Facebook, the popular social networking website, agreed on Thursday to make changes to better protect the personal information of its users as a result of negotiations with Canada's privacy commissioner.
The worldwide changes will give users more transparency and control over the information they provide to third-party developers of applications such as games and quizzes, the Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada announced.
As well, Facebook will also make it clear to users that they have the option of either deactivating or deleting their account.
Earlier, the commissioner had said Facebook's policy of indefinitely keeping personal information about people who had closed their accounts was in breach of Canadian privacy laws.
On Thursday, the commissioner's office said Facebook's response was acceptable because it will allow users to make informed decisions about how their personal information is to be handled.
Facebook, a website that lets users share pictures, videos, news stories, opinions and private and public messages, has about 12 million Canadian users.
These changes mean that the privacy of 200 million Facebook users in Canada and around the world will be far better protected, Privacy Commissioner Jennifer Stoddart said in a statement.
This is a global change, she told reporters, adding that Canada is the first country to complete a full investigation of Facebook's privacy practices.
The outcome of Canada's investigation could influence the practices of other social networking websites, such as MySpace. Stoddart said another major site has already approached her office to discuss its approach.
We believe that these changes are not only great for our users and address all of the commissioner's outstanding concerns, but they also set a new standard for the industry, said Elliot Schrage, Facebook's vice-president of global communications and public policy.
The regulator first started its investigation of Facebook as a result of complaints by the Canadian Internet Policy and Public Interest Clinic at the University of Ottawa.
(Additional reporting by Randall Palmer; editing by Rob Wilson)