Archive for May, 2014

Why Public Safety Minister Blaney Gets It Wrong on Privacy and Warrantless Disclosures

The House of Commons engaged in active debate on privacy this week, spurred by an NDP motion from MP Charmaine Borg. The motion reads:

That, in the opinion of the House, the government should follow the advice of the Privacy Commissioner and make public the number of warrantless disclosures made by telecommunications companies at the request of federal departments and agencies; and immediately close the loophole that has allowed the indiscriminate disclosure of the personal information of law-abiding Canadians without a warrant.

The government voted down the motion on Tuesday, but the Monday debate provided new insights into the government’s thinking on privacy. Unfortunately, most of its responses to concerns about warrantless disclosures were either wrong or misleading. In particular, Steven Blaney, the Minister of Public Safety, raised at least four issues in his opening response that do not withstand closer scrutiny.

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May 7, 2014 3 comments News

Why Isn’t the Government Backing the CRTC on the Wireless Code? [Update: They Are Now]

Update 5/7/14: Government reverses course and announces it will back up the CRTC in court.

The Canadian Press reports that the federal government appears ready to walk away from the CRTC’s proposed enforcement of the new consumer wireless code.  While the government has touted the code as an example of a pro-consumer approach, the CRTC’s attempt to ensure the code applied as quickly as possible may be lost due to the government’s decision to stay out of a legal battle over the issue. With the major telcos looking to limit the power of the CRTC and a federal court ruling that the Commission cannot advocate for itself, it falls to the federal government to do so. 

The issue was raised yesterday in the House of Commons, yet the government refused to respond directly:

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May 7, 2014 3 comments News

Five Measures to Help Counter the Tidal Wave of Secret Telecom Disclosures

The House of Commons engaged in an extensive debate on privacy yesterday in response to an NDP motion that would require the government to disclose the number of warrantless disclosures made by telecom companies. I’ll have more on the debate shortly (it’s worth reading), but the government has made it clear that it will not be supporting the motion.

My weekly technology law column (Toronto Star version, homepage version) notes that the revelations of massive telecom and Internet provider disclosures of subscriber information generated a political firestorm with pointed questions to Prime Minister Stephen Harper in the House of Commons about how the government and law enforcement agencies could file more than a million requests for Canadian subscriber information in a single year.

The shocking numbers come directly from the telecom industry after years of keeping their disclosure practices shielded from public view. They reveal that Canadian telecom and Internet providers are asked to disclose basic subscriber information every 27 seconds. In 2011, that added up to 1,193,630 requests, the majority of which were not accompanied by a warrant or court order. The data indicates that telecom and Internet providers gave the government what it wanted – three providers alone disclosed information from 785,000 customer accounts.

The issue is likely to continue to attract attention, particularly since the government is seeking to expand the warrantless disclosure framework in Bill C-13 (the lawful access bill) and Bill S-4 (the Digital Privacy Act).

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May 6, 2014 8 comments Columns

Five Measures to Help Counter the Tidal Wave of Secret Telecom Disclosures

Appeared in the Toronto Star on May 3, 2014 as Five Measures to Safeguard Consumers’ Telecom and Internet Privacy Last week’s revelations of massive telecom and Internet provider disclosures of subscriber information generated a political firestorm with pointed questions to Prime Minister Stephen Harper in the House of Commons about […]

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May 6, 2014 Comments are Disabled Columns Archive

Apple Canada Was Only Tech Company to Respond to Privacy Commish Request on Disclosure Practices

Last week’s revelations on the massive number of requests for subscriber information focused specifically on the responses from major Canadian telecom and Internet providers. The Privacy Commissioner of Canada wrote to the 12 largest providers, who responded with a single document that aggregated the responses of 11 of the companies (though some declined to provide information to questions such as how many user accounts were disclosed).

The Access to Information Act requested documents that contained the telco response also revealed that the Privacy Commissioner sent a similar letter to the leading Internet and technology companies. The list of recipients included Apple, Google, Facebook, Microsoft, Twitter, and eBay. While some of the companies now offer transparency reports that feature data on disclosure requests (and compliance with those requests), few did in 2011. On Friday, I received a supplemental document to my access to information request that contains the full response from Apple Canada.

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May 5, 2014 4 comments News