Privacy czar looking into potential improper access of Canadians' Facebook data
Published Monday, March 19, 2018 1:49PM EDT
Last Updated Monday, March 19, 2018 6:24PM EDT
OTTAWA – Canada's privacy czar says he is looking into whether Canadians' personal information was affected by the reported improper harvesting of information from 50 million Facebook users.
Privacy Commissioner Daniel Therrien said Monday that his office will be reaching out to Facebook to determine whether Canadians’ personal information was affected as part of U.K.-based data-analytics company Cambridge Analytica’s actions, to gauge potential "next steps."
The improperly obtained Facebook user data came to light as the result of former Cambridge Analytica employee Chris Wylie speaking out. The data mining firm, which worked on U.S. President Donald Trump’s 2016 campaign, used the Facebook data to build psychological profiles so voters could be targeted with ads and stories, according to Wylie. He said Facebook was aware of the breach more than two years ago.
"Recent media reports regarding the use of personal information posted on Facebook for political purposes raise serious privacy concerns," Therrien said in a statement to CTV News.
The U.K. Information Commissioner's office has launched an investigation and Canada has offered to help and plans to stay in contact with them, he said.
"Ultimately, our goal is to ensure that the privacy rights of Canadian Facebook users are protected."
Citing the federal privacy law, Therrien said that the private sector is accountable for how it collects, shares, and manages the personal information it gathers from Canadians, but noted that political parties are not subject to these rules.
Lawyer and former privacy commissioner Chantal Bernier said Monday that Therrien is right to be concerned about the privacy of Canadians -- and Canadians should worry too. Though similar tactics are used in the marketing industry to build profiles of people using algorithms to gather information, this Facebook data usage amounts to political manipulation, she told CTV’s Don Martin.
"Hopefully (this incident) will put to bed this false security that ‘if you have nothing to hide you have nothing to worry about,'" she said, noting that she thinks the controversy could lead to a shift in public awareness around the use or misuse of personal information online. "We don’t have the accountability structure that corresponds to the risk of the internet."
With files from the Associated Press