Facebook has been ordered to pay a $9-million penalty after making “false or misleading claims about the privacy of Canadians’ personal information,” according to a news release from the Competition Bureau.
The decision follows an investigation into the social media company’s privacy practices between 2012 and 2018. The Competition Bureau said they found Facebook falsely represented how much information users could control — including the personal information of users’ friends who had installed “certain third-party applications.”
“Canadians expect and deserve truth from businesses in the digital economy, and claims about privacy are no exception,” Competition Bureau Commissioner Matthew Boswell wrote in the statement. “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.”
The Bureau’s findings relate to data on both Facebook and Messenger, where users were given the impression they could control who can see and access their personal information. Instead, third-party developers were able to access some of that information in ways inconsistent with Facebook policies.
The company will also be required to pay an additional $500,000 to the Bureau for the costs of the investigation.
In a statement to CBC, a Facebook spokesperson said that although the company disagrees with the finding, they will not contest it.
Facebook will instead enter into a “consent agreement” and “build on the improvements we’ve made in protecting people’s information and how we communicate about the privacy controls Canadians can use.”
Facebook fined by FTC
Facebook has already been hit with similar penalties in other countries.
Last year, the U.S. Federal Trade Commission levied a $5-billion fine against the company, the largest it has ever imposed on a tech company. In 2016, France’s privacy regulator forced Facebook to change its tracking policy.
Following the widespread criticism, CEO Mark Zuckerberg announced a “privacy-focused” vision for the company last year. That included a number of changes throughout Facebook itself and other apps it owns.