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

Dr. Albert de Villiers, Chief Medical Health Officer for the Interior Health Authority. (Contributed)
‘People need to start listening’: IH top doc combats COVID-19 misconceptions

Dr. Albert de Villiers says light at the end of the tunnel will grow in step with people’s adherence to PHO guidance

Nanaimo RCMP are looking for a suspect who rammed a police car to escape an arrest attempt. 
(File photo)
Lumby robbery suspect leaves empty handed, and gets caught

Armed suspect demanded cash and lottery tickets from Vernon Street business

Executive director of CMHA Vernon Julia Payson says the North Okanagan has incredible community-based mental health services that can help take the pressure off acute care in the second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic, but funding is necessary. (Contributed)
Calls to Vernon crisis line jump 63 per cent amid COVID-19

Studies find suicidal feelings deepen in second wave of pandemic; community resources need funding

Paul Nixon (centre) of Nixon Wenger LLP is recognized in 2014 as North Okanagan Community Life Society’s Good Guy of the Year by NOCLS Golf Classic committee members Ruby Sharma (left) and Rick Dubois, on the roof of the Nixon Wenger building on 30th Avenue. Tributes are pouring in for Nixon, who died of cancer Nov. 25 at the age of 72. (Morning Star file photo)
Tributes pour in for Vernon lawyer, community booster

Paul Nixon, founder of Nixon Wenger LLP, died Nov. 25 of cancer at age 72

A power outage on Westside Road affected thousands of residents Thursday morning. (BC Hydro map)
UPDATE: Power restored for thousands on Westside

Outage sparked early this morning due to equipment malfunction

(Pixabay)
Canadians’ mental health has deteriorated with the second wave, study finds

Increased substance use one of the ways people are coping

A private retail non-medical cannabis store has been proposed for the Mall at Piccadilly. The application will go to Salmon Arm Council’s planning meeting for a referral on Dec. 7. (City of Salmon Arm image)
Retail cannabis store proposed for Salmon Arm’s Mall at Piccadilly

Application to come to council’s planning meeting on Monday, Dec. 7.

Paule Moore, formerly known as Paule Seeger. (TNG Legal Services)
Kelowna lawyer to face disciplinary hearing over alleged misappropriated funds

Paule Moore, née Seeger, is accused of withdrawing client trust funds a number of times when she was not entitled to do so

A coal-fired power plant seen through dense smog from the window of an electric bullet train south of Beijing, December 2016. China has continued to increase thermal coal production and power generation, adding to greenhouse gas emissions that are already the world’s largest. (Tom Fletcher/Black Press)
LNG featured at B.C. energy industry, climate change conference

Hydrogen, nuclear, carbon capture needed for Canada’s net-zero goal

Access to a Bastion Road property in Sunnybrae was blocked with officers on scene on Wednesday, Jan. 8, 2020. (File photo)
Report clears RCMP actions that led to fatal shooting of Shuswap suspect

Independent Investigations Office of BC releases findings on Jan. 7 incident in Tappen

An RCMP officer confers with military rescuers outside their Cormorant helicopter near Bridesville, B.C. Tuesday, Dec. 1. Photo courtesy of RCMP Cpl. Jesse O’Donaghey
Good Samaritan helped Kootenay police nab, rescue suspect which drew armed forces response

Midway RCMP said a Good Samaritan helped track the suspect, then brought the arresting officer dry socks

Most Read