Wednesday, May 20, 2020

There's a New Cop on the Privacy Beat in Canada

Is there a new sheriffMountie in town?

The Canadian Competition Bureau has just made waves by entering into a CA $9.5 million settlement with Facebook over privacy violations in connection with the Cambridge Analytica scandal.  The CB alleged that Facebook told users they could control access to their data, but the data was still accessible by third-party developers.

Canada has national and provincial data protection authorities (the national DPA is the Office of the Privacy Commissioner and provincial DPAs have similar names), but according to a law professor at the University of Ottawa, the OPC's enforcement authorities under the PIPEDA are weak.  The Competition Bureau, by contrast, has much greater enforcement powers, at least by Canadian standards. For large, international organizations like Facebook, a CA $9 million penalty (and $500k in costs) is hardly a deterrent.  By comparison, the US Federal Trade Commission fined Facebook USD $5 billion.  
What is to be done about the effete OPC?  The recent Digital Privacy Act, effective in 2018, clearly failed to strengthen the PIPEDA and the OPC sufficiently. (Here is my earlier post about that.) The Canadian government released a Digital Charter in May (2019) to outline proposed PIPEDA reforms.  The tenth and final priority of the Digital Charter is to strengthen enforcement and bring real accountability to bear.  Only time will tell if that happens.

Here you can read the actual settlement terms:

And here's a final, amusing link: The Competition Bureau's own Facebook page:

image of laptop with a red maple leaf sticker