Appeared in the Toronto Star on April 27, 2013 as Your Information is Not Secure in Ottawa
As Canadians focused last week on the aftermath of the Boston Marathon
bombing and the RCMP arrests of two men accused of plotting to attack
Via Rail, the largest sustained series of privacy breaches in Canadian
history was uncovered but attracted only limited attention. Canadians
have faced high profile data breaches in the past - Winners/HomeSense
and the CIBC were both at the centre of serious breaches several years
ago - but last week, the federal government revealed that it may
represent the biggest risk to the privacy of millions of Canadians as
some government departments have suffered breaches virtually every 48
The revelations came as a result of questions from NDP MP Charlie Angus,
who sought information on data, information or privacy breaches in all
government departments from 2002 to 2012. The resulting documentation
is stunning in its breadth.
Virtually every major government department has sustained breaches, with
the majority occurring over the past five years (many did not retain
records dating back to 2002). In numerous instances, the Privacy
Commissioner of Canada was not advised of the breach.
Some of the most vulnerable departments are those that host the most
sensitive information. For example, Citizenship and Immigration Canada
suffered 161 breaches in 2012 - more than three per week - affecting
hundreds of people. The department only disclosed the breaches to the
Privacy Commissioner of Canada on five occasions.
Human Resources and Skills Development Canada famously suffered a
massive breach last year - 588,384 individuals were affected - but less
well known is that the department has had thousands of other breaches
over the past few years. In 2007, a breach affected 28,651 people, yet
the Privacy Commissioner of Canada was not informed and the department
is unsure of whether the breach resulted in criminal activity.
Virtually no department has been immune to security breaches with nearly
100,000 individuals affected by breaches at Agriculture and Agri-Food
Canada since 2008, almost 5,000 individuals hit at Fisheries Canada with
no reporting to the Privacy Commissioner of Canada, and just under 200
breaches at the RCMP affecting an unknown number of people.
If a similar situation occurred involving a major Canadian bank,
retailer, or telecom company, there would be an immediate outcry for
tougher rules on mandatory disclosure of security breaches. Yet the
federal government plays by different rules, with no liability and no
legal requirements to disclose the breaches.
Successive federal privacy commissioners have urged the government to
reform the badly outdated Privacy Act to at least hold government to the
same privacy standard that it expects from the private sector. But
those calls for reform have been repeatedly ignored.
Most recently, Privacy Commissioner of Canada Jennifer Stoddart
identified twelve seemingly uncontroversial reforms, including
strengthening annual reporting requirements by government departments,
introducing a provision for proper security safeguards for the
protection of personal information, and creating legislated security
breach notification requirements. None of the recommendations have been
In fact, Canadian privacy failures dot the legislative landscape. Bill
C-12, the Canadian private sector privacy bill intended to implement
reforms that date back to hearings conducted in 2006 lies dormant in the
House of Commons. A review of the private sector privacy law that was
required by law in 2011 has seemingly been forgotten. Anti-spam
legislation passed in 2010 and touted as a key part of the government's
cybercrime strategy is stuck as Industry Minister Christian Paradis
dithers on the applicable regulations.
No institution has greater access to the personal information of
Canadians than the federal government. The public entrusts it to keep
their information secure and to take all appropriate action should a
security breach occur. The latest revelations indicate that the failure
to live up to that trust is spread across virtually all government
departments and to the political leaders that have failed to introduce
much-needed legislative privacy safeguards.
Michael Geist holds the Canada Research Chair in Internet and
E-commerce Law at the University of Ottawa, Faculty of Law. He can
reached at email@example.com or online at www.michaelgeist.ca.
TagsShareMonday April 29, 2013
The Copyright Board of Canada has released a decision
in which it admits to palpable error that resulted in a hugely inflated
tariff. The case involved a tariff for SODRAC for reproduction of music
works in cinematographic works for private use of for theatrical
exhibition. The Canadian Association of Film Distributors and Exporters
had proposed a tiered tariff approach of a maximum of 2 cents per copy
containing 30 minutes of music or more (less music would result in a
lower tariff). The Copyright Board mistakenly established a tariff of
three cents per copy, mistakenly treating three tiers as three cents. As
the Board now notes:
CAFDE was seeking a rate of 2 cents per DVD copy containing over
30 minutes of SODRAC music; the Board's interpretation leads to
royalties that are 15 times higher or even more.
While SODRAC argued that the Board could not correct its error, the Board concluded that it could noting
that this resulted in palpable error. Moreover, since the erroneous
Board decision actually resulted in higher tariffs than those even
requested by SODRAC, it also concluded that procedural fairness was
breached. The Board has now suspended the tariff and advised that will issue a new decision in the future.
TagsShareMonday April 29, 2013