Canada privacy watchdog taking Facebook to court

If the court application is successful, it could lead to modest fines and an order for Facebook to revamp its privacy

Canada’s privacy czar said Thursday that he is taking Facebook to court after finding that lax practices at the social media giant allowed personal information to be used for political purposes.

A joint report from privacy commissioner Daniel Therrien and his British Columbia counterpart said major shortcomings were uncovered in Facebook’s procedures. It called for stronger laws to protect Canadians.

READ MORE: Canadian privacy watchdogs find major shortcomings in Facebook probe

The commissioners expressed dismay that Facebook had rebuffed their findings and recommendations.

Facebook insisted it took the investigation seriously. The company said it offered to enter into a compliance agreement.

The Canadian report comes as Ireland’s privacy regulator is investigating Facebook over the company’s recent revelation that it had left hundreds of millions of user passwords exposed.

The Canadian probe followed reports that Facebook let an outside organization use an app to access users’ personal information and that some of the data was then passed to others. Recipients of the information included the firm Cambridge Analytica.

The app, at one point known as “This is Your Digital Life,” encouraged users to complete a personality quiz but collected much more information about those who installed the app as well as data about their Facebook friends, the commissioners said.

About 300,000 Facebook users worldwide added the app, leading to the potential disclosure of the personal information of approximately 87 million others, including more than 600,000 Canadians, the report said.

VIDEO: Are you concerned about Facebook leaking personal information?

The commissioners concluded that Facebook broke Canada’s privacy law governing companies by failing to obtain valid and meaningful consent of installing users and their friends and that it had “inadequate safeguards” to protect user information.

Despite its public acknowledgment of a “major breach of trust” in the Cambridge Analytica scandal, Facebook disputes the report’s findings and refuses to implement recommendations, the commissioners said.

“Facebook’s refusal to act responsibly is deeply troubling given the vast amount of sensitive information people have entrusted to this company,” Therrien said. “The company’s privacy framework was empty.”

Therrien reiterated his longstanding call for the Canadian government to give him authority to issue binding orders to companies and levy fines for non-compliance with the law. In addition, he wants powers to inspect the practices of organizations.

The office of Innovation Minister Navdeep Bains, the Cabinet member responsible for Canada’s private-sector privacy law, said the government would take concrete actions on privacy in coming weeks.

Facebook Canada spokeswoman Erin Taylor said the company was disappointed that Therrien considers the issues unresolved.

“There’s no evidence that Canadians’ data was shared with Cambridge Analytica, and we’ve made dramatic improvements to our platform to protect people’s personal information,” Taylor said.

“We understand our responsibility to protect people’s personal information, which is why we’ve proactively taken important steps toward tackling a number of issues raised in the report.”

If the application to Federal Court is successful, it could lead to modest fines and an order for Facebook to revamp its privacy practices, Therrien said.

Also on Thursday, the New York State Attorney General’s Office announced that it is investigating the company’s unauthorized collection of the email contacts of 1.5 million users. Facebook has previously acknowledged that it unintentionally uploaded the contacts.

The Menlo Park, California, said it is “in touch with the New York State attorney general’s office and (is) responding to their questions on this matter.”

READ MORE: RCMP arrest B.C. man following threatening Vaisakhi Facebook post

The Associated Press


Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Food bank doing well thanks to volunteers and donations

Chair applauds staff for stepping up in time of turmoil

COVID-19 highlights lack of connectivity in First Nations communities

Many don’t have access required to utilize online platforms, says First Nations Technology Council

BC SPCA team helps discover new feline virus after outbreak at Quesnel shelter

Fechavirus is a kind of parvovirus, which makes cats and kittens very sick

Restaurants adjust to loosened restrictions

Gateway Grill in Clearwater is one of the establishments that’s reopened its doors to in-house guests

Only four new COVID-19 cases, 228 active across B.C.

Health officials watching as activities ramp up

Feds looking at ways to reunite families amid COVID-19 border restrictions with U.S.

Some families with members of dual-citizenship have become separated due to the pandemic

‘I knew what he wanted’: Kootenay man spends hours in tree as black bear patrols below

Francis Levasseur is no stranger to the outdoors, but a recent run-in with a bear caused quite a scare

COVID cancelled their wedding plans, so they married on a BC mountaintop

Ceremony was live streamed to friends and family around the world

Trudeau acknowledges racial unrest in U.S.; ‘We also have work to do in Canada’

‘Anti-black racism, racism, is real; it’s in the United States, but it’s also in Canada,’ Trudeau says

State of Local Emergency declared for Boundary as communities brace for river flooding

Warm weather and heavy rain could cause sections of Kettle River system to swell beyond 2018 levels

Large cruise ships barred from Canadian waters until end of October: Garneau

Last year 140 cruise ships brought more than two million visitors to Canadian ports

Minneapolis cop who knelt on man’s neck charged with murder

Arrest comes after three days of protests, which escalated in violence as demonstrators torched a police precinct

Police watchdog recommends charges against five Mounties in Prince George man’s death

Police used pepper spray on the man, who then had trouble breathing before dying at the scene

Most Read