Earlier this week I was pleased to speak at the monthly Geek Girls Toronto event. Hosted at the Mozilla offices, a sold-out audience showed yet again that there is enormous public interest and concern with recent privacy and surveillance developments. A video of the talk, which focused on the problems associated with lawful access, privacy reform, and surveillance, is posted below.
I delivered a keynote speech titled Taking User Rights Seriously: The Two Weeks That Changed Canadian Copyright as part of the 3rd Global Congress on IP and the Public Interest at the University of Cape Town.
Two weeks changed Canadian copyright for the foreseeable future. In a single day, the Supreme Court of Canada’ ruled on five copyright cases. This was just weeks after the Canadian government passed long-awaited copyright reform legislation. This talk examines the decade-long process that resulted in a seismic shift in Canadian copyright law toward user rights.
Earlier this month, I had the pleasure of delivering a keynote address at the Cybera Summit in Banff, Alberta. The conference focused on a wide range of cutting edge technology and network issues. My opening keynote discussed Canada digital economy legal strategy. While the formal digital strategy has yet to be revealed, I argued that the digital economy legal strategy is largely set with legislative plans touching on lawful access, privacy, online marketing, and copyright.
Last week the privacy world gathered in Montreal for the most important global privacy conference on the calendar. The International Data Protection and Privacy Commissioner's conference brings together hundreds of privacy commissioners, government regulators, business leaders, and privacy advocates who spend three days grappling with emerging issues. I was privileged to be asked to provide some concluding remarks in the final plenary and my weekly technology law column (Toronto Star version, Ottawa Citizen version, homepage version) is a shortened version of that address.
This year's conference theme was "Terra Incognita," a reference to the unknown lands that typify the fear of the unknown in a world of rapidly changing technologies that challenge the core principles of privacy protection. Yet despite a dizzying array of panels on new technologies such as ubiquitous computing, radio frequency identification devices (RFID), and nanotechnology, it was a reference by U.S. Secretary of Homeland Security Michael Chertoff to a simple fingerprint that struck the strongest chord.
Canada last hosted the conference in 1996 and it quickly became apparent that privacy has become virtually unrecognizable in the intervening eleven years. The technological challenges were on display throughout the event including eye-opening presentations on the privacy impact of popular children's websites such as Webkinz and Neopets, on genetic innovation that is pushing the boundaries of science without regard for privacy, and on the continual shift toward tiny devices that can be used to collect and disclose personal information.
The conference placed the spotlight the growing "toolkit" of responses, including privacy audits of both public and private sector organizations, privacy impact assessments that are used to gauge the effect of new regulations and corporate initiatives, trust seals that include corporate compliance programs, and emphasis on global cooperation in a world where personal data slips effortlessly across borders. While the effectiveness of these measures has improved in recent years, there remained a pervasive sense that these responses are inadequate.