News

  • – 2014-06-10 –

    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.

  • – 2014-06-03 –

    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.

  • – 2014-05-28 –

    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.

  • – 2014-05-23 –

    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:

  • – 2014-02-28 –

    CIPPIC is representing OpenMedia.ca in Bell v. Amtelecom, File No. A-337-13, whereby the Federal Court of Appeal will decide how long customers of wireless services will need to wait before benefitting from the CRTC's recently adopted Wireless Consumer Protection Code. The Code, which includes a comprehensive set of consumer protections designed to address a number of long-standing problems endemic in the wireless market. The Code, which was issued June 3, 2013, was to apply to all service contracts within two years. However, the Appellants in Bell v. Amtelecom argue that the CRTC does not have the authority to impose these obligations to pre-existing contracts due to long-standing common law presumptions against retroactivity. CIPPIC, representing OpenMedia.ca in the matter, argued that the Code does not retrospectively interfere with any vested rights and, as such, does not attract the common law presumptions in question. Moreover, the CRTC is entrusted with a comprehensive regulatory regime and can therefore regulate retroactively. Finally, the CRTC properly decided to ensure that all customers can benefit from the Code's protections within 2 years. As noted in the CRTC's Wireless Code decision, three years is a long time in the dynamic and rapidly evolving wireless market.

  • – 2014-02-20 –

    In late 2012, Voltage Pictures sued over 2000 filesharers for sharing copies of Voltage's films over Bittorrent. To identify the alleged infringers, Voltage had to file a motion asking the court to order an Internet Service Provider (ISP), Teksavvy, to hand over the subscriber identities linked to the sharing activity.

    In early 2013, CIPPIC was granted leave to intervene in that motion. CIPPIC's interest in the case stemmed from its desire to (1) ensure that the test for disclosing identities associated with anonymous internet activity remains sufficiently robust to protect high-value speech, such as whistle-blowing and online criticism, and (2) ensure that copyright trolls did not set up shop in Canada, employing taxpayer-funded Canadian courts as tools in a shakedown scheme that has emerged in the United States and England.

    The Federal Court's decision, released February 20, 2014, offers aggrieved copyright owners a carefully calibrated tool for seeking redress for good faith claims of copyright infringement while at the same time trying to slam the door on copyright trolls. The Court has asserted that these sorts of proceedings will go forward as a "specially managed proceeding", subject to robust judicial oversight designed to ferret out abuses, protect privacy, and deter profiteering in the name of copyright infringement.

  • – 2014-02-14 –

    The National Post, followed by Richard Warman today withdrew their respective appeals of the important Federal Court decision in Warman v. Fournier, 2012 FC 803. The withdrawals occurred just five days before the appeal was set down to be heard before the Federal Court of Appeal. The decision has enormous implications for journalists, bloggers, and online free speech generally.

    The surprise move means that Justice Rennie's initial findings stand. The Appellants challenged these, arguing that:

    • hyperlinks do not count as 'attribution' (a pre-requisite to the exercise of some fair dealing rights);
    • copyright law's limitation period applies to works published on the internet is effectively renewed daily, as the content posted to the Internet is reproduced 'every day' it remains available, leading to never ending potential liability;
    • platform hosts are liable for content posted to their sites even before they receive notice from a litigang that the content in question may be infringing; and
    • reproducing general excerpts from an original work amounts to taking a "substantial part" of the work when assessing a non-economic claim of infringement.

    CIPPIC had intervened in the case and filed a Memorandum of Fact and Law supportive of the holdings of Justice Rennie at the trial level. For more information, see our resource page: https://cippic.ca/copyright/national_post_v_fournier

  • – 2014-02-11 –

    CIPPIC has joined over 6,000 organization and individual websites in an international day of action protesting against mass surveillance. The Day We Fight Back, which began as a U.S. based initiative spearheaded by the Electronic Frontier Foundation, Fight for the Future, Access, Center for Democracy & Technology, Mozilla, Reddit, and others, has taken on international dimensions as groups and individuals throughout the world are speaking out against the increasingly disproportionate overreaching of their respective national spying agencies.

    The grassroots campaign includes a Canadian component, an international component and a U.S.-based component. The Canadian-based component provides a mechanism, hosted at http://thedaywefightback.ca by OpenMedia.ca, which lets individuals send their local MPs a message calling for an end to the government's excessive surveillance practices. The international component lets individuals sign on to the International Principles for the Application of Human Rights to Communications Surveillance, a set of legal principles developed by CIPPIC and a number of other civil society groups designed to secure privacy and other human rights in an environment where it is rapidly becoming technologically feasible to collect 'everything'. The U.S. component allows individuals to either phone or email their congressional representatives in support of legislation that seeks to roll back the expansive powers of U.S. investigative agencies. So far, as of 2 pm, over 170,000 individuals have signed the International & Canadian calls to action since this morning. In the United states, 45,000+ and 100,000+, respectively, have phoned and emailed their U.S. congressional representatives.

  • – 2014-01-20 –

    In preperation for a series of hearings that will reexamine television policy from the ground up, the CRTC has encouraged Canadians to host a series of 'Flash! Conferences', with the intention of gaining views from the general public on television preferences. The Conferences were intended to canvass a range of issues. Foremost amongst these is are challenges posed to Canada's broadcasting policy objectives by the transition to new media platforms such as the Internet and other digital networks. Additional concerns related to the need to secure a level playing field by ensuring fundamental principles such as net neutrality are preserved in the new ecosystem. Finally, the discussions seeked to reconcile complex conflicts relating to maximizing viewer choice in television packaging, reducing out of control cable pricing and securing the ongoing creation of quality Canadian content. CIPPIC co-hosted a Flash! Conference in Ottawa, and helped review a report summarizing results from another series of Flash! conferences facilitated by our friends at OpenMedia.ca.