I’ve often written in this space about how, in Canada, regulators other than the privacy commissioners could play an impactful role in helping to protect and promote the privacy rights of Canadians. After all, in the United States, they don’t have any privacy commissioners at all, and yet, through various enforcement mechanisms, organizations can be held accountable.
Well, it seems someone at the Competition Bureau caught on to this idea. The big news is that the bureau has levied a $9 million administrative monetary penalty against Facebook this week. Why? Because the social network giant misled Canadians about privacy protections. In other words, they were unfair and deceptive. A very powerful section in the Competition Act was breached, and the bureau enforced against Facebook in a similar fashion to how the Federal Trade Commission did in the United States. Of course, the fine in Canada paled in comparison to the $5 billion fine south of the border, but it is still historical in that it is the first time an organization in Canada has been fined for handling privacy badly. All this without a new, more modern Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act.
The other interesting thing about this story is that Facebook did not contest the fine. This is directly at odds with the position it has taken in Federal Court where it is challenging the privacy commissioner’s investigation and report of findings. It is slightly possible that what the bureau investigated was somewhat different from what the privacy commissioner investigated, but that seems unlikely. So, I’m baffled as to why Facebook is agreeing to the fine in one instance and yet spending tens of thousands of dollars on a court case against a regulator that/doesn’t have any substantive power. Strange events for these strange times we find ourselves in.
On another note, one thing that is not strange is the IAPP’s ability to innovate during the quarantine days. To this end, I invite you all to tune in on the IAPP’s LinkedIn page at 12:00 p.m. ET today to listen to the inaugural Ian Kerr Memorial Lecture being delivered by Ian’s good friend and colleague Michael Geist. It’s going to be a great way to kick off your weekend and a great way to remember Ian.
Be safe, everyone.
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