OTTAWA — The federal privacy watchdog and some of his global counterparts are urging the largest social media companies to prevent bulk extraction of personal details from their websites.
In a joint statement, privacy commissioner Philippe Dufresne and data protection authorities from Australia, Britain and other countries say the practice, known as data scraping, poses a serious risk.
They warn that personal information has been used for targeted cyberattacks, identity fraud, creating facial recognition databases, unauthorized police intelligence gathering, and unwanted direct marketing and spam.
A 2021 investigation by Canada's privacy commissioner and three provincial watchdogs found that Clearview AI’s scraping of billions of images of people from across the internet represented mass surveillance of Canadians.
The new joint statement, an initiative of the Global Privacy Assembly's International Enforcement Cooperation Working Group, is signed by Dufresne and representatives of 11 other assembly members.
It has been shared with the parent companies of YouTube, TikTok, Instagram, Threads, Facebook, LinkedIn, Weibo and X, formerly known as Twitter.
"International collaboration is critical to promoting and protecting privacy rights in the digital realm and addressing emerging issues such as mass data scraping, which can present a significant risk to fundamental privacy rights," Dufresne said in a statement.
The document sets out several steps that social media companies and other websites that host publicly accessible personal information can take to ease the risk.
They include people within an organization to identify and implement controls to protect against scraping, as well as taking steps to detect bots and block IP addresses when such activity is suspected.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Aug. 24, 2023.
The Canadian Press