Facebook Breached Canadian Privacy Laws, Watchdogs Say

Facebook Breached Canadian Privacy Laws, Watchdogs Say

Privacy watchdogs are accusing Facebook of "serious contraventions" of Canadian law in the Cambridge Analytica scandal.

In a joint report released Thursday, the privacy commissioner of Canada and the privacy commissioner of British Columbia said the Menlo Park, California-based technology giant didn't obtain proper consent from users to disclose their personal data, didn't have adequate safeguards to protect that data and didn't take proper responsibility for the information under its control.

"Facebook's refusal to act responsibly is deeply troubling given the vast amount of sensitive personal information users have entrusted to this company," Privacy Commissioner of Canada Daniel Therrien said in a news release. "Their privacy framework was empty, and their vague terms were so elastic that they were not meaningful for privacy protection."

Cambridge Analytica, a British political consulting firm, mined Facebook user data to target and influence voters on behalf of Donald Trump's 2016 presidential election campaign.

At a news conference in Ottawa, Therrien said that Facebook has rejected his findings and that Canadian law doesn't give him the power to force reforms or penalties himself. Facebook didn't immediately respond to a request for comment.

"They told us outright that they do not agree with our legal findings. For a company to be able to say to a regulatory body, 'thank you very much for your opinion, but we're going to continue like we did before,' is entirely unacceptable obviously," Therrien said.

Therrien's office plans to take the matter to court to "seek an order to force the company to correct its privacy practices," according to the release. Therrien said that process could take more than a year.

The federal watchdog also said he wasn't personally using the platform, and that his office would end its "small presence" on the social network. "We do not want to continue to be associated with an organization that we found is irresponsible," he said.

On Wednesday, Facebook said it had set aside $3 billion in anticipation of a possible fine from consumer protection regulators in the US, who are investigating the company for potentially breaching rules on how it was supposed to handle user information.

Therrien said he hopes he is given stronger powers, beyond fines. "Fines are not insignificant, they're a part of the solution. But they may not always be all of the solution," he said.

© 2019 Bloomberg LP


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Further reading: Facebook, Cambridge Analytica
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