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Image Source: commons.wikimedia.org / Image Credits: Anthony Quintano
  • The Canadian Competition Bureau has decided to impose a fine of $6.5 million on Facebook.
  • The social media company is accused of misleading the users and making false promises concerning their data privacy.
  • Facebook said they don’t agree with the decision, but they are planning to move forward with the settlement nonetheless.

Facebook has received a fine of $6.5 million over false data privacy claims and for mishandling Canadian user data. The fine was decided and imposed by the Canadian Competition Bureau, and it concerns the time between August 2012 and June 2018. The penalty has the form of a settlement between the organization and the social media company. It is meant to serve as a protection against false or misleading claims around user privacy in the future. In addition to the primary amount, Facebook will pay an additional $500,000 to cover the costs of the Bureau’s lengthy investigation.

According to the news release presenting an overview of the investigation results, Facebook gave the impression that users could control who can access their personal information on the social media platform. Facebook was displaying the “Privacy Settings” page as a powerful data control tool and repeated the same on the “About” page, as well as various posts on the official website. However, and despite the claims and promises made to the users, Facebook was sharing sensitive user data with others, no matter what the privacy settings were.

The shared personal information includes content that the users posted on Facebook, messages exchanged on Messenger, and more. Facebook publicly asserted that they would stop doing that in 2015, but they continued sharing data with some third-party app developers until 2018 when the Cambridge Analytica scandal blew up. This was when the Canadian Competition Bureau and numerous other national data protection agencies launched their respective investigations on Facebook’s practices. Some have failed to substantiate their case, while for others, like the Canadian Bureau, Facebook accepted to cooperate and resolve the matter voluntarily.

The Commissioner of Competition, Matthew Boswell, has made the following statement on the latest settlement/fine decision: “Canadians expect and deserve the truth from businesses in the digital economy, and claims about privacy are no exception. 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.”

From their point of view, Facebook told Reuters that they do not agree with the investigation’s conclusions, but they will enter into a consent agreement without contesting anything. This sounds like a compromise, but the amount of the penalty is really nothing for Facebook’s size, so they may as well pay it and get over with yet another country.