Vaughn Palmer: New B.C. watchdog needs to flesh out bite to match the departed Denham

VICTORIA — From the United Kingdom came more evidence this week of the impressive job Elizabeth Denham has been doing in that country’s version of the information watchdog position she held in B.C. for six years.

“Facebook fined for data breaches, lack of transparency, failing to protect users’ information,” read the combined headlines Wednesday in the Guardian newspaper.

The fine, the equivalent of $875,000 Canadian, was the largest allowed under the legislation Denham administers as the U.K. Information Commissioner.

“This is not about fines, though,” she told the BBC. “Fines and prosecutions punish the bad actors, but my real goal is to effect change and restore trust and confidence in our democratic system.”

The fine being just the latest development in a scandal that began with revelations that a U.K. firm, Cambridge Analytica, mined data collected from Facebook users to target voters in the U.K., the United States and elsewhere.

The alleged culprits include Aggregate IQ, a Victoria-based firm involved in the leave campaign in the 2016 Brexit vote.

Denham’s inquiry into the entire affair, described as the most important in the history of the office, has enlisted 40 full-time investigators and 20 outside experts in forensic data recovery and the like.

As well as fining Facebook for its part in the abuses, Denham has also put 11 U.K. political parties on notice that they may be next because her team will be compelling them to submit to data protection audits.

The most insidious aspect of data mining entails taking personal data posted on one site — like a Facebook account — combining it with information obtained by whatever means from other sources, then targeting those people with political messages crafted to appeal to their personal predilections.

“Most of us have some understanding of the behavioural targeting that commercial entities have used for quite some time to sell us …read more

Source:: Vancouver Sun

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