OTTAWA – A damning report on a major leak of Facebook users’ personal data has shed new light on the number of Canadians impacted and what kind of information was harvested from them.
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.
Between November 2013 and December 2015 the app was active and “encouraged its users to complete a personality quiz, the responses to which were analysed along with information Facebook disclosed to the TYDL App.”
The report states that this app failed to obtain “meaningful consent” from users to use their information in the way it did.
The kind of information obtained varied but included: Name, gender, profile photos, current city, private messages, and friend list.
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.
But in this new report released Thursday, the privacy watchdogs have provided new details about Canadian Facebook users impacted by “major shortcomings in the social media giant’s privacy practices.”
Here is the breakdown of the approximately 622,000 Canadian users who were impacted.
“Users” refer to Canadians who installed the TYDL app, and “affected” means people who had their data breached by being Facebook friends with someone who downloaded the app.
- 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
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 network’s privacy shortcomings.
As a result, federal Privacy Commissioner Daniel Therrien plans to take Facebook to federal court in an effort to force their compliance. This report and its findings have revived Therrien’s campaign for legislative change to strengthen Canada’s privacy laws.
Therrien told reporters on Thursday that his office will no longer be using Facebook “because we do not want to continue to be associated with an organization that we found is irresponsible.”