Tuesday February 11, 2014
Over the past eight months, the steady stream of Snowden leaks have
revealed the existence of a massive surveillance infrastructure intent
on capturing seemingly all communications, including metadata on phone
calls, Internet searches, and other online activity. While much of the
surveillance originates with the U.S. NSA, the leaks suggest that Canada
plays a key role in many initiatives and that Canadians' data is
undoubtedly captured in the process. Indeed, in recent months, we've
Moreover, we know that U.S. law provides fewer protections to personal
information of non-U.S. citizens, suggesting that Canadian data residing
in cloud-based servers in the U.S. are particularly vulnerable.
Meanwhile, the Canadian legal rules remain largely shrouded in secrecy,
with officials maintaining that programs fall within the law despite the
obvious privacy interests in metadata and statutory restrictions on
I recently posted on a discussion I had last summer with a senior government official on the Snowden leaks. The official
remarked that in the wake of the Snowden revelations the political risk
did not lie with surveillance itself, since most Canadians basically
trusted their government and intelligence agencies to avoid misuse. Rather, the real concern was with being
caught lying about the surveillance activities. This person was of the
view that Canadians would accept surveillance, but they would not accept
lying about surveillance programs.
Today is the day that Canadians can send a message that this official is wrong. The Day We Fight Back Against Mass Surveillance is a global effort to galvanize people around the world to speak out against ubiquitous surveillance. Canadians can learn more here, but the key ask is to contact your Member of Parliament.
If you are concerned with widespread surveillance in Canada, take a
couple of moments to send an email or letter (no stamp required) to your
MP and let them know how you feel (alternatively, you can fill out the form at this site). In addition, you can sign onto a global petition supported by hundreds of groups around the world.
I've written about the need for changes here and many others - including Interim Privacy Commissioner Chantal Bernier, Kent Roach, Wesley Wark, Ron Diebert, David Fraser, Ontario Privacy Commissioner Ann Cavoukian and Avner Levin, Craig Forcese, and Lisa Austin
- have highlighted other potential changes. There are no shortage of
ideas for reform. What we need now are Canadians to speak out to demand
an open review and reform of Canadian surveillance law and policy. TagsShareTuesday February 11, 2014
Friday January 17, 2014
Later this morning, U.S. President Barack Obama will give a speech on U.S. surveillance activities in which he is expected to establish
new limitations on the program. While the measures will likely fall
well short of what many believe is necessary, it is notable that the
surveillance issue has emerged as a significant political issue since
the Snowden leaks and the U.S. government has recognized the need to
Reaction to the Snowden leaks in the U.S. has not been limited to political responses. In recent months, Verizon
and AT&T, the two U.S. telecom giants, announced plans to issue
regular transparency reports on the number of law enforcement
requests they receive for customer information. The telecom
transparency reports come following a similar trend from leading
Internet companies such as Google,
The U.S. reaction stands in stark contrast to the situation in Canada.
Canadian government officials have said little about Canadian
surveillance activities, despite leaks of spying activities, cooperation with the NSA, a federal court decision that criticized the intelligence agencies for misleading the court, and a domestic metadata program which remains shrouded in secrecy. In fact, the government seems to have moved in the opposite direction, by adopting a lower threshold for warrants seeking metadata than is required for standard warrants in Bill C-13.
TagsShareFriday January 17, 2014
Sunday December 08, 2013
Today's leak of country-by-country positions on the Trans Pacific Partnership reveals the strong isolation of the
U.S. on many intellectual property issues and the wide ranging Canadian
opposition to many U.S. proposals. With International Trade Minister Ed
Fast heading to Singapore for a ministerial round of negotiations,
Canada is apparently far apart from the U.S. on many key issues. The
areas of disagreement run throughout the IP chapter and include
positions on copyright term, digital locks, criminalization of
copyright, parallel imports, patents, trademark scope, pharmaceutical
protection, and geographical indications. Moreover, there is a notable
disagreement on a cultural exception, which Canada wants but the U.S.
A look at the areas of disagreement from the Huffington Post leak:TagsShareSunday December 08, 2013
Thursday October 24, 2013
in the Toronto Star on October 19, 2013 as Canada Nearing 'Tipping
Point' Where 50 Per Cent of Research is Freely Available
The power of the Internet to shake up well-established industries has
become a common theme in recent years as many businesses struggle to
compete with new entrants and technologies. While it has captured
limited attention outside of educational circles, the Internet has
facilitated the emergence of open access publishing of research,
transforming the multi-billion dollar academic publishing industry and
making millions of articles freely accessible to a global audience.
"Open Access Week", which is used by supporters to raise awareness of
the benefits of open publishing, is being marked at university campuses
around the world this week just as a Canadian study confirmed a global
open access tipping point and Canada’s major research funding agencies
prepare to mandate open access publishing for grant recipients across
According to a European Commission-funded report by Montreal-based
Science-Metrix, more than half of all research publications in some
countries and fields of study are now freely available online. The
company found that countries such as the United States, Switzerland,
Israel, and the Netherlands have all passed the 50 per cent mark for
open access publication. Canada is on the verge of joining those
countries, falling just shy at 49 per cent.
The shift toward open access becoming the default form of disseminating
research in many fields is a remarkable change given that conventional
publishing in expensive subscription-based journals was the standard in
many areas as recently as ten years ago. The move toward open access
means that global research is far more accessible to everyone -
scientists, researchers, and the general public.
Canadian open access may also soon hit its tipping point if the three
federal research granting institutions - the Canadian Institutes of
Health Research, the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of
Canada, and the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of
Canada - follow through with a proposed open access mandate.
The three institutions, which collectively dole out hundreds of millions
of dollars in research support annually, launched a consultation last
week on a standardized open access policy. The policy would require
grant recipients to ensure that their peer-reviewed publications are
freely available online within 12 months of initial publication.
The policy sends a strong message to all researchers that the public
should not be asked to pay for access to the research that it funds.
Rather, researchers seeking taxpayer support can reasonably be required
to make their research openly available to the public.
In fact, the adoption of a standardized open access policy may open the
door to several other initiatives. In addition to the changes for
research publications, the agencies may also pursue new open data
requirements that would mandate the availability of the raw information
generated by research activities. Moreover, while the current policy is
limited to research articles, books and other larger publications that
benefit from taxpayer support may also face pressure to adopt more open
models of access.
The implications of open access policies extend far beyond shaking up
the academic journal market. Openly available articles are already being
incorporated into teaching materials, thereby replacing conventional
textbooks and removing the need for copyright permissions and fees.
Open access may also help foster greater collaboration between
researchers and the business community with improved access leading to
commercialization opportunities that might otherwise be missed.
As the Canadian academic community celebrates open access week, it
appears that the long-awaited tipping point may be about to head north.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org or online at www.michaelgeist.ca.
TagsShareThursday October 24, 2013