By Barry Ellsworth
TRENTON, Canada (AA) - Canada said Thursday it will take Facebook to court to impose privacy laws after the social media company leaked personal data of hundreds of thousands users that ended up used for political gain.
“If we go before the Federal Court, it will be able to order Facebook to change its practices,” said Canadian federal privacy commissioner Daniel Therrien at a news conference.
The action was triggered by findings released in a report authored by Therrien and British Columbia provincial privacy commissioner Michael McEvoy.
They found significant problems with Facebook’s privacy conduct and want tougher laws to protect the privacy of Canadians.
The pair was also unhappy Facebook ignored their findings and suggestions, but the commissioners do not have the power to force the social media giant to make changes.
“It is completely unacceptable,” Therrien said. “I cannot, as a regulator, insist to Facebook that they act responsibly.”
The report found Facebook allowed the use of an app by another organization that accessed users’ personal information and in turn was shared with other firms, including Cambridge Analytica. The latter was accused of collecting data from more than 50 million Facebook users to help U.S. President Donald Trump’s 2016 election campaign.
The Canadian report said the information leaked through the app was massive as around 300,000 Facebook users installed it, leading to the possibility of as many as 87 million privacy disclosures worldwide and 600,000 Canadians.
Yet the commissioners again noted that despite Facebook’s admission of a “major breach of trust” the company refused suggested measures to curtail the breaking of Canadian privacy laws.
“The stark contradiction between Facebook’s public promises to mend its ways on privacy and its refusal to address the serious problems we have identified – or even acknowledge that it broke the law – is extremely concerning,” Therrien said.
McEvoy noted Facebook said many times it would protect personal information but then takes no action and “they demonstrate disregard” for protection measures.
The commissioners said they want broader sanctioning powers.
McEvoy suggested a good starting point would be “the ability to levy meaningful fines.”
When the case will go to court was not disclosed.