News

  • - 2021-03-02 -

    The CIPPIC team invites applications from law students across Canada and around the world to come work with us this summer! Our summer internship program offers students an unparalleled opportunity to work with us on a range of CIPPIC projects, from interventions before Canadian courts to cutting-edge research policy work on issues ranging from algorithmic privacy to content moderation.

    CIPPIC summer interns have three options as to how to work with us:

    • full-time for 12 weeks (35 hours/week);
    • half-time for 12 weeks (17.5 hours/week); or
    • full-time for 6 weeks (35 hours/week).

    CIPPIC can offer interns based in Canada a modest stipend. International students must obtain summer public interest funding from their home institution to be eligible to work with us, however.

    Our summer program starts up in mid-May and ends in late July. We offer flexible start and end dates to accommodate students with different law school schedules.

    Due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, our summer internship program this year will operate remotely.

    Click here to find out more about our internship programs and for instructions on how to apply! The deadline for submitting your application is March 20, 2021.

  • - 2021-01-27 -

    Today, CIPPIC presented its intervention in a hearing before the Federal Court as part of a reference launched by the Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada. At issue is the degree to which PIPEDA - Canada's federal privacy law - applies to activities of commercial search engines.

    As noted in our written submissions:

    1. PIPEDA applies to commercial search engines.

    2. In order to determine whether personal information is collected, used or disclosed in the course of commercial activities under s. 4(1)(a) of PIPEDA, the Court must evaluate the relationship between that information and the organization’s business model. The commercial value of most Internet companies and social media platforms is derived by providing a free service to attract user’s time, attention and personal information, which is then monetized through advertising, tracking and profiling. A restrictive definition of “commercial activity” which includes nothing but discrete, revenue-generating interactions ignores precisely the kinds of business models that drive the digital economy and that PIPEDA was intended to regulate.

    3. Whether the collection, use or disclosure of personal information is undertaken for exclusively “journalistic” purposes must be determined with reference to Parliament’s intent and the constitutional rationale for the exclusion set out in s. 4(2)(c) of PIPEDA. This analysis must account for the particular role played by a free, adversarial and independent press in a democratic society—through newsgathering, source protection, the exercise of professional discipline and editorial judgement, and a commitment to communication on matters of public interest. The fact that an organization happens to permit the dissemination or discovery of journalistic content through its platform is not sufficient to immunize its activities from scrutiny under PIPEDA as a whole. The Act and the Charter provide other safeguards in this respect.

    4. The remedy sought by the Complainant has obvious implications for section 2(b) Charter rights and a conclusion that PIPEDA applies to commercial search engines may eventually raise other constitutional and policy questions. However, the rules of statutory interpretation do not permit the Court to preempt these debates by distorting the meaning of the Act’s application clause to exclude certain organizations from Canadian privacy regulation altogether. Appropriate and properly tailored constitutional remedies are available in the event that these concerns are well-founded in law and actually materialize.

    The reference is currently scheduled to be heard January 26-27. CIPPIC is being represented by Me Lex Gill from Trudel, Johnstone & Lespérance.

    Image Source: Learntek, "big-data-analytics", April 23, 2018, Flickr, CC-0 1.0

  • - 2020-12-09 -

    Last week, CIPPIC testified before the House INDU committee, outlining steps that could be taken to move Canada toward universal adoption of fast and reliable Internet. Substantial provincial and federal resources are being leveraged to connect households across Canada. Yet full and universal Internet adoption is an ambitious goal, one that will require a coordinated national effort and strategic mobilization of cross-cutting resources.

    Nor can affordability be overlooked — too many Canadians are priced out of connectivity, even as access to the Internet becomes an increasingly essential pre-requisite to participation in modern life.

    In a landmark 2016 decision, the CRTC adopted 50/10 unlimited connectivity as a long term objective for universal home Internet in Canada. As of 2019, however, only 45.6% of rural households have access to broadband Internet (which the CRTC defines as a reliable 50 mbps download and 10 mbps upload connection & unlimited data), and of these close to 60% of these are dependent on less reliable wireless technologies. Particularly troubling, only 35% of first nations reservations have access to broadband.

    Given Canada's constitutional and regulatory makeup, no single body can fully control connectivity efforts. However, entrusting either the CRTC or ISED to develop a comprehensive national strategy and adopt a loose but formal coordination role could drive a more integrated approach that substantially increases the efficiency of current funding allocation.

    Image source: transCam, "Internet", October 6, 2005, Flickr, CC-BY-NC-ND 2.0

  • - 2020-10-07 -

    Facial recognition is a highly controversial technology that is transforming border crossings around the world by fuelling an unprecedented level of surveillance & too-often racially biased automated processing of travellers. In a report released today [overview], CIPPIC documents the rapid adoption of facial recognition technologies at borders while outlining its intrusive potential and propensity for being repurposed. Facial recognition can surreptitiously identify individuals from a distance and from any live or historical image, posing a serious threat to real-world and online anonymity. Facial recognition is becoming embedded in all aspects of border crossings driven by an attempt to process travellers more efficiently and securely. But members of marginalized communities are often most heavily impacted when the technology goes awry, as some demographic groups experience far higher error rates than the general population due to lingering biases. Around the world, facial recognition systems whose creation was justified in the border control context have been repurposed for law enforcement, national security agencies, traffic safety officials, administrative agencies and even the private sector.

    Our current legal framework is simply too outdated and lacking in clear safeguards to mitigate the more problematic elements of facial recognition systems. The report therefore recommends a moratorium on the adoption of facial recognition systems at our borders, and a publicly transparent reassessment of existing systems in Canada.

    The report, entitled "Facial Recognition at a Crossroads: Transformation at our Borders & Beyond", was finalized with assistance from Rachel Kuchma, William Burke, Ryan Mosoff and Emily Kim. An accompanying Overview document excerpts key aspects of the core report.

    Image credit: Josef Čapek, Hlava (1913), Wikimedia Commons.

  • - 2020-07-17 -

    CIPPIC and OpenMedia filed comments calling on the CRTC to adopt robust regulatory measures necessary to reverse Canada's broken mobile ecosystem. Canadian mobile service providers such as Bell and TELUS extract some of the highest revenues in the world, and the correspondingly high retail costs have prevented Canadians from realizing the full potential of mobile connectivity.

    As our submissions to this proceeding painstakingly document, Canada's mobile retail costs are prohibitively high by global comparative standards. Canadians pay more per GB of mobile data than almost any other OECD or EU country. The amount of revenues Canadian mobile providers extracts from each customer is also world leading, and this impacts heavily on Canadians, who do not make full use of their mobile devices or are priced out of mobile connectivity altogether. On that front, Canada has fewer mobile subscribers on a per capita basis than the vast majority of OECD countries, and Canadians use barely one half the amount of mobile data as the average OECD country. Canada continues to fall further behind in terms of both adoption and data usage.

    These trends have been indicative of the Canadian mobile market for years, and a robust regulatory response is required. In our final comments to this proceeding, we call upon the CRTC to mandate a wholesale regime that would allow Virtual Network Operators (MVNOs) to provide mobile connectivity over incumbent service providers networks. This will allow for an infusion of competition, while ensuring that incumbent providers are well compensated for the use of their networks. CIPPIC and OpenMedia also called on the Commission to mandate affordable mobile plans with at least 4 GB of monthly data.

    Image Source: Falcon Photography, "The New Golden Xperia Z5", Flickr, March 15, 2016, CC-BY 2.0

  • - 2020-07-08 -

    USMCA Report Cover CIPPIC and the Harvard Cyberlaw Clinic are excited to release a report today on the impact of the new United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA) on intermediary liability laws in North America. Click here to download the report.

    Article 19.17 of the new USMCA contains provisions modeled on Section 230 of the U.S. Communications Decency Act that protect platforms like Facebook and Google from being held liable for harmful or unlawful content posted by their users. While the liability shield the USMCA provides is quite similar to CDA § 230, the provisions differ in that the USMCA permits courts to order injunctions requiring platforms to take down content.

    Given the ongoing debate in the U.S. regarding the future of CDA § 230, our report suggests that the USMCA’s approach to intermediary liability could serve as a model for amending CDA § 230, given the balance the USMCA strikes between addressing online harms and protecting platforms.

    Our report also outlines how current Canadian intermediary liability laws are inconsistent with the USMCA, as are some recent proposals advanced in Canada to hold social media companies liable for the content they host. Correspondingly, we recommend that careful consideration be given by federal and provincial parliamentarians to introducing legislation to align Canadian law with the USMCA, and that clarifies whether Canadian and third-country intermediaries are entitled to the protections provided by the USMCA.

    Our report is the product of an unprecedented cross-border collaboration between technology law clinics in Canada and the United States on a legal issue of significance to citizens of both countries. We hope to expand the coverage of our report to include Mexico in the near future.

  • - 2020-07-02 -

    CIPPIC was granted leave to intervene before the Federal Court of Appeal in Teksavvy Solutions Inc v Bell Media Inc, FCA File No A-440-19, an appeal of an order compelling Canada's ISPs to block access to a website accused of copyright infringement. The order under appeal is novel, and if approved will have far-reaching implications for free expression and balanced copyright, creating an extraordinary new censorship power that the applicants have sought in trade negotiations, at parliament, and at the CRTC, without success.

    The intervention order itself adopts a thoughtful, but decidedly novel approach in its application of the Federal Court of Appeal's uniquely rigorous test for public interest intervention. As set out in CIPPIC's initial motion to intervene, dated February 3, 2020 (paras 5-12) and affirmed by the case management judge in a brief and pointed direction dated April 24, 2020, the test for intervention requires extensive coordination among different public interest interveners to avoid duplication. In light of the interveners' demonstrably successful efforts to coordinate, the Court took the exceptional step of merging many of the parties, allowing CIPPIC to file a joint intervention with our close colleagues at the Canadian Internet Registration Authority (CIRA). The British Columbia Civil Liberties Association (BCCLA) was also granted leave to elaborate on its detailed proposed submissions regarding the need to account for freedom of expression when issuing orders that interfere with access to expressive content. The intervention order is also innovative for its willingness to depart from a categorical approach to classifying proposed interveners, and instead consider the particular characteristics of specific parties and their historical record of intervention. This allows for a more thoughtful and contextual approach to granting intervener status, while interveners will need to be more cautious in implementing the Court's conditions of intervention or risk developing a negative track record and threatening future interventions. Three other parties seeking to intervene on behalf of intellectual property rights holders were also granted leave to intervene, and merged into a single intervention. CIPPIC is represented by Alyssa Tomkins and James Plotkin of Caza Saikaley, SRL/LLP. UPDATE: On August 3, 2020, CIPPIC and CIRA filed their joint Facta. A hearing has not yet been scheduled in this matter.

    Image source: Stanislav Lvovsky, "Censored", Flickr, September 28, 2015, CC-BY-NC-ND 2.0

  • - 2020-06-30 -

    The Supreme Court of Canada’s decision in Uber Technologies Inc. v. Heller, 2020 SCC 16, Spromises to improve the fairness of standard form contracts and promote access to justice for Canadians. In an 8-1 decision, the Supreme Court of Canada ruled that Uber’s arbitration agreement denying drivers access to Canadian courts was unconscionable, exploiting an inequality of bargaining power to impose unfair terms on drivers.

    The case began as a class proceeding brought by Mr. Heller against Uber for wrongfully classifying Uber drivers as independent contractors instead of employees, and in doing so depriving drivers of the protections and benefits of Ontario’s Employment Standards Act, 2000.

  • - 2020-03-13 -

    In partnership with our fellow Samuelson-Glushko Clinic at the University of Colorado, CIPPIC today submitted comments to the Office of the Privacy Commissioner regarding two of its proposals for reforming PIPEDA—Canada's federal private-sector privacy statute—to deal with the challenges posed by artificial intelligence. Our submissions on behalf of 25 privacy scholars from Canada, the United States, and Europe—led by Prof. Margot Kaminski of the University of Colorado and CIPPIC Director Vivek Krishnamurthy—respond to OPC's proposals to amend PIPEDA to “[p]rovide individuals with a right to explanation and increased transparency when they interact with, or are subject to, automated processing” (Proposal 4), and “[r]equire the application of Privacy by Design and Human Rights by Design in all phases of processing, including data collection” (Proposal 5).

    Specifically, our submissions suggest that a revised PIPEDA should include:

    1. An individual right to an explanation of an algorithmic decision with significant effects on individuals;

    2. Legal requirements for the application of Privacy and Human Rights by Design in all phases of data processing;

  • - 2019-12-10 -

    CIPPIC and vLex deploy expert knowledge and artificial intelligence to improve the ability of Canadian citizens to make a difference.

    CIPPIC and international legal technology firm vLex are partnering in a Law Foundation of Ontario funded project to seek to reduce the barriers to effective public participation in communications policy-making by developing a free and fully public communications law and policy research platform.

    This initiative aims to increase access and contextual understanding of regulatory, policy and legal submissions and documentation, allowing Canadian citizens to become more informed and more influential in a policy-making process that is often dominated by multi-billion dollar telecom and broadcasting giants.

    Built on vLex’s AI-powered technology, Iceberg, CIPPIC and vLex will train and deliver the tools that analyze the thousands of documents, comprising millions of pages, generated across hundreds of regulatory, legislative, judicial and policy proceedings. All with the goal of arming the public with the capability to participate effectively and at a level previously available only to the largest commercial entities.