Conservative MP and ethics critic James Bezan is asking the privacy commissioner to investigate the hacking of the GiveSendGo crowdfunding platform and subsequent leak of private information on donors to the Freedom Convoy fundraiser.
“The illegal hacking of crowdfunding platforms and email accounts has resulted in tens of thousands of Canadians’ personal information being circulated online,” wrote Bezan in his March 9 letter to Commissioner Daniel Therrien.
“This blatant breach of privacy has resulted in ‘doxxing’ campaigns on social media, numerous media stories in national and international media, mapping of personal and business addresses found in this data, and targeted harassment campaigns.”
GiveSendGo discovered the hack on Feb. 13. The material was subsequently posted by the leak website Distributed Denial of Secrets and made available to journalists and researchers. Some media outlets proceeded to publish the information and contact donors.
Bezan also remarked how the government’s explanatory document to justify invoking the Emergencies Act on Feb. 14 to deal with nationwide protests and blockades referenced the illegally hacked material. The government used that information in part to allege the Freedom Convoy was largely foreign-funded.
The GiveSendGo funds never made it to organizers after the funds were frozen through an Ontario court order.
A related case is before the court today, including a hearing on the handling of GiveSendGo donated funds and the transfer of funds from key convoy figures into escrow. The appearance is part of an extended freezing order on all donated funds to the Freedom Convoy, as part of an ongoing class-action civil suit against the convoy.
GoFundMe, which held the first Freedom Convoy fundraiser before shutting it down in coordination with the City of Ottawa, told a House committee on March 3 that 88 percent of donations originated within Canada.
Bezan says he wants Therrien to determine whether the Privacy Act of the Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Ats (PIPEDA) has been violated. He also noted there is the potential for this data “to continue to be widely disseminated and cause harm to individuals and families.”
Due to the leak, individuals who donated to the Freedom Convoy have faced consequences. A staffer working for the Ontario Solicitor-General was fired over a $100 donation and the Ontario Provincial Police has said it is investigating alleged donations made by some of its officers.
Canadian hacker Aubrey Cottle has claimed responsibility for the hack in an online video and he has since been receiving threats, reported Vice.
The Freedom Convoy was a trucker-led movement that started in mid-January when the federal government imposed a vaccine mandate on truckers crossing the U.S. border. It evolved into nationwide protests calling for the lifting of COVID-19 restrictions with blockades at borders and three weeks of demonstrations in downtown Ottawa.
Demonstrations ended after the government invoked the Emergencies Act and police cleared the only remaining protest in Ottawa on the weekend of Feb. 18.
The Canadian Press contributed to this report.