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 site of the new Mills Memorial Hospital project in Terrace on June 18, 2021. The provincial government is so far choosing not to comment on suggestions a new Mills Memorial Hospital will now cost in excess of $600 million. (Ben Bogstie/Terrace Standard)
Province silent on Terrace hospital construction cost

Health ministry urges citizens to stay tuned

The City of Terrace is setting up a town hall meeting to address the ‘crisis’ in the downtown area. (Black Press Media File Photo)
Terrace council declares crisis in downtown

City staff are in the process of setting up town hall meeting

Terrace RCMP responded to 231 calls from June 7 through June 13, 2021. (Black Press Media File Photo)
Assault with a weapon, man climbing building among Terrace RCMP calls last week

Police responded to over 230 calls from June 7 to June 13, 2021

James Nathan Roberts, 38, was found dead May 15 by a Terrace RCMP officer patrolling the woods between the curling rink and the train tracks. Police are asking the public to come forward with any information. (Submitted photo)
Terrace police renews assistance plea a year into homicide investigation

Investigation began after James Roberts’ body was found in May 2020

This concept artwork from July 2020 shows the inland port planned for the former Skeena Cellulose mill site in Terrace. (Image courtesy Hatha Callis, Progressive Ventures Group)
VIDEO: Highlights of Terrace’s inland port public hearing

Council gave third reading to two zoning amendments on June 14

People line up to get their COVID-19 vaccine at a vaccination centre, Thursday, June 10, 2021 in Montreal. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Ryan Remiorz
Vaccines, low COVID case counts increase Father’s Day hope, but risk is still there

Expert says people will have to do their own risk calculus before popping in on Papa

John Furlong told the Vancouver Board of Trade on Feb. 20, 2020 that he thinks the city could and should bid for the 2030 Winter Games. (CP photo)
PODCAST: John Furlong lays out a ‘provincial’ plan to host the 2030 Winter Olympics

Podcast: Chat includes potential role for Vancouver Island communities

The pilot of this single-engine propeller plane was unhurt after crash-landing in a Como Road orchard Friday, June 18. Photo: Laurie Tritschler
Plane crash lands into Grand Forks orchard, pilot injured

RCMP have secured the crash site, pending investigation by Transport Canada

A tenant walks in front of her home on Boundary Road on Friday, June 18, 2021 after it was destroyed by fire the night before in Chilliwack. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress)
Family homeless after fire rips through Chilliwack house

Turtle rescued, no one seriously hurt following Boundary Road fire in Chilliwack

BC Ferries’ newest Island Class vessel is experiencing an issue with one of its thrusters off the Algerian coast. Photo courtesy patbaywebcam.com.
BC Ferries newest vessel having mechanical issues in Mediterranean

Island 4 will be repaired in Spain before crossing Atlantic

Wild rabbits are all over Chilliwack, but people often think they’re someone’s lost pet and try to ‘save’ them. But the owner of Chilliwack’s Reptile Room says good intentions can have bad consequences for wild animals. (Photo by THE CANADIAN PRESS)
Owner of Chilliwack’s Reptile Room asks people to leave wild animals in the wild

Amber Quiring says people who think they’re helping are actually doing more harm than good

Thousands of protesters make their way through the downtown core during a Black Lives Matter protest in Ottawa, Friday June 5, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
MPs’ study of systemic racism in policing concludes RCMP needs new model

Chair of the House public safety committee says it’s time for a reckoning on ‘quasi-military’ structure

A case filled with packages of boneless chicken breasts is shown in a grocery store Sunday, May 10, 2020, in southeast Denver. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-David Zalubowski
One million chickens euthanized during labour dispute at Quebec slaughterhouse

Premier says waste amounts to 13 per cent of the province’s chicken production thrown in the garbage

Most Read