In response to concerns by Canada's privacy commissioner, Facebook said today that it will roll out some new privacy features.
But, despite some sweeping language about empowering users, the changes overall appear fairly minor. Among other tweaks, the social networking site will require third-party developers to give users more information about the type of data that's being collected. In the future, applications will have to "specify the categories of information they wish to access" -- such as birthdays, political views, etc. -- and obtain express consent for each category.
That new policy marks something of a change because currently, many applications ask users to agree to share data on an all-or-nothing basis. At the same time, the new system doesn't appear to require developers to limit the type of information they request. On the contrary, it seems that developers still have the power to request that users share a broad array of information -- and to prevent anyone who declines from downloading the app.
True, application developers might have an incentive to limit their requests now that they need to be more transparent. Whether that turns out to be the case, however, will depend on how much (if any) pushback they get from users.