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Privacy Commissioner launches Facebook investigation

GATINEAU, QC, March 20, 2018 – The Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada has opened an investigation related to recent media reports regarding alleged unauthorized access and use of Facebook user profiles.

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

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

“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.”

The UK Information Commissioner’s Office 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,” says Commissioner Therrien.

Due to confidentiality provisions under PIPEDA, no further details regarding the investigation are available at this time.

Generally speaking, PIPEDA requires meaningful and informed consent for the collection, use and disclosure of personal information in the course of commercial activities. Under the law, companies are also accountable for how they manage and safeguard the personal information in their care and must ensure that it is not disclosed inappropriately.

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

In fact, both federal privacy laws are in urgent need of reform and the Commissioner has called on the government to address the shortcomings in Canada’s privacy regime.

“If true, the allegations raise a major challenge for privacy rights. We have recommended strengthening Canada’s private sector law in order to help strengthen consumer trust. I welcome the support of a Parliamentary committee that recently reviewed PIPEDA,” says Commissioner Therrien.

About the Privacy Commissioner of Canada

The Privacy Commissioner of Canada is mandated by Parliament to act as an ombudsman and guardian of privacy in Canada. The Commissioner enforces two laws for the protection of personal information: the Privacy Act, which applies to the federal public sector; and the Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act, Canada’s federal private sector privacy law.

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Please note that we are not in a position to offer interviews at this time due to confidentiality provisions under federal privacy law.

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