Marking 20 years
of bold journalism,
reader supported.
Rights + Justice

Federal Privacy Commissioner Investigating Claims RBC Could Read Private Facebook Messages

Bank denies allegation, but Facebook told The Tyee it had given RBC access.

Bryan Carney 8 Feb

Bryan Carney reports for The Tyee and is director of web production.

The federal government has launched an investigation into allegations the Royal Bank of Canada had access to the private Facebook messages of people using its app, Privacy Commissioner Daniel Therrien has told MPs.

The New York Times reported in December that RBC, Spotify and Netflix had all been given the ability to read the private messages of Facebook users who connected with the businesses.

Spotify and Netflix admitted they had been granted the ability, but said they didn’t use it.

RBC, Canada’s largest bank, denied it had access to the messages.

But last week a Facebook spokesperson told The Tyee that RBC did have the ability to read, write and delete private messages by Facebook members using its app between 2013 and 2015.

MP Charlie Angus raised Facebook’s statement to The Tyee with Therrien during a Jan. 31 meeting of the parliamentary Standing Committee on Access to Information, Privacy and Ethics.

“[RBC] said they never had those privileges; they never did that. The Tyee is now reporting that Facebook has told them that RBC had the capacity to read, write and delete private messages of Facebook users who were using the banking app,” said Angus, the committee’s vice-chair. “Have you looked into that? Do you think it's something that requires followup? Should we take RBC's word for it?”

Therrien confirmed his office is investigating.

“We actually received complaints from individuals on whether or not the Royal Bank was violating PIPEDA [The Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act] in some way in receiving information in that way,” he replied.

“That question is the subject of a separate investigation,” said Therrien.

The investigation is separate from investigations into Facebook related to revelations about the practices of Cambridge Analytica and Victoria-based AggregateIQ, Therrien said.

The government told The Tyee it was “not in a position to add further details” due to the act’s rules.  [Tyee]

Read more: Rights + Justice, Media

  • Share:

Facts matter. Get The Tyee's in-depth journalism delivered to your inbox for free

Tyee Commenting Guidelines

Comments that violate guidelines risk being deleted, and violations may result in a temporary or permanent user ban. Maintain the spirit of good conversation to stay in the discussion.
*Please note The Tyee is not a forum for spreading misinformation about COVID-19, denying its existence or minimizing its risk to public health.


  • Be thoughtful about how your words may affect the communities you are addressing. Language matters
  • Challenge arguments, not commenters
  • Flag trolls and guideline violations
  • Treat all with respect and curiosity, learn from differences of opinion
  • Verify facts, debunk rumours, point out logical fallacies
  • Add context and background
  • Note typos and reporting blind spots
  • Stay on topic

Do not:

  • Use sexist, classist, racist, homophobic or transphobic language
  • Ridicule, misgender, bully, threaten, name call, troll or wish harm on others
  • Personally attack authors or contributors
  • Spread misinformation or perpetuate conspiracies
  • Libel, defame or publish falsehoods
  • Attempt to guess other commenters’ real-life identities
  • Post links without providing context


The Barometer

Are You Concerned about AI?

Take this week's poll