Facebook to pay $9 million for misleading privacy claims

Shruti Shekar
Telecom & Tech Reporter
GETTY

Facebook has agreed to pay $9 million in penalties after a Competition Bureau investigation that revealed the social media giant had made false or misleading claims about the privacy of Canadians’ personal information on the platform. 

A press release from the bureau said Facebook will also pay an additional $500,000 for the cost of the investigation. 

“The payments are part of a settlement registered today with the Competition Tribunal in which Facebook has agreed not to make false or misleading representations about the disclosure of personal information,” the release said. “This includes representations about the extent to which users can control access to their personal information on Facebook and Messenger.”

Facebook Canada said in an emailed statement that it did not agree with the bureau’s conclusions and that it was “resolving this matter by entering into a consent agreement and not contesting the conclusions for the purposes of this agreement.”

“We look forward to continuing our productive relationship with the Commissioner and the Competition Bureau,” a Facebook spokesperson said in the email.

“We will build on the improvements we’ve made in protecting people’s information and how we communicate about the privacy controls Canadians can use.”

The bureau’s investigation took place between August 2012 to June 2018. It concluded that Facebook gave the impression that users had control over who could see and access their personal information. 

It found that Facebook “did not limit the sharing of users’ personal information with some third-party developers in a way that was consistent with the company’s privacy claims,” the release said. 

It added that Facebook also “allowed certain third-party developers to access the personal information of users’ friends after users installed certain third-party applications.” While Facebook said it would no longer allow this type of access as of April 30, 2015, it continued to do so until 2018. 

According to the Competition Act, companies are forbidden to make false or misleading claims about their services, including about the information they’re collecting, why they’re collecting it, and how it will be used. 

“Canadians expect and deserve the truth from businesses in the digital economy, and claims about privacy are no exception,” Matthew Boswell, the Commissioner of Competition, said in the release. 

“The Competition Bureau will not hesitate to crack down on any business that makes false or misleading claims to Canadians about how they use personal data, whether they are multinational corporations like Facebook or smaller companies.”

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