Canada's Privacy Commissioner launches investigation into Facebook

Mar 21 2018, 11:17 pm

Following the Cambridge Analytica scandal in the US, Canada’s Privacy Commissioner has opened an investigation into Facebook.

The Privacy Commissioner states that its investigation in related to recent media reports alleging unauthorized access and use of user information by the social media giant.

“We have received a complaint against Facebook in relation to allegations involving Cambridge Analytica and have therefore opened a formal investigation,” said Commissioner Daniel Therrien in a release. “The first step will be to confirm with the company whether the personal information of Facebook users in Canada was affected.”

The investigation will look into Facebook’s compliance with Canada’s federal private sector privacy law, the Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act (PIPEDA).

PIPEDA generally requires “meaningful and informed consent for the collection, use and disclosure of personal information in the course of commercial activities.”

Under the law, the Privacy Commissioner says that companies are also accountable for how they manage and safeguard the personal information in their care, and as such, must ensure that it is not disclosed inappropriately.

“The allegations we’ve seen in media reports raise extremely important privacy questions. The digital world, and social media in particular, have become entrenched in our daily lives and people want their rights to be respected,” said Therrien.

As of Tuesday, Facebook stocks continued to sink, and #DeleteFacebook was trending online, because of Canadian Christopher Wylie, who is now known globally as the “data war whistleblower.”

The 28-year-old has been behind the major accusations over Cambridge Analytica using personal data from 50 million Facebook users in order to influence the US presidential election in 2016.

Along with Canada’s investigation, the UK Information Commissioner’s Office also has an ongoing related investigation.

“We will remain in contact with the UK office and will work with other data protection authorities as appropriate. Ultimately, our goal is to ensure that the privacy rights of Canadian Facebook users are protected,” said Commissioner Therrien.

If the allegations are true, Therrien said that this raises a major challenge for privacy rights.

The Privacy Commissioner also said that neither PIPEDA nor Canada’s federal public sector privacy law, the Privacy Act, applies to political parties, but it has asked Parliament to consider regulating the collection, use, and disclosure of personal information by political parties.

Since the reports surfaced, Cambridge Analytica and Facebook both strongly denied these allegations.

In a statement, Cambridge Analytica said that they use social media platforms ​for outward marketing, delivering data-led and creative content to targeted audiences. “They do not use or hold data from Facebook profiles​.”

It also said that, “No data from GSR was used by Cambridge Analytica as part of the services it provided to the Donald Trump 2016 presidential campaign.”

Facebook released a statement saying that the claims that this is a data breach is “completely false.”

“People knowingly provided their information, no systems were infiltrated, and no passwords or sensitive pieces of information were stolen or hacked,” it said.

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