Facebook Executives In Hot Water For Lobbying Trudeau Government

A senior executive of social media powerhouse Facebook is in hot water for having preferential access to senior members of Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s cabinet even though he is not registered as a lobbyist.

Facebook Canada's public policy head Kevin Chan appeared before a parliamentary committee in Ottawa on Thursday and was questioned on why he had yet to register as a lobbyist given that he has met with several senior cabinet members of the Liberal Government, including Finance Minister Bill Morneau.

Mr. Chan, himself a former political staffer, defended himself by saying that it wasn’t necessary for him to register as a lobbyist since the proportion of his lobbying activities falls short of the Lobbying Act's 20% minimum threshold. He added that his meeting with Minister Morneau was to show him and his staff how to set up a Facebook Live event to broadcast this year’s federal budget speech.

But the politicians grilling Mr. Chan seemed skeptical of his answers. Indeed, Mr. Chan’s testimony comes as policy-makers and regulators around the world examine how to better protect users' online data following a scandal that allegedly saw the personal information of 87 million Facebook users — including more than 620,000 Canadians — improperly accessed for political purposes. Mr. Chan echoed recent comments of Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, who acknowledgment that the company has not done enough to secure the online platform.

The committee also heard testimony Thursday from Facebook Deputy Chief Privacy Officer Robert Sherman, who estimated that 272 people in Canada installed an app that enabled political consultancy Cambridge Analytica to access information from another 622,000 Canadians. Under questioning, Mr. Sherman said that it's possible users' private messages may have also been inappropriately accessed and that there may have been other data breaches involving Facebook accounts.