign to Canadian clients it's important that the servers reside in Canada and comply with Canadian privacy laws.  Many Canadian businesses that use US email providers may not realize the significance of their decision and the risk it poses to their own clients' personal data.

Canadians are major users of the web and we definitely like our social networking sites.  Canadian companies have to comply with Canadian laws, but other international companies might as well implement them too. They really are not that stringent and provide a much better user-experience anyways.

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