Facebook updates privacy policy

5,000-word policy document released on Web site's blog

TORONTO -- Following an agreement with Canada's privacy czar, Facebook has revised its privacy policy to require the consent of users before personal information is shared with advertisers.

In a 5,000-word policy document released on the official Facebook blog for public comment, the social media giant said users own their own data.

But Facebook said it will continue to share data with advertisers and display ads tailored to a user's profile using "non-personally identifiable attributes," including year of birth and other personal information and preferences revealed in a user profile.

The wide-ranging policy update follows an August agreement with Canadian privacy commissioner Jennifer Stoddart where Facebook agreed to limit the amount of personal information it will feed to advertisers and software developers.

"In this revision, we're fulfilling our commitment to the privacy commissioner of Canada to update our privacy policy to better describe a number of practices," Elliot Schrage, Facebook's head of communications, wrote.

Stoddart earlier accused Facebook of breaching federal rules with lax protections for the private information of 12 million Canadian users (HR, July 16).

In its policy update, Facebook addressed Canadian concerns on how it holds onto the private information of Canadian users who deactivate their accounts or die.

"If we are notified that a user is deceased, we may memorialize the user's account. In such cases we restrict profile access to confirmed friends, and allow friends and family to write on the user's Wall in remembrance," the social media site said.

Facebook also agreed to close an account if a formal request is made by a user's next of kin or a legal guardian.

The U.S.-based web property also distinguished between deleting an account, which hides a user's information, and deactivation, which effectively removes personal information from Facebook servers.

"This is the next step in our ongoing effort to run Facebook in an open and transparent way," the social media site wrote on its official blog.