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.

Just Posted

FortisBC to offer free energy efficiency assessments for small businesses

Fortis BC wants to helo 900 storefronts in Kelowna, Penticton and Rossland

$174-million acid plant up and running at Trail smelter

Teck Trail Ops; New facility replaces 1970s technology

Latest round of Columbia River Treaty talks wrap up in Cranbrook

Federal, provincial, U.S. and Indigenous representatives recently met for eight round of discussions

Update: Trail RCMP seize drugs, shotgun, and cash

Warrant in East Trail yields meth, fentanyl, heroin, gun and stolen property

VIDEO: Liberals make child care pledge, Greens unveil platform on Day 6 of campaign

Green party leader Elizabeth May unveils her party’s platform in Toronto

B.C. forest industry looks to a high-technology future

Restructuring similar to Europe 15 years ago, executive says

RCMP conclude investigation into 2017 Elephant Hill wildfire

Files have been turned over to BC Prosecution Service

B.C. wants to be part of global resolution in opioid company bankruptcy claim

Government says settlement must include Canadian claims for devastation created by overdose crisis

B.C. ends ‘birth alerts’ in child welfare cases

‘Social service workers will no longer share information about expectant parents without consent’

U.S. student, killed in Bamfield bus crash, remembered as ‘kind, intelligent, talented’

John Geerdes, 18, was one of two UVic students killed in the crash on Friday night

Driver of RV in Hosmer collision reported in stable condition

Collision occurred in Hosmer on September 5 and involved a semi truck, an RV and a school bus

Free Tesla 3 offered with purchase of Surrey townhome

Century Group’s offer for Viridian development runs through Oct. 31

B.C. communities urged to improve access for disabled people

One in four B.C. residents has disability, most want to work

Most Read