The Canadian government officially released COVID Alert, its exposure notification app, on Friday. Ontario is the first province to use it with plans to implement it in the Atlantic provinces and B.C. in the near future (other provinces may follow). I posted several tweets about the app, including one that received hundreds of likes and retweets indicating that I have installed it (the tweet included links to the Apple and Android versions of the app). Given the interest, this post expands on the tweet by explaining what the app does and doesn’t do and why I think the government has done a good job of addressing many associated concerns.
Ken Whyte’s Globe and Mail op-ed on “throwing the book at libraries” over their effect on booksellers and authors is an outlier that is typically best left ignored. Days after the Globe devoted three pages to the op-ed decrying library book loans, there have been some notable responses from people such as Meera Nair and Brewster Kahle, but not even a tweet from groups such as the Association of Canadian Publishers, Access Copyright, or the Writers’ Union of Canada that the piece purports to support. I suspect that this is because there is no there there: libraries are widely regarded as essential community resources that play a critical role in learning, access to knowledge, community integration, and discovery of books. If anything, there is concern that libraries are facing significant budget cuts, which may adversely affect smaller and rural communities.
The LawBytes Podcast, Episode 61: Senator James Cowan on the Extraordinary Battle for a Genetic Anti-Discrimination Law in Canada
As the broad availability of genetic testing has mushroomed over the past two decades, privacy and potential discrimination concerns associated with testing results has increased. Until recently, Canada lagged behind other countries in this regard with no specific national legislation. That changed in 2017 with the enactment of the Genetic Non-Discrimination Act. The Act was quickly challenged on constitutional grounds, but earlier this month a divided Supreme Court of Canada upheld its validity.
The law underwent a remarkable parliamentary journey featuring opposition from successive governments, lobbying against the bill by the insurance industry, passage in the House of Commons despite objections from then-Justice Minister Jody Wilson-Raybould, and a court challenge in which the government supported the effort to declare the law invalid. Senator James Cowan, who was the lead proponent of the legislation, joins me on the podcast to discuss what prompted him to take on the issue and the unlikely path of Canada’s genetic non-discrimination law.
The LawBytes Podcast, Episode 60: Alberta Privacy Commissioner Jill Clayton on the ABTraceTogether Contact Tracing App
From the very outset of the COVID-19 outbreak, public health officials have identified the potential of contact tracing applications to both assist in conventional contact tracing activities and to warn individuals that they may have been in close proximity to someone who tested positive for the virus. The apps have unsurprisingly proven controversial, with some doubting their effectiveness and others concerned about the broader privacy and security implications.
The Government of Alberta was first off the mark with its ABTraceTogether app that launched in May 2020. Alberta Information and Privacy Commissioner Jill Clayton recently completed her review of the application with an extensive investigation into its privacy implications that included an examination of the technical details, how the app functions, the role of third parties, and access to the data by contact tracers and other officials. Commissioner Clayton joins me on the podcast to discuss her report, the positive aspects of the app implementation, and the ongoing concerns that her review uncovered.
The LawBytes Podcast, Episode 59: “It’s a Racist Policy” – Ben Cashdan on the U.S. Effort to Derail South Africa’s Copyright Reform
South Africa spent years embroiled in a high profile effort to update its copyright law responding to concerns from creators, the education community, and the visually impaired that the longstanding laws did not serve the national interest and were harming creativity and access to knowledge. Its Parliament ultimately passed progressive reforms in 2019, but the bill languished on the desk of President Cyril Ramaphosa, who faced enormous trade pressures from the United States and European Union to not sign the bill and stop it from becoming law. Last month, he seemingly caved to the pressure, citing constitutional concerns in sending it back to the Parliament.
Ben Cashdan is a South African documentary film maker and television producer who was active during the copyright reform process. He worked with Recreate ZA, which brought together a broad coalition of creatives, to advocate for both the interests of owning copyright in their own works, and in fairly using copyrighted materials in the creation of new works He joins me on the podcast this week to discuss the decade-long reform process, the external pressures, and explains why he thinks those pressures should be viewed as racist policies.