Privacy - News

  • – 2019-02-14 –

    The Supreme Court of Canada today its decision in R v Jarvis, voyeurism case where a high school teacher used a pen cam to surreptitiously record multiple videos focused mainly of the chest and cleavage area of several female students and one female colleague.

    The majority of the Ontario Court of Appeal acquitted the defendant2017 ONCA 778, finding that while the photos were taken for a sexual purpose, the young women he targeted did not have a reasonable expectation of privacy in the school setting where the photos were taken, an essential element of the voyeurism offense.

  • – 2019-02-12 –

    The Supreme Court of Canada is set to release its decision on a much anticipated case addressing privacy, equality and sexual violence this Thursday, February 14, 2019.

    On the day of its release, the University of Ottawa’s Faculty of Law will host a discussion on the decision at 4:00 pm in Room 570, Fauteux Hall, 57 Louis-Pasteur Private. All are welcome to attend.

    On April 20, 2018 the Supreme Court heard R v Jarvis, SCC file number 37833 a voyeurism case where a high school teacher used a pen cam to surreptitiously record multiple videos focused mainly of the chest and cleavage area of several female students and one female colleague. Jarvis was acquitted at trial. The Court of Appeal upheld that acquittal in R v Jarvis, 2017 ONCA 778, finding that while the photos were taken for a sexual purpose, the young women he targeted did not have a reasonable expectation of privacy in the school setting where the photos were taken, an essential element of the voyeurism offence.

    The central question before the Supreme Court was when do people have a reasonable expectation of privacy? Is it only when they are shielded from public view? When they are dressed modestly? Or can privacy be understood in a more nuanced way?

  • – 2019-02-12 –

    CIPPIC has joined Mozilla, Access, Reporters Without Borders, and several other organizations in an open letter calling on Facebook to live up to its transparency promises. The letter calls out Facebook for blocking transparency tools employed by ProPublica, demanding that the platform provide API access to its promised political transparency tools.  As is now widely acknwoledged, Facebook and its various communications platforms have been leveraged by a wide range of political actors-both foreign and domestic-in their efforts to disrupt democratic processes in a number of jurisdictions around the world. Disinformation campaigns have become an instrumental force, evident in the UK's 'Vote Leave' referendum, the 2016 US Presidential elections, and the 2018 Brazilian elections which propelled far-right candidate Jair Bolsonaro to the presidency.

    Against this backdrop, Facebook has undertaken various efforts to address these challenges. This has included a third-party academic body empowered to provide select academic researchers with access to elements of its content under controlled conditions. Among these is a novel 'open advertisement' mechanism designed to let individuals see all advertisements sent by a single entity through its platform. This tool is designed in part to address so-called 'dark advertising', where political actors send highly individualized and micro-targeted messages to different people based on their data-intensive profiling. Currently, only intended recipients see any given advertisement, allowing political actors to send conflicting or even discriminatory messaging with relative impunity. The problem is that Facebook has refused to provide API access to its open advertising platform, making it functionally difficult if not impossible to conduct the type of meaningful analysis necessary to meet the challenges posed by its services to democratic processes. Not only has Facebook refused to provide API access, but it has actively blocked existing tools used by ProPublica to supplement the shortcomings of its own transparency mechanisms. Meanwhile, a recent CBC study, which leveraged Twitter's API-enabled political messaging transparency tool, analyzed over 9 million tweets to demonstrate significant foreign influence in Canadian discussions surrounding pipelines and immigration. With upcoming federal elections in 2019, Canada cannot afford to be complacent about this issue.

    Image Source: Yomare, "Hand Puppet Snowman", May 22, 2015, Pixabay, Pixabay License

  • – 2018-11-27 –

    How do we measure bicycle traffic in a way that respects citizens' privacy? CIPPIC's team working on a Sidewalk Labs Small Grant presented its findings today. Great work, Keri Grieman, Johann Kwan and Stephanie Williams! Key findings on best practices:

    • Use technologies that limit the collection of personal information
    • Store data securely
    • Limit data collection to only that which is needed
    • Ensure that partners or contractors follow collection restrictions
    • Notify individuals that their data is being collected.
    • Install counting devices when creating a new space
    • Hide or mask sensitive locations
  • – 2018-10-18 –

    The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) released a timely white paper this week examining the negative implications and chilling effects that various cybercrime provisions throughout the Americas can have on coder's rights and specifically on security researchers. Entitled "Protecting Security Researcher's Rights in the Americas", the analysis explores a range of cybercrime regimes nominally intended in principle to criminalize unauthorized access to or disruption of computer systems. However, these laws have been framed so broadly as to impose a serious chilling effect on vital activity of security researchers. Drawing on the Inter-American human rights framework (of which Canada is a partial adherent), some national jurisprudence, and principles of criminal law, the paper argues for cybercrime regimes that accommodate beneficial security work. There must be latitude for non-malicious security testing, for the dissemination of critical security tools and for the responsible publication of discovered security breaches.

    Sadly, current laws are framed so broadly that they have had a serious chilling effect on socially beneficial security work. Those who discover security breaches face severe legal threats and sometimes even criminal consequences for attempting to bring these to host organization's attention. The result is that security breaches are increasingly likely to remain unresolved until they are discovered by someone seeking to exploit, rather than to merely expose. The paper, to which CIPPIC provided substantive contributions, calls for clearer standards to remedy this situation.

  • – 2018-09-13 –

    The Supreme Court of Canada issued its ruling in Rogers Communications Inc v Voltage Pictures LLC, 2018 SCC 38, today, the latest installment in a long series of ongoing efforts by Voltage to establish a controversial mass copyright litigation model in Canada and the first decision to meaningfully interpret Canada's notice-and-notice regime. As CIPPIC argued in its intervention, which was ably prepared by our external counsel, Jeremy de Beer and Bram Abramson, the decision under appeal discouraged ISPs from conducting rigorous quality assurance checks necessary to reduce mis-identification of customers accused of copyright infringement. It also placed the cost burden of increasingly expansive copyright litigation models on customers of ISPs. All this, in turn, jeopardizes privacy rights of mis-identified customers; exposes innocent individuals to legal threats and costly lawsuits; raises Canada's Internet access fees (already amongst the highest in the world) even higher; and undermines competition by disproportionately impacting smaller ISPs who are less able to diffuse the costs of robust quality assurance.

    The ruling narrowed a prohibition, imposed by the Federal Court of Appeal, on any cost recovery for quality assurance protocols employed by ISPs when compelled to identify customers in the context of a copyright lawsuit. The court held that ISPs will be permitted to recover some (but not all) of these costs, sending the matter back to the Federal Court for determination of what specific quality assurance protocols are reasonable and non-duplicative. This, in turn, removes cost-based disincentives to adopt robust quality assurance protocols by ISPs.

    Image credit: smileycreek, "Don't Feed The Trolls", October 4, 2014, Flickr, CC-BY-NC-SA 2.0.

  • – 2018-04-05 –

    CIPPIC has filed its factum in R v Jarvis, SCC Case No 37833, an appeal involving a high school teacher charged with voyeurism under s. 162(1)(c) of the Criminal Code for using a camera pen to surreptitiously take videos of female students which focused on their chests and cleavage area. The Ontario Court of Appeal concluded that the videos were not taken in "circumstances" in which students had "a reasonable expectation of privacy", a necessary element of the offense. 

    CIPPIC disagrees. We argue that the phrase, "circumstances giving rise to a reasonable expectation of privacy" must be interpreted consistently with other areas of law that see privacy as equality-enhancing, normative, contextual, and non-risk based. Our colleague Jane Bailey took the pen and makes a strong case for a robust vision of privacy - one that enhances equality and the ability to assert control over sexual and bodily integrity.

  • – 2018-03-06 –

    CIPPIC has been granted leave to intervene in R. v. Jarvis, SCC Case No. 27833. The case is an appeal of an Ontario Court of Appeal decision acquitting a teacher of a charge under the voyeurism provisions of the Criminal Code.  The accused had used a camera pen to surreptitiously take videos of the chests and cleavage of female students.  The decision under appeal determined that the videos were not taken in "“circumstances giving rise to a reasonable expectation of privacy”, an element necessary to establish the offense of voyeurism. 

    CIPPIC will argue that the Court should interpret “circumstances giving rise to a reasonable expectation of privacy” consistently with the Court’s well-established jurisprudence on privacy: privacy is normative, contextual, and not risk-based.

  • – 2017-12-21 –

    CIPPIC has filed its intervention factum in Her Majesty the Queen in Right of British Columbia v. Philip Morris International, Inc., SCC No. 37524. The case presents the Supreme Court with a conflict of values: do the privacy interests of third parties bar a defendant to an action from accessing large health datasets in order to challenge the results of the plaintiff’s analysis of that data?

    CIPPIC argues that this conflict between privacy and transparency will be mediate by the dual protections of anonymization procedures, implemented in accordance with guidelines familiar to the health industry, and flexible judicial safeguards embedded in disclosure orders.

    The case raises important issues about the right to challenge the outcomes of analytics performed on large data sets. As we increase our reliance on big data and algorithmic decision-making technologies, privacy and accountability will be increasingly at issue.

  • – 2017-12-06 –

    CIPPIC has been granted leave to intervene in Her Majesty the Queen in Right of British Columbia v. Philip Morris International, Inc., SCC No. 37524. The case involves the defendant's pre-trial discovery of the health-related databases of B.C. in the province's action against for recovery of the health care costs to the province caused by Philip Morris' tobacco products. CIPPIC's intervention will address (1) privacy and the risks of re-identification, (2) the need for those affected by government decisions based on large dataset to be able to challenge the data itself and to test (and contest) the algorithms used to arrive at its analyses, and (3) how to balance privacy with accountability in this context.

    The case raises important issues about the right to challenge the outcomes of analytics performed on large data sets. As governments increase their reliance on big data and algorithmic decision-making technologies, privacy and government accountability will be increasingly at issue and, at times, at odds.