With experts warning that the Coronavirus pandemic may last well into next year, the urgency of limiting the spread of the virus is sure to increase. Cellphone and social media data will increasingly be viewed as a valuable sources of information for public health authorities, as they seek to identify outbreaks in communities more quickly, rapidly warn people that they may have been exposed to the virus, or enforce quarantine orders. My Globe and Mail op-ed notes the data culled from these sources may prove invaluable, but they raise exceptionally difficult challenges of balancing public health concerns with fundamental privacy rights.
How Canada Should Ensure Cellphone Tracking to Counter the Spread of Coronavirus Does Not Become the New Normal
Canadian privacy law is now widely regarded as outdated and ill-equipped to address the emerging challenges that arise from the massive collection and use of personal information. Canada’s private sector privacy law was drafted in the 1990s, well before the advent of a data-driven economy and the need for reform has grown increasingly urgent as Canadian law falls behind comparable rules around the world.
Guided by Canada’s Digital Charter, a roadmap for reform released last spring, Minister of Innovation, Science and Industry Navdeep Bains has promised to lead on privacy reform. While many may expect opposition to tougher privacy rules to come from large Internet companies such as Facebook, my Globe and Mail op-ed notes that a recent report from the Business Council of Canada suggests that a bigger barrier may come from some of Canada’s largest companies, including big banks, airlines, retailers, insurance providers, and telecom giants.
Cultural policy in Canada can be contentious, but there is one issue – support for Canadian content or Cancon – that unsurprisingly enjoys near unanimous backing. Given the economic benefits, federal and provincial policies encourage both domestic and foreign film and television production in Canada, but there is a special place for certified Canadian content, which is typically defended on the basis of the need to support cultural sovereignty by promoting “Canadian stories.”
The CUSMA Culture Poison Pill: Why the Broadcast Panel Report Could Lead to Millions in Tariff Retaliation
As Parliament continues its review of legislation designed to implement the Canada-U.S.-Mexico Trade Agreement (CUSMA), I have had the honour to appear before both the International Trade and Industry, Science and Technology committees to discuss the digital implications of the trade agreement. While Members of Parliament have expressed concern with copyright term extension that could cost millions of dollars and restrictions on future privacy safeguards, the issue that has sparked the greatest surprise arises from a provision frequently promoted as a “win” during the negotiations.
My Globe and Mail op-ed notes that the inclusion of a cultural exemption was viewed as an important policy objective for the government, with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau insisting “defending that cultural exemption is something fundamental to Canadians.” The USMCA does, indeed, feature a broad cultural exemption that covers a wide range of sectors. The exemption means that commitments such as equal treatment for U.S., Mexican and Canadian companies may be limited within the cultural sector.
A Demonstrably False Premise: Why “Inevitable” Canadian Internet and Cancon Regulations Won’t Level the Playing Field, Support Canadian Stories or Save a Thriving Industry
Later this week, a government appointed panel tasked with reviewing Canada’s broadcast and telecommunications laws is likely to recommend new regulations for internet streaming companies such as Netflix, Disney, and Amazon that will include mandated contributions to support Canadian film and television production. In fact, even if the panel stops short of that approach, Canadian Heritage Minister Steven Guilbeault and Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission chair Ian Scott have both signalled their support for new rules with Mr. Guilbeault recently promising legislation by year-end and Mr. Scott calling it inevitable.
My Globe and Mail op-ed notes that the new internet regulations are popular among cultural lobby groups, but their need rests on a shaky policy foundation as many concerns with the fast-evolving sector have proved unfounded.