Facebook may need a bigger piggy bank.
After the company set aside close to $3 billion in anticipation of an FTC fine, it turns out that might not be enough. That’s because Canada’s Office of the Privacy Commissioner (OPC) released “troubling” findings today, revealing the shocking (shocking!) determination that Facebook violated the country’s privacy laws in the Cambridge Analytica data scandal.
In case you’d forgotten, Cambridge Analytica was the consulting firm that obtained data on millions of Facebook users without their knowledge. Canada’s OPC is now vowing to take the social media giant to court.
In the report, first reported by The Hill, the commission reveals that Facebook did not obtain “valid and meaningful” consent from its users who were unwittingly swept into a data-mining operation by Cambridge Analytica. The political consulting group had purchased the data from a researcher who had collected it through a third-party Facebook app called thisisyourdigitallife. Users would take personality quizzes and then get their friends to take the quizzes, and that data was all shuttled to Cambridge Analytica, which got its hands on 87 million users’ data.
Facebook allegedly knew about the misuse of user data. Per the report, after the data misuse came to light, Facebook “did not take responsibility for giving real and meaningful effect to the privacy protection of its users.” Its safeguards were inadequate, the report concludes, and the company has “failed to be accountable.”
In the wake of that finding, Canada’s OPC recommended that Facebook submit to regular OPC audits to ensure that the company had changed its ways, but Facebook nixed the idea. “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,” Privacy Commissioner Daniel Therrien said in a statement.
When reached for comment, a Facebook spokesperson said this, “After many months of good-faith cooperation and lengthy negotiations, we are disappointed that the OPC considers the issues raised in this report unresolved. There’s no evidence that Canadians’ data was shared with Cambridge Analytica, and we’ve made dramatic improvements to our platform to protect people’s personal information. We understand our responsibility to protect people’s personal information, which is why we’ve proactively taken important steps towards tackling a number of issues raised in the report and worked with the OPC to offer additional concrete measures we can take to address their recommendations, which includes offering to enter into a compliance agreement.”