• – 2014-11-12 –

    CIPPIC appeared before the Federal Court of Appeal today, on behalf of, arguing for the timely application of a Wireless Consumer Protection Code developed by the CRTC and imposed on providers of mobile services. The appeal, lodged by a number of mobile service providers, seeks to delay the application of the Wireless Code for existing service contracts until the term of those contracts expires (the standard term for wireless service contracts is three years). The argument is that the CRTC does not have the legislative authority to impose the protections in the Wireless Code onto pre-existing consumer contracts because this constitutes an interference with vested rights. CIPPIC argued that, first of all, there is no interference with vested rights as the Wireless Code primarily focuses on mitigating future penalties (by, for example, limiting the penalties a service provider can impose on a customer for leaving a service term early). Moreover, given the important and central objective of preventing 3 year customer lock-out to the proper functioning of the comprehensive regulatory regime entrusted to the CRTC, the regulator has the legislative power to interfere with vested rights if it is reasonable to do so.

    For more information, see our resource page for Bell et al. v. Amtelecom et al.:

  • – 2014-09-11 –

    CIPPIC attempted to intervene in Equustek Solutions Inc. v. Google Inc., an appeal from an order of the British Columbia Supreme Court that addressed the use of innocent third party intermediaries (in this instance Google) as rights enforcement tools. The decision set a new standard for when such intermediaries can be used as enforcement tools, as well as with respect to the global reach of resulting enforcement remedies. It involved an order mandating Google to remove access to content not just from its Canadian sites, but globally, in effect imposing Canadian law onto the world. The impact of this ruling, if upheld, is far-reaching. In its application to innocent third parties who have done no wrong, it places Internet intermediaries (entities such as ISPs, search engines, websites hosts, social networking sites, domain name registrars - the infrastructure of the Internet) at the disposal of any party looking for a shortcut to enforcing its rights. This case involved a trade secrets dispute, but it is clear this new takedown/censorship power is intended to be of general application and will be available in copyright disputes, defamation disputes, or any other lawsuits.

    Second, the global reach of the order is similarly problematic. The actions in question may well have contravened Canadian trade secret laws, but this cannot be presumed to be the case for all jurisdictions around the world. More importantly, the court held that jurisdiction over Google is equivalent to jurisdiction over the intermediary's global activities in spite of the fact that 95% of its Canadian search traffic occurs through the portal. As a matter of comity, issuing such an order implies that a Canadian court must respect a similarly constituted foreign order (and, by extension, that foreign courts are encouraged to issue similarly constituted orders). This will mean, in effect, that Canadians could well be deprived of access to content that is legal under Canadian law, but not under foreign law. It will be left to Canadians to then go to foreign courts and attempt to seek an exemption for Canada - a costly process that is unlikely to be undertaken with any degree of regularity. CIPPIC was denied intervention status.

  • – 2014-07-30 –

    CIPPIC attempted to intervene at the Federal Court of Appeal on a matter that raises many fundamental issues arising from the ability of Canadian intelligence agencies to make use of the extensive -- and arguably unconstitutional -- practices of foreign intelligence partners such as the U.S. National Security Agency (NSA) and the UK Government Communications HeadQuarters (GCHQ). The proceeding, an appeal of a decision issued by Justice Mosley of the Federal Court last December, has been shrouded in secrecy due to the important national security interests it is examining. This secrecy has made it difficult for CIPPIC to attempt intervention in a timely matter and its request for directions regarding any such intervention arrived too late in the proceeding. CIPPIC will continue to monitor this file as it is likely to make its way to the Supreme Court of Canada.

  • – 2014-06-17 –

    Bill C-622, the CSEC Accountability and Transparency Act, introduced today by Joyce Murray, (Liberal-Vancouver Quadra), seeks to address a number of the many problems inherent in the surveillance activities of Canada's foreign intelligence signals agency, the Communications Security Establishment of Canada (CSEC). CSEC currently operates largely on its own, subject only to broadly-frame authorizations and directives from the Minister of National Defence (MND) and non-binding oversight from the CSE Commissioner. While the Bill fails to substantially restrict CSEC's mass harvesting of Canadians' data by imposing disciplined surveillance practices, it does make meaningful progress on the long list of CSEC-related problems that need to be addressed, by:

    • Removing the MND's capacity to authorize interception of Canadians' private communications. Such authorization can only come from a judge following an adversarial proceeding;
    • Adopting an inclusive definition-Protected Information-which unambiguously includes all data associated with communications, including metadata, not just content;
    • Imposing stricter limits on how long CSEC can retain Canadian data that is incidentally collected in its surveillance activities, however the MND may override these limits under certain conditions; and
    • Removing CSEC's ability to conduct 'classes of surveillance activities', but retaining its capacity spy on 'classes of persons' without any need for reasonable grounds.

    In addition, the Bill enhances transparency and oversight by establishing a non-partisan parliamentary oversight committee and requiring the CSE Commissioner's annual report on CSEC activities to include greater detail. More after the jump.

  • – 2014-06-17 –

    The Canadian government has announced that it will bring into force the Notice and Notice provisions of the Copyright Modernization Act without regulations. These provisions provide that for a notice to be valid it must meet certain form and content requirements. The government's decision not to prescribe these requirements leaves it to the various affected industries to develop their own standards. CIPPIC had participated in earlier consultations on the notice and notice system, calling for checks and balances within regulations that would curtail the potential for abuse and make the system as a whole fairer and more transparent.

    The notice and notice system will come into force six months following the publication of the Order in Council in the Canada Gazette.

  • – 2014-06-09 –

    A comprehensive report was issued today which examines the technical and policy response to foreign intelligence problems highlighted by the unique window into the operation of such agencies that has been provided by whistleblower Edward Snowden over the past year. The report, which focuses mostly on developments at the national level within 18 countries (there is also one EU-wide section and one section that examines the private sector), points to a strong shift in perception and growing acknowledgement and concern over foreign intelligence activities. However, in spite of this concern, it points to minimal tangible changes to date across surveyed countries (aside from the United States, where some nascent changes have already taken root).

    This is perhaps not surprising -- while the Snowden revelations have certainly shined a light on foreign intelligence activities around the world, the primary focus of these documents has been the activities of the US-based NSA. In addition, while reporting on the leaks began one year ago, the staged release of these revelations has meant that a complete picture has only emerged in the past few months. It is, then, perhaps unsurprising that most changes to date have occurred in the United States or at the international level. The report was generated by privacy scholar Simon Davies. CIPPIC, in conjunction with Christopher Parsons (Citizen Lab) and Micheal Vonn (BCCLA), provided the Canada chapter.

  • – 2014-06-02 –

    CIPPIC testified today before the House of Commons Standing Committee on Access to Information, Privacy & Ethics on the growing problem of identity theft. As CIPPIC highlighted in its testimony, identity theft is, in many ways, the crime of the digital age. It exploits the immense amounts of information about individuals that is available on digital networks in order to exploit them through an increasingly profitable range of fraudulent activities. The cost, time and trauma inherent in the identity recovery process make identity theft a serious social problem. CIPPIC's testimony highlighted the need for stronger privacy laws as a means of minimizing identity theft. PIPEDA, Canada's data protection law, is the primary mechanism for empowering individuals to better control their personal information. It also obligates organizations to properly safeguard their customers' personal information. However, PIPEDA lacks the most basic features of any effective regulatory regime -- enforceability and compliance incentives. These shortcomings must be addressed as part of any meaningful attempt to address the problems of identity theft. In addition, attention entities such as the Canadian Identity Theft Support Centre, which play a crucial role in the victim recovery process, need to be fostered and developed further. Overall, CIPPIC called for the development and adoption of a national strategy on identity theft that would adopt these and other measures in a comprehensive response to this growing problem.

  • – 2014-05-30 –

    A large coalition of Canada's leading privacy experts and civil society groups wrote to Prime Minister Stephen Harper Friday regarding the federal government's increasing failure to protect the privacy of Canadians. The letter points to the government's efforts to increase the ability of law enforcement and other state agencies' ability to exploit new technologies in order to invade Canadians' privacy (pointing specifically to Bill C-13, currently being rushed through parliamentary committee under the guise of 'cyber bullying' legislation), while steadfastly refusing to address long-standing privacy problems raised by the same technological developments. The letter specifically points to the unchecked surveillance activities of Canada's foreign intelligence agency, CSEC, and the steadfast refusal to update ageing but central privacy and transparency statutes as indication of some of the long-standing privacy problems the government has refused to act on. It calls on the government to take its review of the privacy-invasive elements of Bill C-13 seriously, and to establish a commission to examine privacy and state surveillance in the digital age. Finally, the letter decries the controversial nomination of a government official as Privacy Commissioner of Canada, a nomination which was made in direct contradiction to the government's own own selection committee. Specifically, the letter noted the problematic timing of this appointment, which arrives at a time when fundamental decisions that will affect the privacy of Canadians for decades are being made and leaves Canada without a privacy watchdog to weigh in on these formative debates.

  • – 2014-05-27 –

    A comprehensive legal analysis of human rights obligations with respect to electronic surveillance has been released by the Electronic Frontiers Foundation and Article 19. The report was generated in support of the International Principles for the Application of Human Rights to Communications Surveillance (IPAHRCS), which represent an attempt to bring privacy protections into the digital age. The IPAHRCS also known as the "Necessary & Proportionate Principles" have been endorsed by over 470 civil society organizations, political parties, elected officials and privacy experts from around the world as well as by over 275,000 individuals, to date.

    The report sets out the human rights law basis for elements of the IPAHRCS, including the extra-territorial application of the obligations they impose, the extension of strong human rights protections beyond the 'content' of communications to include metadata and subscriber information, and the adoption of an all-encompassing definition of communications surveillance that does not permit artificial definitions to justify invasive surveillance activities. It also justifies a number of other substantive elements of the principles, such as the need for prior independent authorization, the need to notify individuals that their communications have been surveilled and the need for effective safeguards against communications surveillance in violation of human rights, including through strong whistleblower protections. A short summary of the IPAHRCS can be found here. CIPPIC co-authored and co-edited the report.

  • – 2014-05-22 –

    The Supreme Court of Canada heard R. v. Fearon, S.C.C. File No. 35298, today, an appeal in which Canada's highest court will examine the degree of privacy that can be expected in mobile devices. Typically, police are permitted to search through objects in a persons' possession for evidence related to the offence for which they are being arrested. This is a very broad rule, and the question is whether it should be applied 'as is' to moblie devices such as cell phones, tablets, wearable computing and perhaps even laptops. In its intervention, CIPPIC argued that these types of devices are capable of holding immense amounts of data and, moreover, are used to create and carry sensitive information of a type that individuals would only rarely have upon their person when being arrested in the pre-digital age: