Sudbury

'Very unusual' that Facebook offered meeting before hearings, MP says

A member of the standing committee on access to information privacy and ethics and MP for Timmins-James Bay says he did not accept an invitation to speak with Facebook representatives ahead of hearings involving privacy concerns.
NDP MP Charlie Angus says he didn't accept an offer to meet with Facebook ahead of a hearing looking into privacy concerns with the company. (Sean Kilpatrick/The Canadian Press)

A member of the standing committee on access to information privacy and ethics and MP for Timmins-James Bay Charlie Angus says he did not accept an invitation to speak with Facebook representatives ahead of hearings involving privacy concerns.

Last month, Facebook revealed that political consulting firm Cambridge Analytica may have harvested data of 87 million users, including 622,000 Canadians, without their knowledge.

A Canadian whistleblower who used to work for Cambridge Analytica testified that data was used to influence the Brexit referendum and U.S President Donald Trump's 2016 election campaign.

Angus says he was contacted by an official from Facebook to meet before the hearings.

He says in his 14 years of politics, he's met with all kinds of lobbyists and companies.

"I have never on the eve of televised national hearings received a message from a company offering to come and meet me and explain and work out the issues," he said.

"I think that is very unusual. I think it's also very inappropriate because to me it's a form of backroom lobbying."

Angus says he's unsure if any members of the committee did agree to meet with Facebook.

Cross-border approach

"It struck me that part of the problem we're dealing with Facebook is they seem to have a very loosey-goosey attitude towards rules, laws like the lobbying act and their access to politicians," he said.

"I think it's very inappropriate that they're trying to set up these closed door meetings before coming in to these public hearings."

Angus says the hearings will attempt to determine the adequacy of Canadian privacy laws.

"I hoping what we do in the Canadian parliament will actually help in the hearings in the U.K., in the United States so we can actually cross-border, cross jurisdiction start to piece this picture together," he said.

"Facebook is so much larger than any domestic jurisdiction."

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