TORONTO (Reuters) - A Canadian regulator may outline new proposals on protecting the privacy of Facebook users on Thursday after the watchdog last month found deficiencies in the social networking website’s current practices.
The regulator’s July report found that information provided by Facebook about its privacy practices is often confusing or incomplete. It said its policy of indefinitely keeping personal information about people who have closed their accounts was in breach of Canadian privacy law.
Facebook, a website that lets users share pictures, videos, news stories, opinions and private and public messages, has about 12 million Canadian users. It has a total of more than 250 million active users worldwide.
On Thursday, the regulator, known as the Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada, will discuss the outcome of negotiations with Facebook over the past month. The closely held company will hold its own media conference.
The final outcome of Canada’s investigation could influence the company’s practices in other countries. Other social networking sites are also likely watching the proceedings closely.
“Facebook and any other provider of online social media will have to prioritize privacy to a much greater degree than they have up until now,” said independent technology analyst Carmi Levy.
This could mean greater transparency about how such sites gather private information, who they share it with, and what they do with it once a user leaves the site, he said.
“Governments need to be more involved from a regulatory perspective than they have been in the past to ensure that Canadians’ privacy continues to be respected, because this new territory.”
The Canadian report in July recommended that Facebook delete personal information in deactivated accounts “after a reasonable length of time,” the commissioner’s office said.
The regulator’s probe was launched in response to complaints by the Canadian Internet Policy and Public Interest Clinic at the University of Ottawa.
In a statement last month, Facebook said it was pleased that most of the clinic’s “inaccurate” complaints were dismissed and also that “we were able to collaboratively resolve other issues raised in the complaint.”
A senior Facebook executive also said that the company did not believe there had been any violation of Canadian law.
The probe also found that Facebook lacked “adequate safeguards” to protect users’ personal information from being accessed by third-party developers who make applications such as games and quizzes for the website.
Reporting by Wojtek Dabrowski; Editing by Frank McGurty