Facebook has once again found itself in the political spotlight as Frances Haugen, a former data scientist and product manager with the company turned whistleblower, provided the source documents for an explosive investigative series in the Wall Street Journal followed by an appearance before a U.S. Senate committee. The Facebook Files series comes just as Canada is moving toward its own legislative response to Internet concerns, with an online harms consultation that provides a roadmap for future policies.
The Canadian initiative has sparked widespread criticism, but recent events may only increase the calls for legislative action. Taylor Owen, the Beaverbrook Chair in Media, Ethics and Communications in the Max Bell School of Public Policy at McGill University joins the Law Bytes podcast to discuss the latest revelations and what they might mean for the future of Canadian Internet regulation.
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Privacy reform in Canada has lagged at the federal level with the efforts to update PIPEDA seemingly going nowhere, but multiple provinces have moved ahead with amending their own laws. Quebec leads the way as late last month it quietly passed Bill 64, a major privacy reform package that reflects – and even goes beyond – many emerging international privacy law standards. Chantal Bernier, the former interim privacy commissioner of Canada, now leads the Dentons law firm’s Canadian Privacy and Cybersecurity practice group. She joins the Law Bytes podcast to talk about Bill 64, including its origins, key provisions, and implications for privacy law in Canada.
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The Canadian government’s consultation on online harms concluded earlier this week with a wide range of organizations and experts responding with harshly critical submissions that warn of the harm to freedom of expression, the undermining of Canada’s position in the world as a leader in human rights, and the risk that the proposed measures could hurt the very groups it is purportedly intended to help. I posted my submission and pulled together a Twitter stream of other submissions.
There has been some press coverage of the consultation response from the Globe and Mail and National Post, but Canadian Heritage officials have said they will not post the submissions they received, claiming some “may contain confidential business information.” Keeping the results of the consultation is secret is incredibly damaging, raising further questions about whether the government plans to incorporate the feedback or simply march ahead with an extreme, deeply flawed proposal.
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The government’s consultation on its proposed approach to address harmful content online concluded over the weekend. The consultation was one of several consults that ran during the election period and which raise questions about whether policy makers are genuinely interested in incorporating feedback from Canadians. I submitted to all the various consultations and will be posting those submissions this week.
I start with my online harms submission. The full submission, which touches on issues such as 24 hour takedowns, website blocking, proactive monitoring, and enforcement, can be found here. To learn more about the issues, catch my Law Bytes podcast episode with Cynthia Khoo or listen to a terrific discussion that I had together with Daphne Keller on the Tech Policy Press Podcast. The submission opens with eight general comments that I’ve posted below:
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Vaccine passports or certificates launched in Ontario last week, a development welcomed by some and strongly opposed by others. The launch raises a myriad of legal, ethical, privacy, and policy issues as jurisdictions around the world grapple with the continued global pandemic and the unusual requirements of demonstrating vaccination in order to enter some public or private spaces.
Professor Colleen Flood, a colleague at the University of Ottawa, has been writing and thinking about these issues for many months. Later today, she will be part of a panel discussion that explores the policy challenges hosted by the University of Ottawa Centre for Health Law, Policy and Ethics, and the Centre for Law, Technology and Society. She joins the Law Bytes podcast with an advance preview as we discuss the legal balancing act, models from around the world, and the concerns that governments should be thinking about in this next stage of dealing with COVID-19.
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