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Facebook Collects Information of 6 Lakh Canadian Citizens, Breaks Privacy Laws

"Facebook's refusal to act responsibly is deeply troubling given the vast amount of sensitive personal information users have entrusted to this company," said Therrien

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facebook, canada privacy laws
Canada's Privacy Commissioner Daniel Therrien takes part in a news conference in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada, April 25, 2019. VOA

Facebook Inc broke Canadian privacy laws when it collected the information of some 600,000 citizens, a top watchdog said on Thursday, pledging to seek a court order to force the social media giant to change its practices.

Privacy Commissioner Daniel Therrien made his comments while releasing the results of an investigation, opened a year ago, into a data sharing scandal involving Facebook and the now-defunct British political consulting firm Cambridge Analytica.

Though Facebook has acknowledged a “major breach of trust” in the Cambridge Analytica scandal, the company disputed the results of the Canadian probe, Therrien said.

“Facebook’s refusal to act responsibly is deeply troubling given the vast amount of sensitive personal information users have entrusted to this company,” said Therrien. Specifically, the company refused to voluntarily submit to audits of its privacy policies and practices over the next five years, he said.

facebook, canada privacy laws
Though Facebook has acknowledged a “major breach of trust” in the Cambridge Analytica scandal, the company disputed the results of the Canadian probe, Therrien said. Pixabay

“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,” he added.

Facebook was not immediately available for comment. The Office of the Privacy Commissioner does not have the power to levy financial penalties, but it can seek court orders to force an entity to follow its recommendations. It could take a year to obtain a court order, Therrien said.

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 lawmakers to give his office more sanctioning power.

canada privacy laws, facebook
Apart from privacy violations by Facebook, the investigation also highlighted problems with regulating social media. Pixabay

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

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Canadian Democratic Institutions Minister Karina Gould, who this month said the government might have to regulate Facebook and other social media companies unless they did more to help combat foreign meddling in this October’s election, will react later on Thursday, a spokeswoman said.

Facebook said on Wednesday it had set aside $3 billion to cover a settlement with U.S. regulators probing revelations that the company had inappropriately shared information belonging to 87 million of its users with Cambridge Analytica. (VOA)

Next Story

WhatsApp Rolls Out Feature To Share Stories On Facebook

Facebook-owned instant messaging app WhatsApp has begun rolling out a feature for Android users to let them share their status stories directly on Facebook Story

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Silhouettes of mobile users are seen next to logos of social media apps Signal, Whatsapp and Telegram projected on a screen in this picture illustration. VOA

Facebook-owned instant messaging app WhatsApp has begun rolling out a feature for Android users to let them share their status stories directly on Facebook Story and other apps.

Just like Instagram, WhatsApp’s status Stories let users post images, text and videos on your profile that disappear after 24 hours.

WhatsApp hasn’t made an official announcement yet but several users reported this on Twitter.

“So WhatsApp has a new feature, you can share your story on WhatsApp to Facebook. For me, this is quite interesting, a centralized mode of communicating to various platforms,” posted one user.

“The New #WhatsApp update allows you to share your statuses on to your #FacebookStory as well,” wrote another.

To use this feature, tap on share button which will show you the apps you can share your WhatsApp status with.

facebook, WhatsApp, stories, feature
An iPhone displays the app for Facebook in New Orleans, Aug. 11, 2019. VOA

Tapping on “Share to Facebook Story” will let you share WhatsApp Status to Facebook Story.

Currently, there was no option to have WhatsApp status automatically shared to another service and the instant messaging app intends that the feature should be an active decision on the part of the user.

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The roll out appears to be part of Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg’s plan to create a unified app combining WhatsApp, Facebook and Instagram to let over 2.6 billion users communicate with each other cross-apps by 2020.

The move could let the social networking giant tout higher user engagement to advertisers, thus, ramping up its advertising division at a time when growth has slowed down. (IANS)