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Facebook says data of 620,000 Canadians improperly shared with consulting firm

The Canadian Press | posted Thursday, Apr 5th, 2018

Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg made a public apology Wednesday for his company’s handling of users’ personal information – including more than 620,000 Canadians – as the social media giant faced a growing international uproar over the questionable use of personal data for political purposes.

The company estimates 622,161 users in Canada had their data improperly shared with Cambridge Analytica through apps used by themselves or their friends.

Overall, Facebook says that 87 million of its users worldwide were affected – significantly more than the 50 million originally believed to be affected – with nearly 82 per cent of them believed to be located in the United States.

The company said those affected will find out Monday if their information was improperly shared with Cambridge Analytica.

Zuckerberg said the privacy breach showed his company didn’t take seriously its responsibility towards users “and that was a huge mistake.”

“It was my mistake. So now we have to go through every part of our relationship with people and make sure we’re taking a broad enough view of our responsibility,” he said during an afternoon conference call with reporters.

“It’s not enough to just connect people. We have to make sure those connections are positive and that they bring people closer together.”

Canada’s privacy commissioner said he wasn’t surprised at the magnitude of the number of Canadians affected. Speaking in Toronto, Daniel Therrien said the figure will work into his ongoing investigation about the data breach and whether there were any violations of federal privacy laws.

Facebook is facing its worst privacy scandal ever in the wake of allegations that Cambridge Analytica used data collected without users’ authorization to help Donald Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign and possibly other elections. Policy makers in Canada and other countries are now wrestling with how to respond to the spread of “fake news” on social media platforms like Facebook, which announced Wednesday it had also shut down accounts and pages linked to a Russian agency accused of online meddling in foreign elections.

Zuckerberg said the company would bring to 20,000 the number of workers dedicated to battling “fake news,” as he apologized for initially dismissing the notion that the misinformation campaign had any impact on election outcomes.

The social media giant plans to restrict data access on its platforms, which includes Instagram, to better protect users’ information. Facebook will disable a feature that let anyone search Facebook for a user with their email or phone number, saying in a post that “malicious actors” had used the tool to scrape personal data of most users on Facebook. And starting Monday, it will show people which apps use their Facebook information.

Zuckerberg is set to testify next week before a U.S. congressional committee, and he said top executives at the company would be dispatched to other countries wanting to hold government hearings on the scandal.

Canada’s acting minister for democratic institutions called Facebook’s admission of the scope of the breach “deeply concerning.”

“While Facebook has begun to take initial steps to address these issues, it is clear that much more needs to be done,” Scott Brison said in a statement.

Brison has said he’d be open to strengthening federal privacy laws, which don’t currently apply to political parties. And Zuckerberg appeared open to further regulation in a sector that has so far shied away from government oversight.

International experts in the national capital Wednesday to talk about the issue of “fake news” said the Liberals needed to enact stronger privacy laws to better regulate how social media giants use Canadians’ personal information.

“Since there are insufficient limits on what you can do with personal data, there is no countervailing force,” said David Carroll, an American academic who is suing Cambridge Analytica in the U.K. to gain access to his data.

“We need to realize that privacy legislation will weaken the behemoths in a healthy way.”

Other options put forward included greater transparency for online advertising that would enable users to easily learn who paid for a Facebook ad, how much they spent, how many people viewed it and why the ad targeted the user. Ben Scott, a former adviser in the State Department, said countries should look for ways to restrict the use of personal data for political targeting to avoid the kind of dirty tricks campaigns Cambridge Analytica is accused of conducting.

Sue Gardner, former executive director of Wikimedia Foundation, said there is general opposition south of the border to government regulations in the sector, with a belief that government involvement would make matters worse. Instead, recommendations in the U.S. centre around self-regulation.

“Those are massively insufficient for the scope of the problem,” she said.

Ford scrapping media bus for campaign suggests Tories want him out of the hot seat: experts

Paola Loriggio, The Canadian Press | posted Thursday, Apr 5th, 2018

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TORONTO – Ontario’s newly minted Progressive Conservative leader will not bring journalists with him on the campaign trail this spring, a rare move experts say suggests the Tories are keen to keep the unpredictable populist politician out of the hot seat as he takes on two more seasoned rivals.

Doug Ford’s team said Wednesday the former Toronto city councillor will not have a media bus following him as he criss-crosses the province ahead of the June election, an accommodation traditionally offered by Ontario’s party leaders to facilitate coverage while they hold multiple daily events in different cities.

Spokeswoman Melissa Lantsman said Ford’s campaign events will be broadcast online and his itinerary will be released for media interested in covering them in person.

“Most media outlets have shifted to covering events from their office and relying on live feeds. It is in our interest to have as much media coverage as possible and will do everything we can to ensure our events are streamed online to assist in that,” she said in an email.

Experts say the decision suggests a campaign strategy that centres on limiting questions and preventing Ford — a brash politician whose candid remarks often make headlines — from publicly going off-script.

And while this approach may prove effective politically, it’s concerning for democracy, they say.

“He is attempting to bypass the accountability function of the free press by limiting access to his campaign. This will not prevent coverage, but it alters the degree of access and creates a different, more opaque degree of transparency in the campaign,” said Tim Abray, a former journalist and current teaching fellow in political science at Queen’s University.

“This should not be blown off as insignificant,” he said.

Political parties have already done away with media buses in some Western provinces, but that has not been the case in Ontario, where leaders have deployed them — as well as chartered flights to more remote communities — in all recent elections.

News outlets pay thousands of dollars to the parties in order to reserve a seat on their buses and cover the costs of meals and other expenses.

It’s not new for politicians to try to control the narrative around their campaign by restricting media access in various ways, said Tamara Small, a political science professor at the University of Guelph.

The federal Conservatives did so under Stephen Harper by imposing a cap of five questions at news conferences, a rule that prompted a public pushback from journalists at the time, she said.

More recently, the federal Liberals have successfully peppered newspapers across the country with photos taken by the prime minister’s own photographer — a move the Ford camp may try to replicate if fewer news organizations send staff photographers, she said.

“The narrative is that you’re not going to get that photo that’s unattractive,” Small said. “You’re going to get the photo where the lighting is perfect and the right people are in the background and all of that kind of stuff and it tells the story that they want to tell.”

While Ford, nonetheless, needs media attention to grow his profile and attract new votes, he can get it in a much more controlled setting by doing one-on-one interviews with local media or forcing journalists to quote his tweets as U.S. President Donald Trump has done, she said.

“I wouldn’t be surprised if they’re trying to make sure that the plan is as clear as possible now so that they can operate as strategically as possible,” she said.

“One of the things that makes Doug Ford very attractive to people is his ability to sort of speak off the cuff and all that kind of stuff but that is also the stuff…that could become problematic,” she said.

The Tories may also be trying to shift the focus from their leader onto other issues such as their policies, as the federal Liberals did in the 1980s in the campaign for a then-unpopular Pierre Elliott Trudeau, said Jonathan Rose, a political science professor at Queen’s University.

“It’ll be interesting to see if Doug Ford maintains that script and doesn’t do as many photo ops as the other leaders,” he said. “The reason why you do that, of course, is to focus on the policy and avoid any kind of problems with Ford going off-script.”

Ford’s campaign would not say whether he will be holding daily events during the campaign, nor would it confirm whether he will deliver a fully costed platform before the election as promised.

“We have a plan for the people of Ontario and we will be rolling it out piece by piece over the coming weeks. Stay tuned,” Lantsman said.

In any case, Ford’s decision to scrap the media bus is a “shot across the bow to the media,” but the issue is unlikely to ruffle voters, said Rose.

“Voters don’t care about that and in fact it might play well to Doug Ford’s base that he is not playing nice with the media,” he said. “The U.S. wave of populism that has sort of washed over Ontario since his election may be evidence of that.”

Student charged after Cambridge school hit with threatening graffiti

Daniela Germano, The Canadian Press | posted Thursday, Apr 5th, 2018

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Police in southwestern Ontario have laid charges against a high school student as they investigate several cases of graffiti threatening shootings at schools in the region.

Waterloo regional police spokeswoman Cherri Greeno said the student was charged in connection with a message at a school in Cambridge, Ont. – the sixth school in the area to be hit with graffiti threatening violence since mid March.

A female student at the Cambridge school was arrested Tuesday and charged with mischief under $5,000 and uttering threats to cause bodily harm or death, Greeno said. Police are not providing the age of the student but say she is under 18.

“(The message) was spray painted on the side of a storage unit at the school and said ‘school shooting April 6th,’” Greeno said. “All the other schools had similar messages, most of them were written in bathroom stalls, around harm being done at a school in terms of a shooting, all given different dates.”

The first incident of graffiti threatening violence took place at a high school in Kitchener, Ont., on March 21, Greeno said. That message was found on a bathroom stall and read “school shooting March 28th, not a joke, watch out,” she said.

Since then, five other schools in the region have been hit with alleged “copycat” incidents, which police say are all still under investigation.

“Whatever the intention behind these messages are, whether it’s considered a joke at the time, it certainly isn’t considered a joke to the students that share the school with these people … as well, it’s a significant drain on police resources,” Greeno said.

“We have had officers respond to each incident, working with the school board to a ensure a safety plan was put into place for students and staff.”

The Waterloo Region District School Board, which the Cambridge school is a part of, said the threats have caused “considerable disruption and worry for our students, staff and parent community.”

“We will work to ensure that those responsible for these threats know there are significant consequences to these choices and actions,” the school board said in a statement issued Wednesday.

“These types of situations will be fully investigated and disciplinary action will be taken as appropriate. Consequences, on the part of the school board, could include suspension and or expulsion.”

The Cambridge student’s arrest comes about two weeks after Ontario Provincial Police arrested five tweens and teens, charging them with threatening schools on social media.

Officials said at the time that they have seen a recent “spike” in online threats following a Florida school shooting in February in which 14 students and three teachers were killed.

69 charges laid against 14 suspects in alleged GTA crime ring

Nicole Thompson, The Canadian Press | posted Thursday, Apr 5th, 2018

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Fourteen people have been charged in a string of residential break-and-enters that targeted homes across the Greater Toronto Area, with as much as $2.7 million in personal property stolen, police said Wednesday.

Police allege the suspects were part of an organized crime ring based out of South America, and stole items that ranged from high end jewelry and luxury bags to cash.

“I’ve never seen a recovery this big,” said Det. Ron Strauch of Halton regional police, noting that he’s been an officer for more than a decade.

“Any other day for me, about $50,000 worth of stuff would be a huge win,” he said.

Officers with the Halton force began investigating late last year, he said, after analysts noted a spike in residential break-and-enters.

In some senses, they followed a specific pattern, Strauch said, with suspects allegedly entering through the back doors of houses. But in other ways, the hits were random. The accused didn’t always target large houses or those in particularly affluent neighbourhoods, and the alleged crimes took place across the GTA, he said.

Strauch said the investigation was fairly slow going until a witness who was out walking his dog in Oakville, Ont., saw a break-and-enter take place early last month.

“Because of witnessing that, he was able to give us a lot of information that sort of blew this investigation up really fast in about three weeks’ time,” Strauch said.

Investigators tracked the suspects’ cars and collected surveillance footage, he said. Surveillance photos released by police show men wearing black hoodies with masks pulled over their mouths who appear to be trying to break into the back door of a house.

Officers conducted four search warrants across regions surrounding Toronto – two in homes, one in a storage unit and one in a motel, Strauch said.

They seized stolen property that included a watch worth $50,000, a designer suitcase worth $20,000 and slippers worth $5,000, he noted.

Halton police charged 10 people – all of whom are Chilean nationals – with offences including break and enter and possession of property obtained by crime and York police charged four others. Strauch said the earliest incidents linked to the group happened late last year.

He declined to comment on how the suspects got to Canada, but said most of them entered the country earlier this year.

In total, police said, 69 charges were laid.

Woman in serious condition following east end fire

BT Toronto | posted Thursday, Apr 5th, 2018

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A woman in her 20’s is in serious condition after a fire in the city’s east end.

Toronto fire was called to a home near Danforth and Greenwood avenues around 5 p.m. Wednesday night.

Paramedics say they helped two people out of a basement apartment, the woman and a man in his 30’s who suffered only minor injuries.

The cause of the fire is under investigation.

SIU investigating fatal shooting of man in Hamilton

BT Toronto | posted Wednesday, Apr 4th, 2018

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The province’s police watchdog is investigating a fatal police-involved shooting in Hamilton.

The Special Investigations Unit says Hamilton police officers responded to a call about an armed man on Caledon Avenue, north of Tyrone Drive at about 3:30 p.m. Tuesday.

The SIU says police became involved in an “interaction” with a 19-year-old man, but did not release details about the encounter.

The agency says two officers shot the man, who was pronounced dead in hospital. A post-mortem is scheduled for Wednesday

Five investigators and three forensic investigators have been assigned to the case.

The SIU investigates all reports involving police where there is death, serious injury or allegations of sexual assault.

Anyone with information or video footage of the incident is asked to contact the SIU.

Teenager suffers serious injuries after being struck in Brampton

BT Toronto | posted Wednesday, Apr 4th, 2018

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An 18-year-old girl has been taken to a trauma centre with serious injuries after being hit by a car in Brampton.

Peel police were called to the scene of Countryside Drive and Fernforest Drive just after 8 p.m. Tuesday.

The vehicle did remain on the scene of the collision.

Police have closed the intersection as they investigate the incident.

Anyone who may have witnessed the incident or may have dash-cam footage of it are asked to contact police.

Woman shoots 3, self at YouTube in possible domestic dispute

The Associated Press and News Staff | posted Wednesday, Apr 4th, 2018

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Two law enforcement sources tell The Associated Press that the shooting at YouTube headquarters in San Bruno, California is being investigated as a domestic dispute.

A woman opened fire at YouTube’s headquarters in the San Francisco Bay Area Tuesday, wounding three people before she shot and killed herself, police and witnesses said.

Officers and federal agents swarmed the company’s headquarters complex in the city of San Bruno around 1 p.m as multiple 911 reports came in reporting gunfire.

San Bruno Police Chief Ed Barberini told reporters that the three victims have gunshot wounds and were taken to hospital. A fourth person was also taken to hospital but was not shot, but rather injured while fleeing the scene.

A spokesman for San Francisco General Hospital says it received three patients. Spokesman Brent Andrew says a 36-year-old man was in critical condition, a 32-year-old woman was in serious condition and a 27-year-old woman was in fair condition. The hospital is not expecting more patients.

During a press conference, police said they arrived to find a chaotic scene with numerous panicked employees fleeing the area.

One victim was found with an apparent gunshot wound in front of the main entrance of the building. Two other victims were found at an adjacent business.

After searching the building, a female suspected to be the shooter was located with what’s believed to be a self-inflicted gunshot wound. Police said the weapon used was a handgun.

Police say the scene is still an active investigation, with officers combing the area and interviewing witnesses.

Television news footage showed people leaving the building in a line, holding their arms in the air for police to inspect as they were leaving the building. Officers patted down people to make sure none had weapons, and police vehicles surrounded the area.

A witness on scene described the chaos as people tried to help the wounded. He says one person “got shot 10 times.”

YouTube parent company Google tweeted at 4:30 p.m. saying they were co-ordinating with authorities and later that their security team has been working with authorities to evacuate buildings after the shooting. The company advised employees and others to stay away from the area and that it’s set up a help line for workers.

Google CEO Sundar Pichai sent a note to employees calling the incident and “unimaginable tragedy”, while YouTube CEO Susan Wojcicki tweeted out saying, ” Our deepest gratitude to law enforcement and first responders for their rapid response.”

The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives says it’s also responding to the shooting at YouTube’s suburban campus.

The White House said President Donald Trump was briefed on a shooting at YouTube headquarters and that officials were monitoring it.

President Trump tweeted his thoughts and prayers for the victims and thanked first responders.

Earlier in the afternoon, Vadim Lavrusik, product manager at YouTube, tweeted that he heard shots and saw people running while at his desk around 1 p.m.

Shortly after he tweeted saying he was safely evacuated along with co-workers.

Will Hudson said his friend who works for YouTube texted him about the shooter.

“I think there might be a shooter in my building,” read one text. “The fire alarm went off so we started to evacuate and then people (started) running saying there was a shooter.”

Hudson said his friend has made it safely back to San Francisco and is in contact with his family. Hudson said he’s become accustomed to hearing about such violence but has never been so close to it before.

“It just feels strange. It feels like it could really be anyone. That’s really the strangeness of it,” he said.

Calls and emails to YouTube representatives were not immediately returned.

This story has been corrected to remove a reference that patients were taken to Stanford Hospital because the hospital now says it gave incorrect information about receiving patients from the shooting.

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