An iPhone displays the Facebook app in New Orleans on Aug. 11, 2019. Two Facebook users are seeking damages on behalf of hundreds of thousands of Canadians whose personal data may have been improperly used for political purposes. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP, Jenny Kane

An iPhone displays the Facebook app in New Orleans on Aug. 11, 2019. Two Facebook users are seeking damages on behalf of hundreds of thousands of Canadians whose personal data may have been improperly used for political purposes. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP, Jenny Kane

Planned class-action suit against Facebook alleges misuse of personal information

The probe followed reports that Facebook let an outside organization use an app to access users’ personal information

Two Facebook users are seeking damages on behalf of hundreds of thousands of Canadians whose personal data may have been improperly used for political purposes.

The proposed class-action lawsuit filed by Calgary residents Saul Benary and Karma Holoboff asks the Federal Court to order the social-media giant to bolster its security practices to better protect sensitive information and comply with federal privacy law.

It also seeks $1,000 for each of the approximately 622,000 Canadians whose information was shared with others through a digital app.

In April last year, privacy commissioner Daniel Therrien and his British Columbia counterpart, Michael McEvoy, uncovered major shortcomings in Facebook’s procedures and called for stronger laws to protect Canadians.

The probe followed reports that Facebook let an outside organization use an app to access users’ personal information, and that some of the data was then passed to others. Recipients of the information included the firm Cambridge Analytica, which was involved in U.S. political campaigns.

The app, at one point known as “This is Your Digital Life,” encouraged users to complete a personality quiz but collected much more information about the people who installed the app as well as data about their Facebook friends, the commissioners said.

About 300,000 Facebook users worldwide added the app, leading to the potential disclosure of the personal information of approximately 87 million others, including some 622,000 Canadians, the report said.

The commissioners concluded that Facebook broke Canada’s privacy law governing companies by failing to obtain valid and meaningful consent of app users and their friends, and that it had “inadequate safeguards” to protect user information.

Despite its public acknowledgment of a “major breach of trust” in the Cambridge Analytica scandal, Facebook disputed the report’s findings and the commissioners said the company refused to implement their recommendations.

As a result, Therrien launched his own Federal Court action in February, asking a judge to declare that Facebook violated Canadian privacy law.

In turn, Facebook asked a judge to toss out the watchdog’s finding that the social media giant’s lax practices allowed personal data to be used for political purposes.

Facebook has said there is no evidence that Canadian user data was shared with Cambridge Analytica, a point the company reiterated Wednesday in a statement to The Canadian Press.

In their application to the court, however, Benary and Holoboff say they were informed by Facebook in April 2018 that their information “had been disclosed to Cambridge Analytica without their consent.”

The two complained to Therrien’s office that year about the improper collection and disclosure of their information.

In October 2019, the commissioner informed Benary and Holoboff they were entitled to pursue their complaints in Federal Court.

The notice of application asks the court to certify the action as a class proceeding and declare that Facebook was obliged to safeguard their information under the Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act.

Lawyers for Benary and Holoboff had no comment.

Facebook has not yet responded in court to the class-action application.

Meg Sinclair, a spokeswoman for Facebook Canada, said Wednesday the company had made “dramatic improvements to our platform to protect people’s personal information.”

Jim Bronskill, The Canadian Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Want to support local journalism? Make a donation here.

facebook

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

An ermine, or weasel, popped up to say hi in Vernon recently. (Carmen Tamas)
Weasels keep Vernon mouse population under control

‘Cute’ little carnivores can be a problem if you have chickens, but great for rodent management

Veteran Vernon broadcaster Betty Selin has accepted an invitation from the Vernon Community Radio Society to be its honourary fundraising campaign chairperson. (Photo submitted)
Veteran Vernon broadcaster named honourary fundraising chair

Betty Selin accepts invitation from Vernon Community Radio Society as campaign is set to start

The Village of Lumby is implementing a new residential waste collection program that will include curbside organic collection later in 2021. (File photo)
Curbside compost among coming changes to Lumby waste collection

A new waste collection program aims to reduce the amount of waste in regional landfills

COVID-19 numbers provided by Interior Health show Salmon Arm and Revelstoke in the 200-plus range from January 2020 to February 2021 while Vernon, with a larger population, tallied more than 600 over the 14 months. (BC Centre for Disease Control map)
14 months of COVID-19 data show Kamloops cases doubling Vernon’s

Jan. 1, 2020 to Feb. 28, 2021: 605 cases reported for Vernon, 243 for Salmon Arm, 1,246 for Kamloops

The Greater Vernon Chamber of Commerce’s general manager Dan Proulx, left, hosted a virtual Official Opposition town hall meeting with Shadow Cabinet Minister Small Business Pat Kelly, right, and North Okanagan-Shuswap MP Mel Arnold March 3, 2021. (Screenshot)
Tourism key to business recovery in North Okanagan-Shuswap: MP

Easing travel restrictions, limiting taxation and debt management critical to COVID-19 economic recovery

B.C. Health Minister Adrian Dix and provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry head for the B.C. legislature press theatre to give a daily update on the COVID-19 pandemic, April 6, 2020. (B.C. government)
B.C. nears 300,000 COVID-19 vaccinations, essential workers next

564 new cases, four deaths, no new outbreaks Thursday

Walter Gretzky father of hockey hall-of-famer Wayne Gretzky waves to fans as the Buffalo Sabres play against the Toronto Maple Leafs during third period NHL hockey action in Toronto on Tuesday, Jan. 17, 2017. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
Walter Gretzky, father of the Great One, dies at 82

Canada’s hockey dad had battled Parkinson’s disease and other health issues

Riverside Centre includes a theatre hosting local plays, visiting musicians and dance troupes. It is also used for community events such as public meetings and fundraisers. Photo Town of Princeton
Penticton Fire Department pulled a kayaker from Okanagan Lake on Wednesday after he had fallen out of his boat and called 911. The man was taken to the hospital for treatment. (Western News - File)
Kayaker rescued from Okanagan Lake after falling in and calling 911

The Penticton Fire Department’s Marine Rescue pulled him out suffering from severe cold

Kelowna General Hospital (File photo)
Second death reported in Kelowna General Hospital COVID-19 outbreak

A total of seven cases have been identified at the hospital: six patients and one staff

Thomas Kruger-Allen is expected to be sentenced Friday, March 5, 2021.
Sentencing expected Friday for 2019 Penticton beach attack

Defense wants 12 to 18 months for beach assaults that left one of his victims with brain injury

(BCCDC)
42 cases of COVID-19 in the Central Okanagan last week

Officials have identified almost 3,000 cases of the virus in the Central Okanagan throughout the pandemic

Municipal Affairs Minister Josie Osborne speaks in the B.C. legislature, March 4, 2021. (Hansard TV)
B.C. Liberals, NDP sing in harmony on local election reforms

Bill regulates paid canvassers, allows people in condo buildings

(National Emergency Management Agency)
No tsunami risk to B.C. from powerful New Zealand earthquake: officials

An 8.1 magnitude earthquake shook the north of New Zealand Thursday morning

Most Read