RBC disputes report that it had access to users’ Facebook messages

The Royal Bank of Canada is disputing a report in the New York Times that says the  bank, along with many other companies, had the ability to read, write and delete users messages on Facebook’s messaging platform.

The report, published in the New York Times on Tuesday is based on hundreds of pages of internal documents obtained by the paper, and corroborating interviews with dozens of employees.

CBC News has not been able to independently confirm the veracity of the documents, but according to the Times they outline myriad ways the social media giant gave access to users’ data to corporations on the platform, even as it was pledging to crack down on privacy breaches.

The report alleges that Facebook allowed companies to see the names of a user’s entire friends list without permission, and in some cases gave them access to users’ private messages. In other cases, companies could get access to other forms of personal information such as contact information from a massive pool of Facebook accounts.

All in all, the report says more than 150 different companies, primarily in the technology field, were given access to reams of data about Facebook users, without the users’ knowledge or permission.

One of the companies named in the report is Canada’s largest company, the Royal Bank of Canada. The report alleges the bank had the ability to read, write and delete users’ private messages, as well as to see information on all participants on a thread.

But the bank disputes the suggestion that it ever had the ability to view users’ private messages — much less that it could send or delete them.

“RBC’s use of the Facebook platform was limited to the development of a service that enabled clients to facilitate payment transactions to their Facebook friends,” the bank told CBC News in a statement, noting the launch of a program in late 2013 that allowed the banks clients to send money to each other via Facebook’s messenging service.

Mark Zuckerberg, chief executive officer and founder of Facebook Inc., met with U.S. lawmakers during the summer, but was roundly criticized for failing to do the same at a hearing by British and Canadian parliamentarians into the Cambridge Analytica fiasco this past fall. (Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg)

“As part of our security and fraud protocols, we needed to uniquely identify the recipient of funds and payments to securely process the transaction and deliver the notification,” RBC spokesman AJ Goodman said.

“We did not have the ability to see users’ messages. We decommissioned the service in 2015 and our limited access, which was used strictly to enable our clients’ payments, ended at that time.”

The new allegations against Facebook come against the backdrop of increased scrutiny about the social media giant, which is facing continual and growing criticism about its lax attitudes toward safeguarding privacy of its 2 billion users worldwide.

Earlier this year, founder Mark Zuckerberg faced tough questions from U.S. lawmakers over the Cambridge Analytica scandal after it was revealed that more than 87 million Americans viewed misleading “fake news” about candidates during the 2016 U.S. election because of the level of access that Facebook gave to the now defunct company.

Zuckerberg was criticized by Canadian and British lawmakers last month when he failed to even show up for a hearing into the matter in London.

The New York Times report also details ways that various technology companies who ostensibly compete with Facebook were granted unprecedented access to its users data, including Yahoo, Netflix, Microsoft, Amazon, Spotify and Pandora.

“At no time did we access people’s private messages on Facebook, or ask for the ability to do so,” Netflix told CBC News in a statement.

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Sherwood Park

Sherwood Park is a large hamlet in Alberta, Canada within Strathcona County that is recognized as an urban service area.[7] It is located adjacent to the City of Edmonton’s eastern boundary,[8] generally south of Highway 16 (Yellowhead Trail), west of Highway 21 and north of Highway 630 (Wye Road).[9] Other portions of Sherwood Park extend beyond Yellowhead Trail and Wye Road, while Anthony Henday Drive (Highway 216) separates Refinery Row to the west from the balance of the hamlet to the east.[9]

Sherwood Park was established in 1955 on farmland of the Smeltzer family, east of Edmonton. With a population of 70,618 in 2016,[6] Sherwood Park has enough people to be Alberta’s seventh largest city, but technically retains the status of a hamlet. The Government of Alberta recognizes the Sherwood Park Urban Service Area as equivalent to a city.


Sherwood Park, originally named Campbelltown, was founded by John Hook Campbell and John Mitchell in 1953 when the Municipal District of Strathcona No. 83 approved their proposed development of a bedroom community east of Edmonton. The first homes within the community were marketed to the public in 1955. Canada Post intervened on the name of Campbelltown due to the existence of several other communities in Canada within the same name, so the community’s name was changed to Sherwood Park in 1956.

The Sherwood Park Urban Service Area is located in the Edmonton Capital Region along the western edge of central Strathcona County adjacent to the City of Edmonton.[8] The majority of the community is bound by Highway 16 (Yellowhead Highway) to the north, Highway 21 to the east, Highway 630 (Wye Road) to the south, and Anthony Henday Drive (Highway 216) to the west. The Refinery Row portion of Sherwood Park is located across Anthony Henday Drive to the west, between Sherwood Park Freeway and Highway 16. Numerous developments fronting the south side of Wye Road, including Wye Gardens, Wye Crossing, Salisbury Village and the Estates of Sherwood Park, are also within the community. Lands north of Highway 16 and south of Township Road 534/Oldman Creek between Range Road 232 (Sherwood Drive) to the west and Highway 21 to the east are also within the Sherwood Park urban service area.

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