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Competition Bureau penalizes Facebook

The Competition Bureau has levied a $9 million penalty against social media service Facebook after the bureau concluded that the company made false or misleading claims about the privacy of Canadians’ personal information on Facebook and Messenger. Facebook will also pay an additional $500,000 for the costs of the investigation. The payments are part of a settlement in which Facebook has agreed not to make false or misleading representations about the disclosure of personal information. This includes representations about the extent to which users can control access to their personal information on Facebook and Messenger.

According to the bureau, its investigation in Facebook's practices between 2012 and 2018 found that the company gave the impression that users of the website could control who could see and access their personal information using its Privacy Settings page, among other methods. However, the bureau states, Facebook did not limit the sharing of this personal information with some third-party developers. This information included content users posted on Facebook, messages users exchanged on Messenger and other information about identifiable users. Facebook also allowed some third-party developers to access the personal information of users' friends after users installed certain third-party applications, despite claims that the company would cease this practice in 2015.

"Canadians expect and deserve truth from businesses in the digital economy, and claims about privacy are no exception,” said Matthew Boswell, Commissioner of Competition. “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.”

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