As the second wave of COVID-19 seems to have arrived in many countries, the importance of measures such as social distancing, masks, testing, and tracing takes on increased importance. In Canada, the COVID Alert App is another important part of that toolkit. The app has been downloaded more than 4.5 million times and has been used to alert users to a potential exposure to the virus nearly 1,700 times. Despite the potential benefits, there remain many skeptics. Ann Cavoukian, a three-time Ontario privacy commissioner and one of Canada’s best known privacy experts, joins the LawBytes podcast this week to talk about the exposure notification and how it addresses potential privacy concerns.
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As criticism of Bill C-13 mounts, the government’s sales strategy for its latest lawful access bill is starting to unravel. Many will recall the immediate, visceral opposition to Bill C-30, the last lawful access bill that started with then-Public Safety Minister Vic Toews declaring the day before introduction that Canadians could either stand with the government or with the child pornographers. The bill never recovered as Toews’ divisive remarks placed the spotlight on the warrantless disclosure provisions and the lack of privacy balance. Within ten days it was on placed on hiatus and formally killed a year later.
While the government has removed some of the most contentious elements from Bill C-30, many privacy concerns remain (immunity for voluntary disclosure, metadata). Indeed, it appears that its primary takeaway from the last legislative failure – an incredibly rare moment in the life of a majority government – was that it was a botched sales job. So despite a promise not to bring back lawful access legislation, it did so months later, this time armed with a new marketing strategy. Bill C-13 was framed as a cyber-bullying bill and its primary sales people were presumably supposed to be the victims of cyber-bullying and their parents.
The turning point on Bill C-13 came ten days ago when they appeared before the Justice Committee studying the bill. Carol Todd, the mother of Amanda, led off and courageously insisted that the government stop using her child’s name to undermine privacy:
The video from Ontario Privacy Commissioner Ann Cavoukian’s excellent forum on lawful access is now available. Well worth watching.
Ontario Privacy Commissioner Ann Cavoukian delivered the keynote address at an Ottawa privacy conference yesterday and used the opportunity to warn against lawful access legislation and express frustration with the Supreme Court of Canada’s decision to let stand the Leon’s Furniture privacy case.
Ontario Privacy Commission Ann Cavoukian has written an important op-ed adding her voice to the critics of lawful access plans, arguing that “lawful access” is a misleading term for a system of expanded surveillance.