Facebook breached Canada’s privacy laws, watchdogs’ report finds

Canada’s federal privacy watchdog wants to take Facebook to court following an investigation that found the social media giant broke a number of privacy laws and failed to take responsibility in protecting Canadians’ personal information.

Federal Privacy Commissioner Daniel Therrien and his B.C. counterpart, Michael McEvoy, joined forces last spring to investigate the roles of Facebook and the Canadian company AggregateIQ in the scandal involving the British firm Cambridge Analytica.

It is accused of harvesting data of more than 50 million Facebook users worldwide to create social media strategies to support U.S. President Donald Trump’s 2016 election campaign.

The privacy commissioners say Facebook broke a number of federal and B.C. laws, including:

  • Unauthorized access.
  • Lack of meaningful consent from “friends of friends.”
  • No proper oversight over privacy practices of apps.
  • Overall lack of responsibility for personal information.

Facebook disputes probe, watchdogs say

Therriern and McEvoy said while Facebook has publicly acknowledged a “major breach of trust,” the company disputes their investigation.

The company also refuses to implement recommendations to address deficiencies, said the watchdogs.

“The stark contradiction between Facebook’s public promises to mend its ways on privacy and its refusal to address the serious problems we’ve identified — or even acknowledge that it broke the law — is extremely concerning,” said Therrien.

The commissioners said they tried to implement measures to ensure Facebook respects its privacy obligations in the future, but the company has reportedly refused to voluntarily submit to audits of its privacy policies and practices over the next five years.

The Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada says it will now take the matter to Federal Court to seek an order to force the company to change its privacy practices.

The two watchdogs will speak about their report at 11 a.m. ET in Ottawa. CBCNews.ca is carrying it live online.

Both are using Thursday’s report to call for stronger sanctioning powers for provincial and federal privacy regulators.

“The ability to levy meaningful fines would be an important starting point,” said McEvoy.

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