How much aid should the government provide in order to secure a job?
What should businesses be able to demand?
Worryingly, going far past monetary transfers, your privacy and the bypassing of mainstream laws may be the norm when it comes to big business’s expectations.
While the nation has grappled with the continuously growing SNC-scandal where it is alleged the Liberal government repeatedly pressured the former Attorney General in order to drop the criminal charges against a Liberal connected company, another huge story was published by the Guardian.
According to that story, the Canadian government caved in within a day on Facebook’s demands for legislative guarantees against European data protection legislation … all for a data centre.
“In Canada… it used the promise of siting a new data centre with the prospect of job creation to win legislative guarantees. When the Canadians hesitated over granting the concession Facebook wanted, the memo notes: ‘Sheryl took a firm approach and outlined that a decision on the data center was imminent. She emphasized that if we could not get comfort from the Canadian government on the jurisdiction issue, we had other options.’ The minister supplied the agreement Facebook required by the end of the day, it notes.”
European data protection legislation refers to the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) which came into force on May 25, 2018. The full text of the GDPR put forward 99 articles which set out the rights of individuals and obligations placed on organizations covered by the regulation
There are eight rights for individuals which include allowing people to have easier access to the data companies hold about them, a clear responsibility for organizations to obtain the consent of people they collect information about, and a new institution to handle fines.
The Canadian government gave up all that for a data centre.
A problem-ridden deal.
While I personally could not find any record online of a data centre in Canada, let’s give Facebook the benefit of the doubt and say they, in fact, built a large data centre in Canada. Even then this deal is problematic.
Firstly a data centre does not provide many jobs, in most cases being capped at 30 full-time positions once construction is complete.
Furthermore, if the centre is large providing 500-1000 jobs, it normally requires such a competitive bidding process that the land and grant subsidies begin to rapidly outweigh the benefits.
Secondly, your data shouldn’t be something the government caves in on by “the end of the day.”
User data is the modern-day version of gold, except it is better. Once you have it, you can sell it, again and again, and again. With each new user, the value increases, and it can then once again be sold to the same customer at a higher price.
Unlike mainstream Canadian news organizations, Facebook does not charge sales tax on deals made online(it does charge on deals made in local offices).
Overall the capacity to maintain a
This control over user data combined with scale foster the behemoth of an unfair competitive advantage that
But, I suppose as long as Facebook targets the government’s personal priority of fake news by-election time, the PMO has enough to work with when it comes to planting positive stories in the press.
Graeme Gordon interestingly calls this out in his Tweet embedded below, noting that it sounds like Facebook told, “Trudeau what to do more than the other way around.”
Graeme wrote an interesting piece on our site on why Trudeau’s lineup of willing op-ed writers points to a larger problem of media manipulation. If you have the time for a slightly longer read, I highly recommend it.
The idea of media manipulation is interesting here.
As in many ways, it shows that while the federal government has a great understanding of local media, they either do not understand the economics of modern digital media, or they are simply choosing to be blind to it.
In both cases, the results are problematic for Canadians.
What do you think? Did the government make the right call?
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