Canadian Watchdogs Say Facebook Broke Privacy Laws in Cambridge Analytica Scandal

Canadian privacy watchdogs say Facebook broke the country’s privacy laws and continues to resist recommendations to comply with those laws.

According to a new report from the Washington Post, Canada’s privacy watchdog is accusing Facebook of violating the country’s privacy laws in its handling of the Cambridge Analytica data scandal and vowing to take the social media giant to court.

Privacy Commissioner Daniel Therrien released the results of a joint investigation, opened a year ago, into a data-sharing scandal involving Facebook and the now-defunct British political consulting firm Cambridge Analytica. They relate to “unauthorized access; lack of meaningful consent from ‘friends of friends’; no proper oversight over privacy practices of apps” and “overall lack of responsibility for personal information.”

The report blasts the social network for disputing the agency’s conclusions and for not agreeing to greater regulatory oversight.

“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,” Therrien said in a statement.

The investigation revealed there was an “overall lack of responsibility” with people’s personal information that means “there is a high risk that” their data “could be used in ways that they do not know or suspect, exposing them to potential harms”. Apart from privacy violations by Facebook, the investigation also highlighted problems with regulating social media.

Facebook’s rejection of the watchdog’s recommendations revealed “critical weaknesses” in the current legislation, Therrien added, urging legislators to give his office more sanctioning power.

“We should not count on all companies to act responsibly and therefore a new law should ensure a third party, a regulator, holds companies responsible,” Therrien said.

The watchdog says it will take Facebook to court in an effort to force the company to adopt some of its demands.

When reached for comment, a Facebook spokesperson said this, “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. 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.”

Below is a province-by-province breakdown of the 622,000 Canadian users affected by the data leak. ‘Users’ refers to those who installed the TYDL app, and ‘affected’ refers to those who saw their data leaked by being friends with someone who installed TYDL, as per CTV News:

  • British Columbia: 33 users and 92,208 affected
  • Alberta: 42 users and 80,895 affected
  • Saskatchewan: 4 users and 20,509 affected
  • Manitoba: 7 users and 27,445 affected
  • Ontario: 142 users and 299,793 affected
  • Quebec: 35 users and 78,157 affected
  • New Brunswick: 4 users and 17,633 affected
  • Nova Scotia: 5 users and 21,537 affected
  • Prince Edward Island: 0 users and 2,818 affected
  • Newfoundland and Labrador: 3 users and 9,861 affected
  • Yukon: 0 users and 647 affected
  • Northwest Territories: 0 users and 768 affected
  • Nunavut: one user and 300 affected
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