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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

Social Networking Giant Facebook Blames Apple iOS for Bezos’ Phone Hacking

WhatsApp provides end-to-end encryption by default, which means only the sender and recipient can view the messages

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Social Media, Facebook, Authenticity, Posts
The social media application, Facebook is displayed on Apple's App Store, July 30, 2019. VOA

Facebook has blamed Apple’s operating system for the hacking of Amazon Founder and CEO Jeff Bezos’ phone, saying WhatsApp’s end-to-end encryption is unhackable.

Investigators believe that Bezos’s iPhone was compromised after he received a 4.4MB video file containing malware via WhatsApp – in the same way when phones of 1,400 select journalists and human rights activists were broken into by Pegasus software from Israel-based NSO Group last year.

In an interview to the BBC last week, Facebook’s Vice President of Global Affairs and Communications, Nick Clegg, said it wasn’t WhatsApp’s fault because end-to-end encryption is unhackable and blamed Apple’s operating system for Bezos’ episode.

“It sounds like something on the, you know, what they call the operate, operated on the phone itself. It can’t have been anything on the, when the message was sent, in transit, because that’s end-to-end encrypted on WhatsApp,” Clegg told the show host.

Clegg compared the hack to opening a malicious email, saying that “it only comes to life when you open it”.

According to a report from FTI Consulting, a firm that has investigated Bezos’ phone, after that the video file was received, Bezos’ phone started sending unusually large amounts of outbound data, including his intimate messages with his girlfriend Lauren Sanchez.

Jeff Bezos
Jeff Bezos, Amazon founder and owner of Blue Origin. (Wikimedia commons)

According to Clegg, “something” must have affected the phone’s operating system.

“As sure as you can be that the technology of end-to-end encryption cannot, other than unless you have handset, or you have the message at either end, cannot be hacked into,” he was quoted as saying.

Apple was yet to comment on Facebook’s statement.

The NSO Group has denied it was part of Bezos’ hacking.

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WhatsApp provides end-to-end encryption by default, which means only the sender and recipient can view the messages. But the piece of NSO Group software exploited WhatsApp’s video calling system by installing the spyware via missed calls to snoop on the selected users.

According to leading tech policy and media consultant Prasanto K. Roy, end-to-end encrypted apps (E2EE) do provide security, and messages or calls cannot be intercepted and decrypted en route without enormous computing resources.

“But once anyone can get to your handset, whether a human or a piece of software, the encryption doesn’t matter anymore. Because on your handset, it’s all decrypted,” Roy told IANS recently. (IANS)