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 has denied all accusations of wrongdoing

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 its 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.

“MindGeek is fully co-operating with the Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada. As this is an ongoing investigation, we are unable to comment further,” the company said in an email.

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

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Want to support local journalism? Make a donation here.

privacy

Just Posted

Little Brown Bat, Cori Lausen image
Puntledge River bats being studied

Scientists will be monitering bat activity in the Puntlesge River Watershed this… Continue reading

A 30x40 ft boat/car shop in the Little River area near Wilkinson Road was fully involved by the time firefighters arrived on scene. Photo by Comox Fire Rescue
Comox firefighters battle ‘showy’ shop fire Saturday night

Smoke could be seen throughout the Comox Valley

ROAM Media’s Ian Adams designed the label for the new honey ale. Image supplied
Church St., Ace combine on a true Comox Valley brew

The taphouse has Home Buoy on tap, and it’s also in cans

The finish line! Huband held a ‘Colour Run’ Friday to celebrate what’s been a different school year. Photo by Mike Chouinard
Comox Valley school lets its colours run

Huband Elementary wanted a way to bring kids together

People watch a car burn during a riot following game 7 of the NHL Stanley Cup final in downtown Vancouver, B.C., in this June 15, 2011 photo. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Geoff Howe
10 years ago: Where were you during the 2011 Vancouver Stanley Cup Riots?

Smashed-in storefronts, looting, garbage can fires and overturned cars some of the damage remembered today

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Port Alberni court house (Alberni Valley News)
Coroners’ inquest into 2016 death of Port Alberni teen rescheduled for June 21

18-year-old Jocelyn George died of heart failure after spending time in jail cell

Children’s shoes and flowers are shown after being placed outside the Ontario legislature in Toronto on Monday, May 31, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Frank Gunn
Ontario commits $10 million to investigate burial sites at residential schools

Truth and Reconciliation Commission identified 12 locations of unmarked burial sites in Ontario

Singer-songwriter Jann Arden is pictured with a draft horse. (Canadian Horse Defence Coalition)
Jann Arden backs petition to stop ‘appalling’ live horse export, slaughter

June 14 is the International Day to End Live Export of Animals

Two hundred and fifteen lights are placed on the lawn outside the Residential School in Kamloops, B.C., Saturday, June, 13, 2021. The remains of 215 children were discovered buried near the former Kamloops Indian Residential School earlier this month. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Days after Kamloops remains discovery, Tk’emlups families gather to unite, move ahead

‘We have to work together because this is going to be setting a precedent for the rest of the country’

In this Saturday, May 29, 2021, file photo, people crowd the Santa Monica Pier in Santa Monica, Calif. California, the first state in America to put in place a coronavirus lockdown, is now turning a page on the pandemic. Most of California’s coronavirus restrictions will disappear Tuesday, June 15, 2021. (AP Photo/Damian Dovarganes, File)
With COVID tamed, it’s a ‘grand reopening’ in California

No more state rules on social distancing, no more limits on capacity, no more mandatory masks

Montreal Canadiens goaltender Carey Price (31) is scored on by Vegas Golden Knights defenseman Alec Martinez, not pictured, during the second period in Game 1 of an NHL hockey Stanley Cup semifinal playoff series Monday, June 14, 2021, in Las Vegas. (AP Photo/John Locher)
Habs fall 4-1 to Vegas Golden Knights in Game 1 of NHL semifinal series

Match was Montreal’s first game outside of Canada in 2021

Kelowna-Lake Country MLA Norm Letnick, assistant deputy speaker at the B.C. legislature, presides over committee discussions. The legislature is completing its delayed spring session this week, with most MLAs participating by video conference. (Hansard TV)
B.C.’s daily COVID-19 infections dip below 100 over weekend

Only 68 new cases recorded Monday, four additional deaths

Most Read