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

170120-D-NA975-0695 by Airmen Magazine (CC BY-NC 2.0) https://flic.kr/p/RiAzEe

Trump’s Executive Order Eliminates Privacy Act Protections for Foreigners

President Donald Trump’s Executive Order on domestic safety, released yesterday, has enormous implications for the privacy of everyone living outside the United States. For Canadians, the order should raise significant concerns about government data shared with U.S. authorities as well as the collection of Canadian personal information by U.S. agencies. Given the close integration between U.S. and Canadian agencies – as well as the fact that Canadian Internet traffic frequently traverses into the U.S. – there are serious implications for Canadian privacy. Moreover, the order will raise major concerns in the European Union, creating the possibility of restrictions on data transfers as it seemingly kills the Privacy Shield compromise.

Section 14 of the Executive Order states:

Agencies shall, to the extent consistent with applicable law, ensure that their privacy policies exclude persons who are not United States citizens or lawful permanent residents from the protections of the Privacy Act regarding personally identifiable information. 

The protection of Canadian information which ends up in U.S. hands has long been a source of concern. Professor Lisa Austin has written about “constitutional black holes” in which Canadian data is not protected by the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms and the protection afforded to the data in the United States is at a lower standard than for its citizens and permanent residents.

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January 26, 2017 56 comments News
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 55 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