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Facebook, privacy watchdog work to resolve concerns

OTTAWA - The federal privacy watchdog says it's having positive talks with popular social networking site Facebook over concerns about use of personal details.

OTTAWA - The federal privacy watchdog says it's having positive talks with popular social networking site Facebook over concerns about use of personal details.

"I think that discussions are going well and we remain hopeful," said privacy commission spokeswoman Anne-Marie Hayden.

Monday was the deadline for Facebook to provide Privacy Commissioner Jennifer Stoddart with an accounting of its actions to comply with recommendations in a hard-hitting report last month.

A company spokeswoman said Facebook would meet the deadline.

Stoddart will take 15 days to review the submission and see if it meets her demands.

"We're quite hopeful that they'll respond to the concerns we've raised in our investigation report, but we're not in a position to determine that at this moment," Hayden said.

"We're going to need to review their actions thoroughly, and once we've done so then we'll determine next steps."

Facebook, which has nearly 12 million Canadian users and some 250 million worldwide, allows people to keep in touch with friends and family by updating personal pages with messages and photos.

Stoddart launched her investigation in response to a complaint last year from the Canadian Internet Policy and Public Interest Clinic at the University of Ottawa's law faculty.

In her report, which made headlines around the globe, Stoddart warned that the personal information of Facebook members may be at risk.

She said Facebook breaches federal privacy law by keeping users' personal information indefinitely - even after members close their accounts.

She also raised concerns about the sharing of users' information with the almost one million third-party developers in scores of countries who create Facebook applications such as games and horoscopes.

She can take the U.S.-based firm to the Federal Court of Canada if it doesn't change practices to her satisfaction.

Commission staff recently met with Facebook officials at the company's headquarters in Palo Alto, Calif., to get a better sense of the technical issues.

Facebook spokeswoman Alexandra Brown said a timeline for implementing changes would be included in Monday's submission.

"And there will most likely will be more discussion over the next 15 days if there's any further clarification that's needed," she added.

Barry Schnitt, a Facebook director in Palo Alto, said in a statement there has been a "constructive dialogue" with Stoddart's office.

He said the two parties "share the same goals of ensuring people have control over their information and that they are able to make informed choices about privacy."

"Many of the recommendations in their report provide an excellent opportunity to clarify and enhance our privacy practices in a way that is consistent with our company's values and our users' expectations."

 
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