Facebook data scandal: A wake up call to reform Canada’s outdated privacy laws
The Facebook data scandal is an opportunity for Canadians to push for reform of out-of-date privacy laws that have failed to protect them so far.
If you feel concerned about the implications of the Facebook data scandal, you’re not alone. The revelations have exposed so much more than just how Cambridge Analytica was able to inappropriately collect information from the Facebook profiles of more than 50 million users.
It has shown the world the incredible scale of how social media companies and data brokers are harvesting and exploiting the private social media activity of millions of people around the world.
And it’s shown us something else: how Canada’s shockingly out-of-date privacy laws have failed to protect us, and how they have no power to help us prevent something like this from happening again.
Despite years of recommendations, our government has stalled on implementing key fixes that could give our laws the teeth they need to take action on this, like an end to political parties being exempt from privacy laws, and actual powers to enforce compliance orders.
The law that governs our private data is called PIPEDA (The Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act). It governs how private companies collect and use our personal information.
But when violations are found, our laws are toothless: the act gives no power for our Privacy Commissioner to issue penalties or force compliance. This means that companies have no incentive to comply, and if caught, suffer no real consequences.
What’s more, our own political parties are exempt from key privacy laws. This certainly leaves Canadians wondering if our own government is acting with our best interests in mind, especially after it was revealed that the Liberal party paid $100,000 to the Cambridge Analytica whistleblower in 2016.
These are just a few examples of where our privacy laws are falling short. We need a firm commitment, in light of this most recent data scandal, to make long-overdue reforms to our privacy laws.
What this scandal has really highlighted is how aggressive business models built on data harvesting, combined with deceptive marketing which misleads users about their privacy options, leads to disturbing privacy violations like this.
Some are quick to say that ordinary people should ‘know better’ or that this is simply the cost of being online today. But we believe that people deserve better than this. It is the opposite of a free and open internet, and we deserve our government to take the necessary steps to protect us.
There’s huge momentum around this issue right now, and if we can harness it, we have the best chance we’ve had in a decade to bring Canada’s privacy protections up to date. Join us at: https://act.openmedia.org/PIPEDA and spread the word!