Privacy Commissioner of Canada Daniel Therrien listens during a news conference in Vancouver, Tuesday, Nov. 26, 2019. A federal watchdog says he is investigating Pornhub over potential privacy breaches related to alleged non-consensual images posted to the web platform. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck

Privacy Commissioner of Canada Daniel Therrien listens during a news conference in Vancouver, Tuesday, Nov. 26, 2019. A federal watchdog says he is investigating Pornhub over potential privacy breaches related to alleged non-consensual images posted to the web platform. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck

Canada’s privacy watchdog investigating Pornhub over alleged non-consensual content

MindGeek draws 170 million visitors a day, including four million Canadians

A federal watchdog says he is investigating Pornhub over potential privacy breaches related to exploitive content posted online, as concerns around non-consensual use of images in a digital world continue to mount.

At a parliamentary committee Monday, privacy commissioner Daniel Therrien said his office is looking into the pornography site and Montreal-based parent company MindGeek, following testimony from women who say Pornhub brushed off their pleas to have videos taken down.

More than 100 victims of exploitive content and scores of lawmakers have also called for a full criminal investigation into MindGeek, alleging it regularly shared child pornography and sexual-assault videos as well as content shot or posted without the consent of subjects.

MindGeek has denied all accusations of wrongdoing, saying it is a global leader in preventing distribution of exploitive videos and images and has zero tolerance for non-consensual content or child sexual-abuse material.

Therrien, responding to questions from NDP MP Charlie Angus, said consent is required to disclose personal information under federal law.

“There’s a further rule which provides that even if consent is provided, a company cannot collect, use and disclose information if a reasonable person would find that inappropriate,” Therrien told the House of Commons ethics committee.

The commissioner declined to reveal more about the ongoing probe into the porn giant.

RCMP Commissioner Brenda Lucki told committee members last month that the call from more than 70 lawmakers for a criminal probe is under review, adding that the police agency does not comment on whether an incident is under investigation.

MindGeek draws 170 million visitors a day, including four million Canadians, and generates $460 million in annual revenue, according to the company. It frequently ranks among the dozen most-visited sites in the world, ahead of Netflix and Zoom.

It isn’t the only company to stir up privacy concerns of late, with U.S. firm Clearview AI drawing condemnation from Therrien and three provincial counterparts in a February report.

The paper found that the New York-based company’s scraping of billions of images of people from across the internet using facial recognition technology amounted to a clear violation of Canadians’ privacy rights.

On Monday, Therrien said new legislation known as Bill C-11 and now in second reading needs to go further to safeguard personal privacy and “reduce the risks of facial recognition technology.”

Inadequate regulation jeopardizes privacy rights, “but also impacts the ability to exercise other rights such as freedom of expression and association, equality and democracy,” he told the panel of MPs.

“I think very, very significant amendments to Bill C-11 should be made to adequately protect privacy.”

Therrien warned that the legislation, which states that privacy and commercial considerations must be balanced, could effectively favour the latter in a way that the current, two-decade-old Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act does not.

“The bill gives more weight to the commercial interests by adding new commercial factors to be considered in the balance, without adding any reference to the lessons of the past 20 years on technology’s disruption of rights,” he said.

“I urge you to make clear in Bill C-11 that where there is a conflict between commercial objectives and privacy protection, Canadians’ privacy rights should prevail.”

Clearview AI’s technology allows for the collection of huge numbers of images from various sources that can help police forces, financial institutions and other clients identify people.

The report by Therrien and privacy-protection authorities for Alberta, British Columbia and Quebec said the company’s algorithms allowed law enforcement and commercial organizations to match photographs of unknown people against the company’s databank of more than three billion images for investigation purposes.

The RCMP became a paying customer and a total of 48 accounts were created for law enforcement and other organizations across the country, the commissioners said.

Clearview AI said it would cease offering its facial recognition services in Canada and that its contract with the RCMP would be terminated, Therrien announced in July.

An investigation into the RCMP’s use of the Clearview AI launched by the watchdog in February 2020 is “nearing completion,” Therrien said Monday.

Christopher Reynolds, The Canadian Press

Privacy

Just Posted

The Government of Alberta identified 115 new COVID-19 cases Sunday, bringing the provincial total to 3,089.
(Black Press file photo)
Alberta reports 100 new cases of COVID-19

The Central zone sits at 218 active cases

The Government of Alberta identified 115 new COVID-19 cases Sunday, bringing the provincial total to 3,089.
(Black Press file photo)
Red Deer drops to 71 active cases of COVID-19

Province adds 127 new cases of the virus

Police officers and their dogs undergo training at the RCMP Police Dog Services training centre in Innisfail, Alta., on Wednesday, July 15, 2015. Mounties say they are searching for an armed and dangerous man near a provincial park in northern Alberta who is believed to have shot and killed a service dog during a police chase. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
RCMP search for armed man in northern Alberta after police dog shot and killed

Cpl. Deanna Fontaine says a police service dog named Jago was shot during the pursuit

Alberta now has 2,336 active cases of COVID-19, with 237 people in hospital, including 58 in intensive care. (Black Press file photo)
Red Deer down to 73 active cases of COVID-19, lowest since early November

The Central zone has 253 active cases of the virus

(Black Press File Photo)
Sylvan Lake RCMP charge youth with weapons offences

The public helped to identify the individual involved in an incident at the pier earlier this month

Marco Mendicino, Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship during a press conference in Ottawa on Thursday, May 13, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Canada to welcome 45,000 refugees this year, says immigration minister

Canada plans to increase persons admitted from 23,500 to 45,000 and expedite permanent residency applications

FILE – Most lanes remain closed at the Peace Arch border crossing into the U.S. from Canada, where the shared border has been closed for nonessential travel in an effort to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, Thursday, May 7, 2020, in Blaine, Wash. The restrictions at the border took effect March 21, while allowing trade and other travel deemed essential to continue. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)
Feds to issue update on border measures for fully vaccinated Canadians, permanent residents

Border with U.S. to remain closed to most until at least July 21

Blair Lebsack, owner of RGE RD restaurant, poses for a portrait in the dining room, in Edmonton, Friday, June 18, 2021. Canadian restaurants are having to find ways to deal with the rising cost of food. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson
Canadian restaurateurs grapple with rising food costs, menu prices expected to rise

Restaurants are a low margin industry, so there’s not a lot of room to work in additional costs

Orange shirts, shoes, flowers and messages are displayed on the steps outside the legislature in Victoria, B.C., on Tuesday, June 8, 2021 following a ceremony hosted by the Songhees and Esquimalt First Nations in honour of the 215 residential school children whose remains have been discovered buried near the facility in Kamloops, B.C. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
Alberta city cancels Canada Day fireworks at site of former residential school

City of St. Albert says that the are where the display was planned, is the site of the former Youville Residential School

Barbara Violo, pharmacist and owner of The Junction Chemist Pharmacy, draws up a dose behind vials of both Pfizer-BioNTech and Oxford-AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccines on the counter, in Toronto, Friday, June 18, 2021. An independent vaccine tracker website founded by a University of Saskatchewan student says just over 20 per cent of eligible Canadians — those 12 years old and above — are now fully vaccinated. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
At least 20% of eligible Canadians fully vaccinated, 75% with one dose: data

Earlier projections for reopening at this milestone didn’t include Delta variant

This undated file photo provided by Ernie Carswell & Partners shows the home featured in the opening and closing scenes of The Brady Bunch in Los Angeles. Do you know the occupation of Mike Brady, the father in this show about a blended family? (Anthony Barcelo/Ernie Carswell & Partners via AP, File)
QUIZ: A celebration of dad on Father’s Day

How much do you know about famous fathers?

A dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine is pictured at a vaccination site in Vancouver Thursday, March 11, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
NACI advice to mix vaccines gets varied reaction from AstraZeneca double-dosers

NACI recommends an mRNA vaccine for all Canadians receiving a second dose of a COVID-19 vaccine

Bruce Springsteen performs at the 13th annual Stand Up For Heroes benefit concert in support of the Bob Woodruff Foundation in New York on Nov. 4, 2019. (Greg Allen/Invision/AP)
Canadians who got AstraZeneca shot can now see ‘Springsteen on Broadway’

B.C. mayor David Screech who received his second AstraZeneca dose last week can now attend the show

Most Read