The story of the massive privacy breach from facebook continues to grow and implicate more Canadian politicians. This recent story has forced the current Liberal party to disclose that they contracted with the Cambridge Analytica whistleblower Christopher Wylie in 2016 at a cost of $100,000.
The article does not go into detail about what Wylie’s company (“Eunoia”) did exactly for the Liberals, although they do describe creating “social-media monitoring tools” and sample Canadian voter profiles. The contract with Wylie’s company was ultimately not renewed, but exactly how many Canadians had their data used, the legal terms governing that data, and the extent of the $100,000 work remains obscure.
In question period following the revelations, the Liberal party, in their defense to the use of their “data driven activities” point out that the Conservative Party had a similar $100,000 contract with the public relations data firm Agility PR Solutions.
In response to all this, the Privacy Commissioner Daniel Therrien “launched an investigation to determine whether any personal information of Canadians was affected by the alleged unauthorized access to Facebook user profiles.” Another news report quotes the Commissioner as asking for more meaningful, binding powers in light of recent alleged data abuses:
This week’s events have shown that weak privacy safeguards can have serious effects that go beyond the commercial realm, potentially distorting democracy, Therrien said. “It’s a wake up call, frankly, if not a crisis in confidence.”
Therrien wants other legislative changes to usher privacy laws into the era of big data and artificial intelligence, including new powers for his office to audit companies, make binding orders and levy fines.
Some questions arise in light of these comments, such as, what form should those legislative changes take to be truly effective? And, how can users meaningfully enforce their rights in cyberspace?