Canada’s data watchdog accuses Facebook of breaking its privacy laws

Canada’s data watchdog has accused Facebook of breaking the country’s privacy laws and that it continues to resist recommendations to comply with those laws, according to a report by Canada and B.C.’s privacy commissioners.

The two privacy watchdogs released the results of a yearlong investigation into the firm and the Cambridge Analytica scandal, which inappropriately shared the data belonging to 87m users to the political consultancy firm.

More than 600,000 Canadians were caught up in the data leak, officials said.


The investigation revealed that not only did Facebook break Canada’s privacy law but that it repeatedly refused to accept the recommendations imposed by the watchdog to resolve the problem.

After refusing to conform to the recommendations, Privacy Commissioner Daniel Therrien said he promises to seek a court order to force Facebook to change its practices.

“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 Office of the Privacy Commissioner does not have the power to impose any fines, but it can seek a court order to force a company to follow its recommendations.

It could approximately a year to obtain a court order, Therrien said.

The investigation revealed there was an “overall lack of responsibility” with people’s 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”.

The findings and Facebook’s rejection of the report’s recommendation highlight “critical weaknesses” with Canada’s current privacy protection legislation, Thierrien said.

He urged lawmakers to give his office more power to impose stronger privacy laws.

“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.

Canadian Democratic Institutions Minister Karina Gould said: “Facebook must back up its commitment to protect Canadians’ personal data with consistent and measurable actions”.


“Our government has taken immediate action to address these concerns including the modernization of the Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act, which could result in fines of up to $100,000 (£77.5k) for companies failing to comply,” she added.

Earlier this month she said the government might have to regulate Facebook and other social media companies unless they do more to combat foreign meddling in this Octobers election.