Privacy watchdog taking Facebook to court, says company breached privacy laws – CBC News

Privacy watchdog taking Facebook to court, says company breached privacy laws - CBC News
Completely unacceptable: Canadian watchdog to take Facebook to court over privacy concerns
Canada's federal privacy watchdog plans 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 for protecting Canadians' personal information.

"Canadians are at risk because the protections offered by Facebook are essentially empty," said Privacy Commissioner Daniel Therrien after releasing a blistering report into the company's operations Thursday.

“Facebooks refusal to act responsibly is deeply troubling given the vast amount of sensitive personal information users have entrusted to this company,” Therrien said in a statement. “Their privacy framework was empty, and their vague terms were so elastic that they were not meaningful for privacy protection.”

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.

In a report released with his provincial counterpart in British Columbia, privacy commissioner Daniel Therrien outlined how Facebook broke a number of Canadian privacy laws when it failed to protect users information from being harvested by the now-defunct political consulting firm Cambridge Analytica.

Cambridge Analytica 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 office of the federal privacy commissioner is warning Canadians that Facebook may use their personal information “in ways the user may not know of or expect,” as detailed in a scathing report on a privacy breach at the social media website.

Facebook broke Canadas privacy laws, watchdogs say

The Canadian investigation was triggered by reports that an app called "This is Your Digital Life," which encouraged users to complete a personality quiz, collected the information of users as well as their Facebook friends — information later used by Cambridge Analytica.

The report was the result of a joint investigation launched a year ago by the Privacy Commissioner of Canada and the Information and Privacy Commissioner for British Columbia. The probe was prompted by concerns that Facebook had broken Canadian privacy laws after it was revealed that the social media giant disclosed users personal information to a third-party app called This is Your Digital Life (TYDL) that was later used to deliver targeted political messaging by Cambridge Analytica.

The report estimates about 87 million users worldwide had their information disclosed, including more than 600,000 Canadians.

The affair has already prompted international probes and an apology by Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg, who has vowed to do better after recognizing the major breach of trust. Though, according to the commissioners who released this report, Facebook has disputed the findings and has refused to implement the recommended changes to address the social networks privacy shortcomings.

"They say that they are accountable. We have seen in this instance that they were not accountable," Therrien told reproters during a media conference in Ottawa Thursday.

Facebook has publicly acknowledged a "major breach of trust," but vehemently disputes the Canadian report.

It had previously been reported that more than 620,000 Canadians had their data improperly shared in connection to the Cambridge Analytica scandal that affected 87 million users worldwide, the majority of which were in the U.S.

"After many months of good-faith cooperation and lengthy negotiations, we are disappointed that the OPC considers the issues raised in this report 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," said spokesperson David Troya-Alvarez in an email.

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"We understand our responsibility to protect people's personal information, which is why we've proactively taken important steps towards tackling a number of issues raised in the report and worked with the OPC to offer additional concrete measures we can take to address their recommendations, which includes offering to enter into a compliance agreement."

The complaint that prompted the probe followed reports that Facebook had let an outside organization use an app to access users’ personal information, and that some of the data was then shared with others, including the firm Cambridge Analytica, which was involved in U.S. political campaigns.

"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 report released today says 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 commissioners said they tried to implement measures to ensure Facebook respects its privacy obligations in the future, but the company reportedly has refused to submit voluntarily 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.

“We understand our responsibility to protect people’s personal information, which is why we’ve proactively taken important steps towards tackling a number of issues raised in the report and worked with the OPC to offer additional concrete measures we can take to address their recommendations, which includes offering to enter into a compliance agreement,” a Facebook spokesperson said.

Their privacy framework was empty: Facebook blasted by Canadian privacy watchdogs for breaking law and refusal to acknowledge findings

Therrien also said his office will take down its Facebook page because it doesn't want to be associated with the platform's privacy rules.

Their privacy framework was empty, and their vague terms were so elastic that they were not meaningful for privacy protection. The stark contradiction between Facebooks public promises to mend its ways on privacy and its refusal to address the serious problems weve identified — or even acknowledge that it broke the law – is extremely concerning, he added.

"We do not want to continue to be associated with an organization that we found is irresponsible," he said.

According to the reports findings, the recommendations state that not only should there be a power to levy financial penalties on companies, but that the commissioners should also be given broader authority to inspect the practices of organizations to independently confirm privacy laws are being respected.

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

McEvoy is also looking into AggregateIQ (AIQ), the Victoria, B.C.-based marketing and software development company accused of sidestepping Brexit campaign spending limits.

“Facebook’s refusal to act responsibly is deeply troubling given the vast amount of sensitive personal information users have entrusted to this company,” said federal privacy commissioner Daniel Therrien. “Their privacy framework was empty, and their vague terms were so elastic that they were not meaningful for privacy protection.

Facebook broke Canadian privacy law, according to regulators

The Canadian whistleblower at the centre of the scandal, Christopher Wylie, told a U.K. parliamentary committee last year that he "absolutely" believed AIQ had drawn on Cambridge Analytica's databases for its work on the Brexit referendum.

The complaint triggering the probe followed reports that Facebook had let an outside organization use an app to access users’ personal information, and that some of the data was then shared with others. Recipients of the information included the firm Cambridge Analytica, which was involved in U.S. political campaigns.

Facebook broke Canada privacy laws, watchdog says

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After banning several groups and individuals under its extremism and hate speech policy, Facebook has said it will continue to take down any content that is "affiliate representation" of those banned.

OTTAWA — Canada’s federal privacy commissioner says he’s taking Facebook to court to enforce privacy laws on the social-media giant, following a major leak of personal data that was later used for political purposes.

“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,” Privacy Commissioner Daniel Therrien said in a statement Thursday. Therrien also vowed to take the social media giant to court for failing to assume responsibility for citizens’ data.

“If we go before the Federal Court, it will be able to order Facebook to change its practices,” Daniel Therrien said in a news conference Thursday. The court has powers Therrien said he wishes he had.

Furthermore, the watchdog found that Facebook had not put adequate safeguards for user data in place. It also employed “overbroad and conflicting language in its privacy communications” that did not effectively convey the extent to which user information might be harvested or used, and the potential length of time such data might be collected or passed on to third parties for unknown purposes, the commissioner’s office said.

A long-awaited joint report from Therrien and B.C. privacy commissioner Michael McEvoy found major shortcomings in Facebook’s practices and called for stronger laws to protect Canadians.

Specifically, Therrien found that Facebook had “failed to obtain valid and meaningful consent of installing users… [and] to obtain meaningful consent from friends of installing users.” This information, derived from social media personality quizzes was later used by third-parties for “targeted political messaging.”

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

“The sum of these measures resulted in a privacy protection framework that was empty,” the watchdog stated.

“It is completely unacceptable,” Therrien said. “I cannot, as a regulator, insist that they act responsibly.”

The complaint triggering the probe followed reports that Facebook had let an outside organization use an app to access users’ personal information, and that some of the data was then shared with others. Recipients of the information included the firm Cambridge Analytica, which was involved in U.S. political campaigns.

Facebooks refusal to act responsibly is deeply troubling given the vast amount of sensitive personal information users have entrusted to this company, Daniel Therrien, Privacy Commissioner of Canada wrote in todays press release, their privacy framework was empty, and their vague terms were so elastic that they were not meaningful for privacy protection.

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 the people who installed the app as well as data about their Facebook friends.

According to the Washington Post, Canada has warned Facebook about its security measures for the better part of a decade. Attempts to audit the companys privacy policies were declined for five years running. Now, regulators are hoping a court order might change Facebooks tune.

The report released Thursday 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.

Several data breaches have roiled the platforms estimated 2 billion users in recent months. Canadas investigation focused specifically on the blockbuster Cambridge Analytica scandal, which the commissioners estimate swept up data from 600,000 Canadians.

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 in a news release.

“Facebook’s refusal to act responsibly is deeply troubling given the vast amount of sensitive personal information users have entrusted to this company,” said federal privacy commissioner Daniel Therrien.

“Their privacy framework was empty, and their vague terms were so elastic that they were not meaningful for privacy protection.

“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.”

McEvoy, B.C.’s privacy commissioner, said Facebook has often expressed a commitment to protecting personal information, but when it comes to taking concrete actions needed to fix transgressions, “they demonstrate disregard.”