News

  • – 2013-01-31 –

    In response to the dramatically outdated nature of Canada's now 30 year old Access to Information Act, the Office of the Information Commissioner of Canada has initiated an Open Dialogue Consultation on the need to modernize ATI. Building on submissions from fellow organizations such as BCFIPA, CIPPIC participated in the OIC's consultation, calling for the Access to Information Act to be modernized. Specific modernizations include reduced barriers to ATI requests, a 'digital first' response policy that should lower ATI response costs, and, importantly, exceptions should be narrowed and focused, and subject to a public interest override as well as the need to prove harm will result if information is not withheld. Too often are exceptions relied upon to obscure information that Canadians have a right to know.

    More generally, the right to information needs to be conceived in broader terms than reflected in the ATIA. It needs to be exercised more proactively if it is to be achieve its objective within the context of a democratic and technologically innovative society. While the current ATIA focuses on information responses to individual requests, it should additionally obligate periodic and proactive disclosure of important public information. This proactive publication obligation should extend to important data sets in the government's control, so that Canadians can fully benefit from data held and generated by their government. Government-held information is a national resource, generated by public officials in the course of carrying out their public mandates and, ultimately, paid for by public funds. The outdated nature of Canada's ATI regime has become a tangible obstacle to the ability of Canadians to fully benefit from this resource. It is now time to bring our right-to-information system forward into the twenty-first century. For more information visit: http://cippic.ca/open_governance.

  • – 2013-01-28 –

    CIPPIC is seeking applications for our Summer Internship Program. Summer interns work closely with CIPPIC staff on dynamic and cutting edge issues that arise at the intersection of law & technology. Our advocacy efforts regularly take us before Parliamentary, regulatory and quasi-judicial bodies, the production of research papers, and input into several domestic and international policy-making processes. In addition, in furthering our public outreach mandate, CIPPIC produces a diverse range of media that seek to engage the public on law and technology policy while providing high quality information resources on relevant issues. CIPPIC's advocacy covers several areas of law and policy, including copyright, privacy/electronic surveillance, telecommunications regulation/net neutrality, online consumer protection, online speech, access to knowledge and other digital rights.

    In addition, CIPPIC interns benefit from our Summer Speaker Series, which lets interns benefit directly from the experience of premier experts on various Canadian law & technology issues. Applications are due Friday, February 22, 2013. Applications are open to any current law or law graduate students (FR). Internships will run from May 6-July 26, 2013.

  • – 2013-01-28 –

    Data Privacy Day and its European counterpart, Data Protection Day, commemorates the signing of the world's first international treaty on data protection -- the Council of Europe's Convention 108. Data protection is rapidly becoming an international norm, as recent developments have brought the number of countries with data protection legislation to 89, globally. Additionally, 2012 saw an unprecedented commitment by lawmakers in one of the largest data markets -- the United States, a long-time adherence of a sectoral approach to privacy protection -- committing to the enactment of data protection laws. Our courts have similarly advanced the cause of privacy with landmark decisions that recognized the right to anonymity in judicial proceedings, a constitutional right to individual notification when police intercept communications in an emergency, and the right to privacy in our work computers. In addition, our Federal Privacy Commissioner released a sweeping (but yet to be enforced) Finding on the privacy practices of a youth-based social networking site, Nexopia. Finally, advances in transparency have helped us better understand how our information is being accessed by the government, as more organizations began publishing statistics on government access, and Google, who pioneered the transparency reporting model, has increased the scope of their own reports so that the public can better assess the nature of government requests.

    At the same time, the challenges have never been greater with online surveillance legislation, long over-due updates to our federal privacy statutes (PIPEDA and the Privacy Act) still nowhere in sight, and legislative initiatives that will allow our online service providers to hand over our data to litigants and copyright trolls alike -- all on the horizon. More after the jump.

  • – 2013-01-18 –

    CIPPIC has signed on to a letter sent by the Public Interest Advocacy Centre to Industry Canada in protest of an announced spectrum transfer that demonstrates the broken nature of Canada's spectrum policy approach. Last week, Shaw announced its intention to provide Rogers the option to purchase its entire stock of AWS spectrum holdings as part of a comprehensive deal that involves a number of broadcast holdings. While the overall deal is salted to go through soon, Rogers will be prevented from exercising its spectrum purchasing option until 2014. The reason for this is that Shaw's $189 million worth of spectrum, acquired during the 2008 AWS spectrum auction, is subject to set-aside limitations aimed at preserving bands of spectrum for new market entrants. The imposition of this set-aside was animated by the need to instil some competition into Canada's highly concentrated mobile wireless market -- a market which, at the time, was exclusively controlled by three providers: TELUS, Bell and Rogers. It was this set-aside that led to the creation of new entrants such as Mobilicity and WIND by reserving a significant chunk of spectrum for new entrants. Absent such restrictions, the concern is that incumbents will pay well above market value for spectrum solely for the purpose of locking competitors out by denying them access to the lifeblood of any wireless network -- spectrum. The set-aside not only shielded spectrum blocks from incumbent bidding during the 2008 auction itself, but also prevented those bands from reverting to any incumbent for five years.

    Now Shaw, who purchased its spectrum holdings in 2008 as a non-incumbent and held onto them for 4 plus years without using any of it, seeks to sell it back to an incumbent, likely at a profit. With the 2014 AWS set-aside expiration looming and limited prospects for significant expansion of new entrant holdings in the upcoming lucrative 700 Mhz auction, there is a tangible risk that more of the AWS spectrum will follow Shaw's lead and make its way back to the incumbent fold. If Industry Canada wishes to preserve the underlying objective of the initial set-aside, it needs to block this transfer.

  • – 2013-01-11 –

    Update: Adjournment granted. On January 14, 2013, the Federal Court agreed to adjourn the hearing of Voltage's motion to disclose the identities of TekSavvy subscribers until after a determination of CIPPPIC's motion to intervene.

    The Federal Court case of Voltage Pictures LLC. v Doe (Court File No. T-2058-12) signals the return of file-sharing lawsuits to Canada. Voltage alleges that unnamed defendants, identified by IP Address, have downloaded its films unlawfully via bittorrent. Voltage has filed a motion asking the Court to order Teksavvy, an Internet Service Provider, to disclose records that will enable it to identify the individuals associated with those IP Addresses. CIPPIC has filed a motion to intervene in Voltage's request to compel TekSavvy to identify those individuals. Voltage’s motion to compel TekSavvy to identify its subscribers is set down to be heard on Monday, January 14th. CIPPIC has written a letter to the Court asking that Voltage's motion not be heard until after the Court has had an opportunity to rule on CIPPIC's intervention application.

  • – 2013-01-07 –

    UPDATE: These hearings will be live streamed beginning at 9:30 a.m. on January 22, 2012

    CIPPIC has filed its intervention in two joint appeals before the Supreme Court of Canada: Chehil v. Her Majesty the Queen, S.C.C. File No. 34524 and MacKenzie v. Her Majesty the Queen, Supreme Court File No. 34397. These appeals call on our highest court to clarify the parameters of what constitutes a 'reasonable suspicion'. The reasonable suspicion standard forms the basis of an increasing panoply of state surveillance powers. The crown is seeking a 'reasonable suspicion' standard that effectively rubber stamps law enforcement 'intuition'. If adopted, courts will need to defer to law enforcement 'expertise' in assessing whether suspicions are reasonable. In addition, police will be able to systematically apply 'suspicious' profiles to mine data repositories and invade the privacy of many Canadians.

    The cases under appeal involve sniffer dogs. Individuals were deemed 'suspicious' on the basis of a confluence of innocuous factors such as: travelling from known drug centres (Vancouver and Calgary, respectively), purchasing a last minute ticket (Chehil), travelling two kilometres above the speed limit (MacKenzie), checking just one bag on a flight (Chehil), appearing nervous (MacKenzie) and buying a plane ticket with cash (Chehil). The ultimate constituent elements of this standard will have far-reaching implications, as what is considered 'reasonably suspicious' will form the basis of many surveillance powers. Under Bill C-30 alone, if it passes, the government will be able to force service providers to hand over cell phone location data, traffic data (such as what websites you visit), and interaction data (such as who you speak to or who you interact with online) if they are able to convince a judge that they have 'reasonable suspicion'. For more, see https://cippic.ca/sniffer_dogs.

  • – 2012-12-18 –

    CIPPIC has submitted comments in Telecom Notice of Consultation CRTC 2012-557, a proceeding which seeks to establish a set of rights of customers of wireless services across Canada. The proceeding was launched after the Commission decided, in Telecom Decision CRTC 2012-556, that wireless customers were in need for greater protections at the national level. CIPPIC's submission, filed on behalf of OpenMedia.ca, focused on the need to address many shortcomings in the Canadian wireless landscape and the need to facilitate competition. Specifically, CIPPIC called on the CRTC to restrict termination penalties and hardware lock-ins.

    Using a combination of technical lock-in mechanisms and excessive penalties for breaking contracts, providers prevent customers from switching outside 2-3 year contractual cycles. At the same time, these lock-in mechanisms prevent effective competition on handset prices. Providers have no incentive to ever compete on handset prices, as higher-seeming handset prices make handset subsidy-based three year lock-ins appear a fantastic deal for customers. In reality, however, customers end up paying more for the handset and more for their monthly services, while providers are insulated from actually having to compete to keep their customer base. An effective Wireless Consumer Protection Code will address this deficiency.

  • – 2012-12-17 –

    Last week, Voltage Pictures filed a motion to identify approximatel 2,000 IP addresses allegedly belonging to individuals who have infringed its copyrights by means of peer-to-peer file sharing mechanisms. CIPPIC is seeking to intervene in this matter to ensure that procedural safeguards and the privacy rights of the anonymous Does are respected.

    On December 14, 2012, CIPPIC filed a letter with the Federal Court seeking to delay the hearing of Voltage's motion to compel Internet Service Provider Teksavvy Solutions to disclose the identities of its subscribers alleged to have downloaded movies the copyright to which Voltage owns. Although supporting evidence for the motion was only filed on Tuesday, December 11, it was scheduled to be heard today (only 6 days later). While CIPPIC is not yet a party to this proceeding, its letter was intended to ensure the Court was aware of the nuemrous legal and policy issues raised by Voltage's request. The letter asked the Court to provide more time for defendants to respond to the motion, as well as to provide time for CIPPICs own intended intervention. Today, in court, Teksavvy similarly asked the Court to extend timelines for this process, which it did. The next hearing date will be January 14, 2013.

  • – 2012-11-05 –

    The Supreme Court of Canada has granted CIPPIC leave to intervene in R. v. Chehil & R. v. MacKenzie (SCC File Nos. 34524 & 34397, respectively), two now joint appeals in which the SCC that will examine the 'reasonable suspicion' standard in the context of sniffer dog searches. The 'reasonable suspicion' standard forms the basis for a rapidly increasing number of privacy-invasive state powers including several electronic surveillance powers currently being proposed by the Government in an attempt to increase its online spying capacities.

    As stated in its motion for leave to intervene, CIPPIC intends to argue for a reasonable suspicion standard that cannot be marshalled in order to conduct mass surveillance of individual citizens. CIPPIC is particularly concerned that an overly permissive standard will be used to justify privacy infringements by means of a vast array of police-assisted tools. Many have noted this potential for sniffer dog judgements to be applied more broadly to other means of technological surveillance, most recently in the context of an upcoming Supreme Court of the United States hearing on sniffer dogs. For more information and resources, see CIPPIC's project page for this intervention: https://cippic.ca/sniffer_dogs.

  • – 2012-10-15 –

    Today, the Supreme Court of Canada will hear Telus Communications Company v. Her Majesty the Queen, SCC File No. 34252. The case will decide whether police will be permitted to bypass special privacy protections the Criminal Code provides against the interception of text messages. The argument is that because TELUS stores text messages passing through its system for the purpose of ensuring delivery, these messages are no longer 'in transit' and, hence, acquiring them is not an 'interception' and does not warrant the special Criminal Code protections in question.

    In its intervention in this case, CIPPIC argues that courts should not let narrow interpretations of provisions defeat important protections offered to constitutional rights such as privacy. Such provisions should be interpreted in a flexible manner that accounts for evolutions in communications delivery mechanisms. Temporary storage is a natural feature of evolved communications mechanisms such as text messaging, Email, and other web-based interactions. Temporary storage of this nature, particularly when undertaken by communications intermediaries such as TELUS, is typically considered part and parcel of the communications process. Storage for the purpose of message delivery should, therefore, be considered part of the message delivery process. While this may not provide special protection for communications that is in storage and in control of the user (a voice message, for example, or archived email), it does provide protection for communications stored by communications companies solely as part of the delivery process.