BY BOB ZIMMER
Prince George-Peace River-Northern Rockies MP
“I as chair, and we as a committee, don’t take lightly the fact that Mr. Zuckerberg declined to appear,” I said as chair of the committee that saw Facebook executives give testimony that had been requested of CEO Mark Zuckerberg.
The need for Facebook to come before the Standing Committee on Access to Information, Privacy and Ethics and testify came after news broke that the company Cambridge Analytica had gathered large amounts of personal information from tens of millions of people’s Facebook accounts, including over 600,000 Canadians.
This news is deeply troubling, which is why it is unfortunate that Mr. Zuckerberg has decided not to testify. While I can appreciate that he is a busy man, the committee had important questions to ask on behalf of Canadian Facebook users, and frankly the answers we received from Facebook executives were inadequate. It would have been valuable to hear directly from Mr. Zuckerberg, as our counterparts in the United States have in recent weeks.
During their testimony Facebook executives apologized several times for the privacy breach and we heard about Facebook’s intent to make changes to improve the protection of users’ privacy. Whether that actually happens or not remains to be seen, but we as a committee are committed to staying on top of the issue until we see proof that it does.
For those who may be concerned that their information was compromised, we were told that Facebook had sent out a notification to the accounts that may have been affected and would have appeared at the top of your news feed.
You can also go to the Help Centre page after logging onto Facebook and search ‘How Can I Tell If My Info Was Shared With Cambridge Analytica?’. I would caution, however, that the findings provided only relate to one app called ‘This Is Your Digital Life’. As we are learning during this study, there are other ways one’s personal information can be compromised and Facebook does not currently know the scale of the breaches.
We all enjoy the good parts of Facebook. With 23 million users in Canada, it is a great way to connect with loved ones and acquaintances in ways we wouldn’t be able to without it. As your Member of Parliament, I use Facebook daily to connect with constituents and it provides residents the opportunity to contact me directly.
That said, I know that our committee takes the privacy of Canadians very seriously. An individual’s privacy is sacrosanct and if we need to change Canadian laws to protect it, then so be it.
As I said before the adjourning the hearing with Facebook:
“…we task you with a deep responsibility of keeping Canadians’ data safe. I think this is one thing that is unique about this committee is that all parties are committed to do what we need to do to ensure that you keep Canadians’ data safe.”