I have written before (at http://blog.eogn.com/eastmans_online_genealogy/2009/07/facebook-privacy-flaws-dangerous-says-report.html and at http://blog.eogn.com/eastmans_online_genealogy/2009/08/facebook-hit-with-privacyviolation-lawsuit.html) about Facebook's privacy problems. This site is very popular with genealogists, many of whom do not realize how much personal information they are exposing. Now Facebook has been forced to change. The company has announced new guidelines that limit third party applications and the information they're allowed to access. You can thank the Canadians for this improvement.
Back in July, the Canadian Privacy Commissioner's office launched a campaign to identify and publicize the concerns many people have with Facebook's policy towards third-party applications. In the past, some of these applications have been able to access a significant amount of member private data, sometimes even the friends of friends, and so on.
Although Canada's Privacy Commissioner Jennifer Stoddart admitted last month that Facebook had made steps towards protecting its members, more needed to be done. "It's clear that privacy issues are top of mind for Facebook, and yet we found serious privacy gaps in the way the site operates," Stoddart said.
In response to these demands, Facebook has announced a set of new changes to third party applications. Specifically, the latter will now have to identify the kind of user data they wish to access and will need to get the 'OK' from users before they can do it. That means that if a third party application wants to exploit a user's birth date, location, or favorite book list, they'll have to do the right thing and ask politely.
In addition, these applications will also need to get permission before they can use the information on a friend's Facebook page.