Wiertz Sebastien - Privacy by Sebastien Wiertz (CC BY 2.0) https://flic.kr/p/ahk6nh

Wiertz Sebastien - Privacy by Sebastien Wiertz (CC BY 2.0) https://flic.kr/p/ahk6nh

Privacy

Monsef Tour Poster-1-blank by Laurel L. Russwurm https://flic.kr/p/LczAJj CC0 1.0 Universal (CC0 1.0)

MyDemocracy.ca Responses Don’t Count If You Refuse To Disclose Household Income and Other Personal Information

The government’s MyDemocracy.ca survey/consultation/questionnaire launched yesterday to a steady stream of criticism as the initiative does not follow the typical consultative approach. Rather than asking direct questions about public electoral preferences, there are a series of questions on “values, preferences, and priorities” that are supposedly designed to discern user preferences. The questions focus on representation, parties, and voting rules (there are several questions on electronic voting that ask if there is support even if the systems are less secure).

The initiative is being run by Vox Pop Labs and the site’s privacy policy advises that the Privacy Act and PIPEDA apply.  However, dig into the policy and you learn that users that do not provide detailed demographic information – including age, gender, education, household income, profession, language, interest in politics, and postal code – will not have their responses considered as part of the study. The specific provision states:

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December 6, 2016 48 comments News
Surveillance by Mike Gabelmann (CC BY-NC 2.0) https://flic.kr/p/D6bQ7V

Lost Confidence: Why Trust in Canadian Surveillance Agencies Has Been Irreparably Harmed

In the aftermath of the Snowden revelations in which the public has become largely numb to new surveillance disclosures, the Canadian reports over the past week will still leave many shocked and appalled. It started with the Ontario Provincial Police mass text messaging thousands of people based on cellphone usage from nearly a year earlier (which is not government surveillance per se but highlights massive geo-location data collection by telecom carriers and extraordinary data retention periods), continued with the deeply disturbing reports of surveillance of journalists in Quebec (which few believe is limited to just Quebec) and culminated in yesterday’s federal court decision that disclosed that CSIS no longer needs warrants for tax records (due to Bill C-51) and took the service to task for misleading the court and violating the law for years on its metadata collection and retention program.

The ruling reveals a level of deception that should eliminate any doubts that the current oversight framework is wholly inadequate and raises questions about Canadian authorities commitment to operating within the law. The court found a breach of a “duty of candour” (which most people would typically call deception or lying) and raises the possibility of a future contempt of court proceeding. While CSIS attempted to downplay the concern by noting that the data collection in question – metadata involving a wide range of information used in a massive data analysis program – was collected under a court order, simply put, the court found that the retention of the data was illegal. Further, the amount of data collection continues to grow (the court states the “scope and volume of incidentally gathered information has been tremendously enlarged”), leading to the retention of metadata that is not part of an active investigation but rather involves non-threat, third party information. In other words, it is precisely the massive, big data metadata analysis program feared by many Canadians.

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November 4, 2016 9 comments News
Access & Privacy Conference 2013 by forester401 (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0) https://flic.kr/p/eLS9xR

Canada’s Privacy Failure: My Appearance Before the Standing Committee on Access to Information, Privacy & Ethics

I appeared last week before the Standing Committee on Access to Information, Privacy & Ethics as part of the committee’s review of the Privacy Act. My opening remarks highlighted several longstanding concerns with the legislation and then turned to three broader issues: Bill C-51′s information sharing provisions, transparency reporting, and the revival of lawful access issues.

My full prepared opening remarks are posted below:

Appearance before the House of Commons Standing Committee on Access to Information, Privacy & Ethics, September 29, 2016

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October 6, 2016 3 comments News
Privacy by Blue Coat Photos (CC BY-SA 2.0) https://flic.kr/p/inZFbz

Lawful Access is Back: How the Government Quietly Revived Canada’s Most Controversial Privacy Issue

The controversial issue of lawful access rules, which address questions of police use of Internet subscriber information and interception capabilities at Canadian telecom companies, has long been played down by Canadian governments. When policy proposals first emerged in the early 2000s, the Liberal government focused on the anti-terrorism and anti-spam benefits. Subsequent Conservative proposals promoted the ability to combat child pornography, and most recently, cyber-bullying.

Yet when the Conservatives passed lawful access legislation in late 2014, it seemed that more than a decade of debate had delivered a typical Canadian compromise. The new legislation eliminated liability concerns for Internet providers who voluntarily disclose basic subscriber information and created a series of new police powers to require preservation and access to digital data.

Notwithstanding the legislative resolution and renewed legal certainty, my new tech law column at the Globe and Mail notes that Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale has quietly revived the lawful access debate with a public consultation that raises the prospect of new rules that would effectively scrap the 2014 compromise. Ironically, the focus this time is the public demand for amendments to Bill C-51, the Conservatives’ anti-terrorism law that sparked widespread criticism and calls for reform during last year’s election campaign.

In other words, the Canadian privacy balance is being placed at risk by a policy initiative that purports to fix privacy. Read the full column here.

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October 5, 2016 5 comments Columns
Five Data Privacy Principles from Mozilla (Put on a museum wall) 2014 by Ann Wuyts (CC BY 2.0) https://flic.kr/p/pVKYKn

Do You Consent? Four Ways to Strengthen Digital Privacy

Privacy laws around the world may differ on certain issues, but all share a key principle: the collection, use and disclosure of personal information requires user consent. The challenge in a digital world where data is continuously collected and can be used in a myriad of previously unimaginable ways is how to ensure that the consent model still achieves the objective of giving the public effective control over their personal information.

The Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada released a discussion paper earlier this year that opened the door to rethinking how Canadian law addresses consent. The paper suggests several solutions that could enhance consent (greater transparency in privacy policies, technology-specific protections), but also raises the possibility of de-emphasizing consent in favour of removing personally identifiable information or establishing “no-go” zones that would regulate certain uses of information without relying on consent.

My weekly technology law column (Toronto Star version, homepage version) notes that the deadline for submitting comments concludes this week and it is expected that many businesses will call for significant reforms to the current consent model, arguing that it is too onerous and that it does not serve the needs of users or businesses. Instead, they may call for a shift toward codes of practice that reflect specific industry standards alongside basic privacy rules that create limited restrictions on uses of personal information.

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August 2, 2016 4 comments Columns