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How Canada Should Ensure Cellphone Tracking to Counter the Spread of Coronavirus Does Not Become the New Normal

With experts warning that the Coronavirus pandemic may last well into next year, the urgency of limiting the spread of the virus is sure to increase. Cellphone and social media data will increasingly be viewed as a valuable sources of information for public health authorities, as they seek to identify outbreaks in communities more quickly, rapidly warn people that they may have been exposed to the virus, or enforce quarantine orders. My Globe and Mail op-ed notes the data culled from these sources may prove invaluable, but they raise exceptionally difficult challenges of balancing public health concerns with fundamental privacy rights.

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March 24, 2020 8 comments Columns
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Why the Coming Battle Over Canadian Privacy Reform Starts at Home

Canadian privacy law is now widely regarded as outdated and ill-equipped to address the emerging challenges that arise from the massive collection and use of personal information. Canada’s private sector privacy law was drafted in the 1990s, well before the advent of a data-driven economy and the need for reform has grown increasingly urgent as Canadian law falls behind comparable rules around the world.

Guided by Canada’s Digital Charter, a roadmap for reform released last spring, Minister of Innovation, Science and Industry Navdeep Bains has promised to lead on privacy reform. While many may expect opposition to tougher privacy rules to come from large Internet companies such as Facebook, my Globe and Mail op-ed notes that a recent report from the Business Council of Canada suggests that a bigger barrier may come from some of Canada’s largest companies, including big banks, airlines, retailers, insurance providers, and telecom giants.

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March 18, 2020 1 comment Columns
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Industry Committee Recommends Adding Digital Lock Exception to USMCA Copyright Provisions

The Standing Committee on Industry, Science and Technology has released its recommendations for changes to Bill C-4, the bill designed to implement the Canada-US-Mexico Trade Agreement. I appeared before the committee and used this week’s Lawbytes podcast to highlight some of the discussion. The committee had a limited time to study the bill, but arrived at some important recommendations on the copyright and digital policy provisions.

First, it recommended adding a new exception to Canada’s digital lock rules to address concerns in the agriculture sector about the right to repair their equipment. The issue has been gaining momentum around the world as many identify the over-broad restrictions often associated with anti-circumvention laws. The recommendation:

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March 12, 2020 2 comments News
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The Cancon Conundrum: Why Policies to Promote “Canadian Stories” Need an Overhaul

Cultural policy in Canada can be contentious, but there is one issue – support for Canadian content or Cancon – that unsurprisingly enjoys near unanimous backing. Given the economic benefits, federal and provincial policies encourage both domestic and foreign film and television production in Canada, but there is a special place for certified Canadian content, which is typically defended on the basis of the need to support cultural sovereignty by promoting “Canadian stories.”

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March 10, 2020 5 comments Columns
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Bains’ Other Wireless Affordability Problem: The Broadcast Panel Plan for WhatsApp, Skype and Other Internet Services to Pay Canadian Broadband Taxes

Navdeep Bains, the Minister of Innovation, Science and Industry today promoted the government’s plans for wireless affordability. The effort was largely an attempt to reiterate its wireless affordability platform, which targeted a 25 per cent reduction in consumer wireless bills by emphasizing more competition through MVNOs and spectrum set-asides. The renewed emphasis on the policy comes as an updated Wall Report finds that prices have been declining in some baskets (the long-overdue emergence of unlimited-ish plans a key factor), but not in the core middle tier of plans where prices remain high. The government states “Canadians have been paying more overall compared to consumers in other G7 countries and Australia” and noted that the government will track pricing on a quarterly basis starting from January 2020. Coming on the heels of threats from incumbent telecom companies such as Telus, it was good for the government to re-assert its policy objectives for the sector.

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March 5, 2020 1 comment News