Meta Platforms' successful defence against PCC's PIPEDA challenge
April 13, 2023
On April 13, 2023, Meta Platforms, Inc. ("Meta") successfully defended a high-stakes application brought by the Privacy Commissioner of Canada challenging Meta’s compliance with the federal Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act (“PIPEDA”).
The application arose out of a 2018/19 Commissioner investigation into Meta’s privacy practices with respect to third-party apps around the time of Cambridge Analytica. Based on the Commissioner’s investigation and non-binding report of findings, the Commissioner filed a Federal Court application seeking sweeping and unprecedented remedies, including an order requiring Meta to change its privacy practices to the Commissioner’s satisfaction and an order requiring Meta to submit to ongoing supervision.
Following a hearing, the Federal Court dismissed the Commissioner’s application in its entirety. The court held that the Commissioner failed to meet his evidentiary burden to prove any failure to obtain meaningful consent from Facebook users or to safeguard their information. In reaching this conclusion, the court commented on how PIPEDA balances individuals’ privacy rights and organizations’ legitimate interests, how speculation is no substitute for evidence, and how an organization’s safeguarding duties end once it discloses information to a third party. The court awarded costs to Meta.
The decision reaffirms that the applicant bears the burden of proving a PIPEDA breach through evidence, and PIPEDA’s safeguarding requirements are limited to personal information within an organization’s control.
Meta, formerly Facebook Inc., is a provider of social networking, advertising, and business insight solutions. The company, through its virtual-reality vision, the metaverse, focuses on developing a virtual environment that allows people to interact and connect with technology.
McCarthy Tétrault assisted Meta with a team led by Michael Feder, K.C., Gillian Kerr, Barry Sookman, Dan Glover and Connor Bildfell that included Niki Iatrou (Competition), Joanna Nairn, Alison Bond, Will Main, Brittany Cerqua, Ashley Taborda, Pippa Leslie, Sonia Atwell and Alice Yu (Litigation).