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

back to drawing board by Michael Kötter (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0) https://flic.kr/p/dqQzTn

Back to the Drawing Board: Bell Drops Opt-Out Targeted Ad Program

Days after the Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada released its decision that found that Bell was violating Canadian privacy law with its targeted ad program, the communications giant advised that it is withdrawing its program and deleting all customer profiles. A company spokesperson stated yesterday that Bell plans to re-introduce the program using an opt-in consent approach. That would likely require more than just a change to the privacy policy since the company would need to provide customers with incentives or compensation to get much acceptance to be voluntarily tracked.

My weekly technology law column (Toronto Star version, homepage version) notes that Bell’s targeted advertising program, which creates customer profiles that include age, gender, account location, credit score, pricing plan, and average revenue per user, generated controversy from the moment it was announced in October 2013. The communications giant maintained that it complied with Canadian privacy laws, yet many clearly disagreed as the Privacy Commissioner of Canada received an unprecedented barrage of complaints.

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April 14, 2015 2 comments Columns
fuzzy copyright by Nancy Sims (CC BY-NC 2.0) https://flic.kr/p/37jCsU

The Copyright Notice Flood: What to Consider If You Receive a Copyright Infringement Notification

For the past few months, I’ve received daily emails from people who have been sent a copyright infringement notification as part of Canada’s notice-and-notice system. Most of the notifications come from CEG-TEK, a U.S.-based anti-piracy firm. Canadian Internet providers are now required by law to forward these notifications and CEG TEK has been taking advantage of a loophole in the system to include a settlement demand within the notification. Some of the recipients claim that the notification has been sent in error. Others say that they have received multiple notifications for a single download. In some cases, the recipient has clicked on the settlement demand link, while in others the person has called the company and revealed their identity. In virtually every case, they are looking for advice on what to do.

My typical response has been to point to my earlier posts on the issue that have explained Canada’s notice-and-notice system, the misuse of the system by rights holders in sending misleading information about Canadian copyright law, the government’s failure to stop the inclusion of settlement demands within the notices, and the massive expansion in the number of notices with the arrival of CEG TEK. I also point to Industry Canada’s page on the notice-and-notice system, which provides the government’s perspective on the issue. These resources can be helpful, but what most people really want to know is whether they should pay the settlement or ignore it. I don’t condone infringement but I believe that the misuse of the notice and notice system is extremely problematic. Moreover, I certainly think people that did not infringe copyright should not pay a settlement demand. I’m unable to provide specific legal advice, but I can provide more information that may assist in making a more informed decision about a system that was designed to discourage infringement, not create a loophole to facilitate settlement demands.

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April 13, 2015 22 comments News
The Bell Telephone Company of Canada Building by Billy Wilson (CC BY-NC 2.0) https://flic.kr/p/9ESABT

Privacy Commissioner of Canada Rules Bell’s Targeted Ad Program Violates Canadian Law

The Privacy Commissioner of Canada has released the long-awaited decision on Bell’s targeted ads program. The Commissioner’s press release soft-pedals the outcome – “Bell advertising program raises privacy concerns” – but the decision is clear: Bell’s so-called relevant ads program violates Canadian privacy law. As I wrote earlier this year, the key issue in the case centered on whether Bell should be permitted to use an opt-out consent mechanism in which its millions of customers are all included in targeted advertising unless they take pro-active steps to opt-out, or if an opt-in consent model is more appropriate. Given the detailed information collected and used by Bell, I argued that opt-in consent was the right approach.

The Privacy Commissioner of Canada agrees:

In our view, for the reasons expressed above, the RAP clearly involves the use of sensitive personal information. As such, the sensitivity of the information at issue leads us to the conclusion that Bell must obtain express consent for the RAP in the circumstances. This conclusion is further supported by our assessment of the reasonable expectations of Bell Customers, which is set out below.

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April 7, 2015 10 comments News
Themis by Rae Allen (CC BY 2.0) https://flic.kr/p/oFMLsD

Conservative MP Ablonzcy on Bill C-51: Who Needs the Rule of Law?

Over the past two days, I’ve posted on the extremely disappointing review of Bill C-51 with Conservative MPs rarely asking substantive questions of critics and the difficulty the government had in finding expert supporters of the bill. The clause-by-clause review of the bill held earlier this week was not much better. Not only did the Conservative MPs reject all opposition amendments, but the discussion remained acrimonious with attacks against both critics of the bill and opposition MPs.

One of the most worst examples involved a proposed amendment from Green Party leader Elizabeth May which incorporated suggestions from the Canadian Bar Association. The CBA, like many witnesses, expressed serious concern about the inclusion of a provision in the bill that appears to grant judges the right to issue warrants that violate the Charter of Rights and Freedoms (Craig Forcese writes about the government’s anomalous effort to justify this provision). The CBA noted in its brief:

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April 2, 2015 11 comments News
Toronto Activists protest against Harper's Bill C-51 on Parliament Hill by Obert Madondo (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0) https://flic.kr/p/rQRhnt

From Obama Birthers to Anti-Immigration Activists: Who the Government Turned to for Bill C-51 Support During Committee Hearings

The Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security completed its clause-by-clause review of Bill C-51 yesterday with a hearing that Green Party leader Elizabeth May described as the “most offensive she has experienced.” In all, the government rejected 61 Green Party amendments, 28 NDP amendments, and 13 Liberal amendments. Yesterday I posted a “by the numbers” review of the committee hearings on Bill C-51 noting that Conservative MPs rarely asked substantive questions about provisions in the bill and that important voices such as the Privacy Commissioner of Canada were blocked from appearing altogether.

One of the most striking aspects of the hearings was how difficult it was for the government to find expert supporters of the bill. There were certainly some – police associations, Robert Morrison, Peter Neumann, Garth Davies, Christian Leuprecht among them – but the line-up of supporting organizations also included:

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April 1, 2015 15 comments News