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

Stelly’s Secondary student and North Saanich resident Merril McMillan will use her Beedie Luminaries scholarship to pursue a Bachelor of Psychology at UBC or Queen’s University. (Courtesy of Beedie Luminaries)
North Saanich student among two local winners of $40,000 Beedie Luminaries scholarship

Stelly’s and Vic High grads receive financial support for post-secondary studies

Two volunteers work to sieve a sample of sand and ocean water through a filter, capturing any potential microplastics. (Courtesy of Ocean Diagnostics)
Victoria startup making waves in microplastics research

New products from Ocean Diagnostics will make research faster, more affordable

Willows Beach in Oak Bay. (Black Press Media file photo)
Seven days of sun set to shine on Greater Victoria

Special weather statement warns of higher than usual temperatures

Chef Trevor Randle leads a June 21 online cooking featuring recipes – beef zesty lettuce wraps, blueberry strudel and blueberry spritzer. (Courtesy We Heart Local BC)
Free online cooking course explores B.C. blueberries and beef

Chef Trevor Randle calls them the province’s most flavourful foods

Andrea Lewis (left), board member of the Shoreline Medical Society, receives a $3,000 cheque from Andrew Hansen, owner of Boondocks Bar and Grill. They are joined by Elizabeth Rhoades, executive director Shawna Walker, as well as board members Richard Flader and Andrew Tidman. (Wolf Depner/News Staff)
Sidney bar owner helps doctor recruitment for Saanich Peninsula clinics

Boondocks Bar and Grill raised $3,000 in May for Shoreline Medical Society

Jesse Roper tackles weeds in his garden to kick off the 2021 season of What’s In My Garden Man? (YouTube/Whats In My Garden)
VIDEO: Metchosin singer-songwriter Jesse Roper invites gardeners into his plot

What’s In My Garden, Man? kicks off with the poop on compost

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

A portion of the George Road wildfire burns near Lytton, B.C. in this Friday, June 18, 2021 handout photo. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO, BC Wildfire Service *MANDATORY CREDIT*
Blaze near Lytton spread across steep terrain, says BC Wildfire Service

Fire began Wednesday and is suspected to be human-caused, but remains under investigation

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

A Lotto 6/49 ticket purchased in Parksville for the June 19, 2021 draw is a $3M winner. (Submitted photo)
Winning Lotto 6/49 ticket worth $3M purchased on Vancouver Island

Lottery prize winners have 52 weeks to claim jackpot

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?

The George Road wildfire near Lytton, B.C., has grown to 250 hectares. (BC Wildfire Service)
B.C. drone sighting halts helicopters fighting 250 hectares of wildfire

‘If a drone collides with firefighting aircraft the consequences could be deadly,’ says BC Wildfire Service

Most Read