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Bob’s Weekly Report – Protecting our online data

Prince George-Peace River-Northern Rockies MP Bob Zimmer
Prince George-Peace River-Northern Rockies MP Bob Zimmer

BY BOB ZIMMER

Prince George-Peace River-Northern Rockies MP

Since news of the Facebook/Cambridge Analytica personal data breach broke almost a year ago, several different countries have been investigating the scandal.

Here in Canada, the committee that I chair recently completed our own investigation and we tabled our final report in December. As we heard from witnesses throughout the study, their testimony made it clear that this goes far beyond one data breach.

It is about how digital platforms like Facebook collect our personal data, how third parties can use this information to try to manipulate us and about how the spread of disinformation on these platforms can threaten our democracies.

These are all global issues, which is why I was honoured to take part in the inaugural meeting of the International Grand Committee on Disinformation and ‘Fake News’ in London, UK in November where 24 representatives from nine different countries came together to try to get answers from Facebook for their citizens.     

It was a historic meeting and while in London we agreed that this important collaborative work should continue.

With that in mind, as Chair of the Standing Committee on Access to Information, Privacy and Ethics, I recently announced that Canada would be holding the next International Grand Committee meeting on May 28 in Ottawa.

I’m looking forward to welcoming our international colleagues to Ottawa as we continue to build on what we accomplished in London. I want to thank Damian Collins, Chair of the UK Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee, for establishing this committee and for his support as we begin to plan for the meeting in Ottawa.

It is my hope that we will have countries from all continents (minus Antarctica) take part in this meeting and that we can come together once again as lawmakers to share our knowledge and best practices for holding digital platforms to account, confronting foreign influence in our democracies and examining how we can protect our citizens’ personal data.

With several countries, including Canada, holding elections this year it is vital that we continue this collaborative work. This meeting will also provide us with the opportunity to hear from the digital platforms themselves about what they are doing to protect our citizens from the threats of manipulation that we know are active online.

Over the coming months I will continue to provide updates on the countries that will be attending, the witnesses that we invite to appear, as well as their responses to our invitation.