How important is privacy to you?
I know a strange question to ask, especially living and a free and democratic society, such as Canada, where we enjoy a considerable amount of privacy thanks to our laws namely our Charter. So let me ask you another question; how important is freedom to you? Yes, another strange question for the very same reasons. Yet we must consider these questions when legislation is about to pass concerning our Ant-Terrorism Act known as Bill C51 and it’s amendments under Bill C59. Now I’m not going to dwell so much on the contents of these Bills, there’s a plethora of information out there from well known civil liberty organizations on the pros and cons of the Bill, yet in order to consume such information you need to consider these two questions and this is what I hope this article will help you to do.
Yet, it is a difficult question to answer especially if you haven’t had either of these two taken away from you – with no recourse – especially, and most importantly, in a “free” and “democratic” society as Canada where we are considered to be Rightsholders. So to help you along, let’s do a visualization exercise and pretend you’ve been thrown in jail. It’s the easiest and most obvious way to make the point. How do you think that would feel because that’s exactly the purpose of a jail when you are found to be guilty of committing a crime – or said to have committed a crime – but establishing innocence is not the purpose of this exercise.
You’re in a very small enclosed space, perhaps a very small window to allow one ray of sunshine and one moonbeam through (just to remind you that you’re actually confined), it has concrete floors and walls that are painted gray (which over time affects your mood), it could be cold and damp, a cold steel toilet in an open corner, a cot or steel bed, a flimsy blanket and a flat pillow. Got the visual? Now in both corners, there are video cameras watching every move you make 24/7 for however long you’re in there recording each and everything that you do in this tiny cubicle while a guard outside makes his rounds passing by on the hour every hour to check up on you. You don’t talk to anyone except the guard, no friends or family members are allowed to visit except once a month and even then those visits are supervised by jailhouse staff and recording devices. You get the picture? Most importantly the feeling? Good. Now hold that and multiply this feeling for 2 to 5 years (that would be 730, 24hr days – 1825, 24hr days) of how this must feel and what it does to your heart, spirit, and mind, while you read the rest of this article.
We will continue to follow CPAC’s 25th-anniversary celebration with its four-part documentary series called Pillars of Democracy: Justice, Freedom, Equality, and Representation which highlights four democratic events that have shaped our social and political landscape. In this article, we will cover the topic of Freedom and what it means to you in our “free” and “democratic” society. Now although I have outlined a most extreme case, do you know that our privacy and freedoms are being eroded right from underneath our noses? Many do not recognize this, and others do for, in this increasingly digitized world, there are many ways to of taking away a person’s right to freedom and privacy without essentially throwing them into jail.
Bill C51 and it’s amendments under Bill C59 largely covers surveillance techniques from security and intelligence agencies where they are increasingly tapping into our digital devices and modes of communication for what they think may pose a threat to Canada and its citizens. We’re also part of a global surveillance alliance with New Zealand, UK, USA and Australia called the 5 Eyes Alliance that together forms an even greater sweep of surveillance through information sharing. We want to pay attention, even in the most, remote of ways because so much of who we are and what we do is reflected in our online activities. I’ll come to this in a bit but to continue; we not only have to think about how much freedom and privacy we are giving up to security and intelligence agencies we also have to be mindful of the private sector who increasingly want more and more information about you to market their products and services. And then there are variances in between of other motivations for surveillance used by citizens to each other, but we’re to have laws that enable us for recourse yet in our digital economy and world is still relatively young and difficult for the layperson or digitally illiterate person to be aware of let alone protect themselves. Therefore, protecting our freedom and privacy becomes a shared activity.
As mentioned before so much of us and what we do is shared online (even the stuff that we don’t know about, including the dark web) that we now have to think of ourselves as have three identities; personal, public and digital. Many of the activities that we do to enjoy our freedom and to protect our privacy in the physical world will be the same in the digital world. But before that happens you need to be connected. According to CRTC data:
“Approximately 18% of Canadian households do not have access to fixed broadband Internet access services at the CRTC’s target speeds of 50 Mbps download and 10 Mbps upload. These households are typically located in rural communities or areas with relatively low population density, some of them near urban areas. Many of these communities lack sufficient transport or access networks needed to provide them with broadband Internet services comparable to urban areas.
The CRTC heard from Canadians forced to make difficult spending decisions due to the cost of broadband Internet access services. Given the economic, socio-cultural and civic importance of broadband, the CRTC concluded that any Canadian left behind in terms of broadband access is profoundly disadvantaged, and that coordinated national action is necessary to address this problem. The risks of non-action are too great: missed opportunities for innovation, creativity, and engagement; reduced competitiveness; weakened domestic prosperity; and diminished prospects for Canadians.
Interveners generally agreed that this digital gap results in many Canadians not being able to effectively participate in the digital economy. They expressed their concern about the negative impact of this gap on many fronts including health care, education, public safety, culture and economic development.” [CRTC website]
So if you find yourself in this situation, in many ways it will feel as if you are “confined” in one way or another.
As we become more entrenched in a digitized world it will soon be near to impossible to get anything done (i.e. access to government services). That calls for entrenching the right of basic access to the internet be considered as a human right. It’s already considered but formally it should be included. If I were to venture I would say that not having access to internet violates:
- Section 2; (b), (c), (d) of our Charter. That is the right to freedom of expression, freedom of peaceful assembly, freedom of association;
- Section 6 (2) (b), the right to pursue the gaining of a livelihood in any province; as many rely on the internet to conduct their business to earn an income;
- Section 7 – the right to life, liberty, and security;
- Section 8 – the right to be secure against unreasonable search and seizure (surveillance, hacking, phishing techniques etc.);
- Section 12 – Everyone has a right not to be subject to any cruel and unusual treatment. That would relate to cyber-bullying;
- Section 13 – Self incrimination;
- Section 15 (1) – Equality rights. I’ll raise a flag here, it’s about equal protection against discrimination – I was thinking of net neutrality and blocking certain websites that could provide beneficial information to the viewer such as legal or health advice.
And so on. But I hope you do get a generalized idea how having access to the internet is becoming more and more of importance to citizens especially the elderly and those who have difficulty with mobility. And we haven’t even considered consent laws, access to information, privacy laws or even the Criminal Code, just to name a few. So yes, our digital identity is just as important and in many ways more -[for the lack of a better word] “important” than our physical world in terms of security because of the clandestine nature of the way online crimes are committed that can have very adverse and very real-life consequences in the physical world! It’s almost like being in that jail cell I asked you to visualize earlier and while in there the outside world is taking advantage of the situation and doing a whole bunch of stuff to your personal identity that you have no way of knowing or protecting yourself because you are locked up.
A National Broadband Strategy
Although many are connected through the internet be it through cellphone, laptop, tablet or through their computers at home, on the individual level, not all citizens enjoy universal access to the internet, let alone high-speed connections, especially for those who live in remote areas. Providing affordable internet access to these areas are an ongoing concern. The good news is that funding through CRTC will become available for providers wishing to access that area of the market. Although the website does not say when, but eventually, once implemented, imagine the increased opportunities to reach potential voters that were previously difficult to access through traditional campaigning methods. The map below shows the number of households or areas where these services exist and as you can tell it is quite sparse, centering on major urban areas.
Now in the areas where you see no identification in this vast geographical area imagine how many people and/or households do not have adequate access. If you add them all up I am sure you will find that the number of households that are not serviced adequately equals to or probably greater than the areas that do. That’s a lot of customers and households that are unserviced that could potentially represent a large market share for the telecom provider who will benefit from providing access to these areas. And imagine if that entity were to provide at least a fraction of those services to households how increasing, in terms of more voices are being reached for democratic participation (more voters), and increased markets for goods and services that it will bring to the private sector. The CRTC continues to state:
Data collected by the CRTC shows that 97% of Canadians have access to Long Term Evolution (LTE) mobile wireless services where they live. However, interveners to the BTS proceeding commented that this coverage is much more limited along highways and in more remote areas where, in some cases, it is non-existent.
Municipalities with rural or sparse populations expressed their concerns about reliable mobile wireless coverage and public safety, noting that universal coverage is not available in all parts of the country. In the EKOS survey, many participants indicated that a primary function of mobile wireless service is safety, yet nearly all rural residents described feeling vulnerable in the event of emergencies occurring on the road where mobile coverage is limited.
Providing service for these areas will provide not only increased market share but also provide much-needed service, for example, 911 calls or non-emergency calls that are just as important to friends and relatives or for general public safety. Or how about those in the resource development sector wishing to expand their development and need connectivity to various offices or for real estate development companies wishing to expand their home and retail reach etc.
Some interveners also cited the need for Canada to support Canadians’ growing reliance on the Internet of Things (IoT). Different reports estimate that, globally, between 26 and 50 billion devices will be connected to the IoT by 2020. Much of the traffic related to the IoT will be transmitted via wireless technology which will place increased demand on mobile access and transport networks, requiring in turn that Canada’s mobile infrastructure evolve to include the deployment of the fifth generation (5G) technology.
Existing companies such as Bell, Rogers, and Telus, to name a few, are too busy servicing the market share that they already have and are somewhat reluctant to invest in the infrastructure needed to service these remote areas because the return on investment (ROI) will take too long to be appreciated. They may not receive the full market share as customers will jump from company to company, once the infrastructure is in place, for a better servicing deal. It seems as if an additional player is needed to fill those gaps or at least decrease these gaps and this is what CRTC’s funding opportunity presents. Perhaps when the gaps are smaller, the telecom companies, including CRTC, can then reconvene to re-examine the issue on how to close the gap. Yes, lofty goals that will take some time to complete but it’s inevitable especially since there is a growing need to have access to the network following the human rights principle to have adequate access. It doesn’t mean everyone will take advantage of the service but the ability to do so must be implemented.
One may have the foresight to provide access to the network but once it is in place, it brings a whole new set of opportunities, as well as challenges, in terms of digital literacy and safely navigating the worldwide web.
Online voting is an option that’s been explored, however, the negative in this regard outweighs the benefits for a variety of reasons, including security. According to the ERRE report, voter apathy is not necessarily attributed to not having the opportunity to vote, especially for the disable or seniors, but more of finding the motivation to vote. However, that being said, providing internet and mobile access to previously under-served areas could provide an opportunity for education and outreach for civic engagement especially when in the election cycle be it municipally, provincial and/or federal and BC could be a potential leader and test site in this regard as it is with the referendum question.
For example, BC will soon engage in a referendum to change its electoral system, out-reach to the remote areas will become a challenge for those in remote areas as they are attempting to change a system rather than electing a party or individual to be the leader of a city, province or even federally. They may already be more familiar with political parties whereas they might not be as educated on electoral systems. For example, BC had two referendums on the in previous years on the issue. One needs to ask were rural areas properly consulted and how could that have influenced the votes if they were adequately reached. Who knows BC might have already had a new system in place by now. Same for any other province wishing to conduct a referendum or while engaged in an electoral cycle.
Moving along, now in an earlier blog entry, I spoke about how the Brexit and most likely the US elections were rigged using big data analytics, fake news, and misinformation. Now we do need the internet because that is where most of us go to be informed about issues at hand be it through news articles, blogs, and videos. It’s a place where we can congregate, communicate and keep up to date. But how valuable is this information and enriching is our experience if we are exposed to misinformation, monitored and so much more. Therefore for all the good the internet can bring it could also be potentially a very dangerous place.
However, returning to election fiascoes, civic engagement, and the ability to participate in our democracy, the internet is starting to become an integral piece to all of this mainly through our social media. If on the one side we are being surveilled for potential security threats by security and intelligence agencies and on the other we are being riled and misled by fake news and misinformation while being surveilled by those very same methods by other parties, one way or another these two objectives are bound to collide; where an unsuspecting citizen might be expressing their political opinion as a result of reading fake news/misinformation, an opinion that might not be shared by mainstream, as a result of reading this misguided information. This individual could be tagged by security agencies as a potential threat. See where I’m going here?
To put it another way; users may be quiet or silenced out of fear of being targeted for voicing political views yet on the other through clandestine manipulation nature of big-data analytics, we’re being encouraged to voice those same political opinions (that could possibly be distorted by misinformation), with a purpose to influence electoral outcomes. Again, this can be very dangerous especially if one is susceptible to the modes employed by behavior-profiling, social engineering attacks and “big data”. A citizen could attract the attention of both security agencies, that seeks to monitor and to suppress forms of expression, and data harvesting companies that distort and manipulate data to encourage online discourse almost to the point of sedition.
Even more concerning, it’s unclear even to experts exactly what kinds of speech and protest activity may be considered threats to national security if the Bill C59 passes; the average “Canadian has little hope of feeling confident that their legitimate political activity hasn’t inadvertently crossed the line especially within in the eyes of the government of the day” and if it was encouraged by electoral data-harvesting techniques. Bill C-51’s expansive language means that “Canadians will likely choose not to express themselves even in completely legal ways rather than risk prosecution. Legitimate speech will be chilled, and our democracy will be worse off for it.” [BC Civil Liberties Association]
On the one side we don’t want our democracy hi-jacked as we saw with the US elections and Brexit yet on the other recognizing that data-harvesting is an attractive method for outreach to learn more about voters to; a) get more people to vote; and b) to learn what’s on the minds of voters to create political platforms that are relevant. One can see the value in capturing data (hopefully) without interfering with citizen’s natural online discourse. To interfere with natural online discourse, for example, by employing the methods of trolling, is coercing, as well as sedition conspiracies and the spreading of false information to influence the outcome of an election is where it becomes dubious in nature.
And how does one monitor the use of manipulative and exploitative strategies when the practice of data-harvesting is clandestine in nature. Would the average citizen who moderately engages in social media platforms know enough to recognize when they are being targeted and manipulated for the purpose of collecting psychological insights or to be mindful when expressing personal opinions that are perhaps being formed through news items and posts that aim to deceive by spreading disinformation?
Freedom of Expression and Social Media
“Freedom of expression, association, and assembly” in Canada have been eroded and violated in a variety of ways that have been both insidious and corrosive. Surveillance for security measures – now add another layer for behavior and psychological profiling as authorities seek to identify potential national security threats. While these operational surveillance variations may seem trivial, they carry significant normative weight.
For example, US intelligence agencies have permission to direct backdoor access to the servers of popular Internet companies, including Google, Microsoft, Apple, Facebook, Yahoo, YouTube, Skype, and others, introducing the potentials for surveillance. Documents also seen by the Observer show that this was a proposal to capture citizens’ browsing history en masse, recording phone conversations and applying natural language processing to the recorded voice data to construct a national police database, complete with scores for each citizen on their propensity to commit a crime.
Such access enables intelligence agencies to monitor and archive email, chats, search history, file transfers, and other online behaviors. The NSA also uses tools like upstream data collection via fiber-optic cables and malware to extensively track online viewing behaviors and keystrokes such that intelligence agencies can “literally watch your ideas as you type”. Sound familiar?
Citizens need constant reminders of what’s lurking within our social media platforms and become more informed and knowledgeable about how our data and online communications are being captured and used for purposes other than what we intend. For those who are digitally naive will soon find themselves falling into a potential trap of either having their account surveillance because their online expressions are too vocal and/or being targeted by a social engineering attack aimed at learning and gathering more information about you.
Canadian elections in just two years, provide enough time for these aspects, to be analyzed with the purpose to advert infiltration of the online citizenry for the purpose of tipping the scales to influence the upcoming elections. Instead of rigging the system, why not try fixing the system. And thankfully, Facebook is doing just that.
Digital Literacy, Social Media, and Facebook
“Cybersecurity is a shared responsibility one in which Canadian, governments, the private sector, media and online platforms all play a role. Social media can help us debate public policy in private and in public spaces, in fact, social media has revolutionized the way we communicate across the world. It’s never been easier to get engaged.” Karina Gould, Minister of Democratic Institutions.
In light of recent developments of electoral tampering in many countries around the world, the Liberal government has taken the opportunity to plan ahead to safeguard our democratic process leading up to the 2019 elections. In the keynote speech address at Facebook’s Canadian Election Integrity Initiative symposium, Karina Gould addressed the challenges that lay ahead and what her office is planning to address those challenges to “educate Canadians about security and the simple things one can do to protect themselves.”
Gould continues, “Cybersecurity is a shared responsibility one in which Canadian, governments, the private sector, media and online platforms all play a role. Social media can help us debate public policy in private and in public spaces….However, digital technologies can be used for not so good ends, for example, the spread of misinformation injected into the public discussion by those who masquerade as legitimate media sources or individuals. A well disguised fake news or misinformation campaign can erode the public faith in the reliability of traditional media sources. It can distort the public’s understanding of major issues.”
“…This is one of our greatest challenges in the digital era. If we are not exposed to different viewpoints our ability to contribute to the democratic process by exercising our critical sense we will not be good citizens because we will not have our visions broaden and this will prevent us from participating to contribute in an enlightened way to democratic life and the consequences are that democracy is undermined….In many ways we have become the new arbiters of information and have an important responsibility to facilitate respectful and informed public discourse just like government and private corporations have a public responsibility to contribute to a healthy democracy, social media platforms must begin to view themselves as actors in shaping the democratic discourse and protecting our democracy from those who would seek to harm it.”
“…The issue of foreign influence and the spread of misinformation is by no means a phenomenon but the digital age has provided malicious actors with more ways than ever before to pursue their objectives in a rapid and constantly evolving manner. And in that respect, I think it is important for social media platforms to think critically about their current practices and how they can create spaces for informed public dialogue in the information that we consume.”
To fulfill its mission about giving people a voice and bringing people closer together, Kevin Chan from Facebook Canada, outlined two identified areas where the social media platform could be of assistance: 1)Preventing bad actors from meddling with website and social media accounts of politicians of political parties and political candidates; 2) Preventing bad actors from spreading misinformation and false news online. They began their initiative by sending an email notification out to the administrators from all the Facebook pages of Federal politicians and their political parties providing an anti-cyberthreat guide to help their administrator navigate through the various threats and offer online training; a new cyber-threat email line for all federal politicians and their political parties providing a direct pipe to our security team at Facebook to help for faster responses for compromised pages and accounts. Also, in support of authentic civic engagement, they partnered with Media Source Canada’s Centre for Digital and Media Literacy on a two-year project to develop resources and public service announcements on how to spot misinformation and false news online; the project is called “Reality Check”. The new initiative includes lesson plans, interactive online missions, videos and guides that will promote the idea that verifying information is an essential life and important citizenship skill.
Lastly, Chan re-iterated a Facebook commitment regarding the use of transparency standards for online ads. “We believe that when you see an ad on Facebook you should not only know who ran the ad but also what other ads they are running, even if those ads aren’t directed at you.” In the past six months, Facebook has taken a lot of important steps, for example curbing bad actor’s spreading inauthentic information through the use of machine learning and means to enforce community standards and ad policy. “In the next year, we plan to implement four thousand people globally to review port content and ads on Facebook and invest more into machine learning to identify inauthentic content. We are also becoming increasingly sophisticated in how we identify fake accounts, by assessing patterns and activity rather than content. In the lead up to the French election, it enabled us to take action against 30,000 fake accounts. In the recent German elections, studies concluded that the level of false news was low.”
He concludes his speech by saying, “Facebook Canada is committed to doing our part in helping to protect Canada’s democratic process but we are obviously the only player in a much broader ecosystem. And we will work in the spirit of cooperation with the various facets of society.” So there you have it. In this broader ecosystem, cyber-security is a shared responsibility, we’ve heard what our government is doing to protect our democratic process and our security through amendments outlined in Bill C59, we’ve heard from social media platform Facebook about what they currently doing but there’s one more major player – the tele-communcations industry. What are they doing to protect Canadian citizen’s freedom and privacy?
Quite honestly, I’m not really sure nor confident in our telecommunication companies when it comes to privacy issues. In CPAC’s panel discussion, host Peter VanDeusen pointed out, for example, in May 2017 – Bell Canada issued an apology after it admitted that 1.9 million customer’s email addresses and another 1700 names and phone numbers were illegally accessed. Also in May again this year the Revenue Canada Agency has fired 8 of its employees for violating tax-payers privacy including one individual who has accessed the accounts of over 1200 Canadians.
One guest panelist, Amir Attaran from the University of Ottawa noted “.. in the private sector, not only Bell had this privacy breach, Equifax did, Yahoo did, Walmart did on and on and our current laws really are not prepared to deal with that. Look at one of the two leading federal laws with that called PIPEDA the one that covers the private sector in some provinces not all of them. Do you know what the criminal penalty is for breaching privacy if you are a company that’s been in recovery by PIPEDA?
It’s $0.00 – zero. So, a company like Equifax that it practically held out public information view like this, come out and get it – no penalty, no criminal penalty. There should be a corporate death penalty for a company like that. And once there is and once a few corporation are wound up and off the face of this earth because they violated privacy the others will get serious about it. The ones for whom it is important for their business model like the big five banks we don’t see them getting into privacy as often because they have been cautious about it, most other companies are not that careful about it.”
Another panelist, Anne Covoukian a privacy commissioner for two years who now teaches at Ryerson Univesity says that “It’s in the 90% regularly in the last two years, people are concerned about privacy and they don’t know what to do about it. People could do little things but the massive things they cannot control.”
True there are many things we can do and options available to secure our devices and online activities, from a private sector point of view, but many of which can be circumvented by those same entities and more-so by the government. I strongly advocate, if you can, the use of encryption technology. (See blog: Encryption) However, that being said, in the 2016 Canadian Telecommunications Summit, our Privacy Commissioner Mr. Daniel Therrien in a keynote speech addressed an audience which included the major telecommunications providers; Bell, Telus, Rogers, a host of medium (Videotron, Fido, Teksavvy, COMwav etc.) to smaller providers as well as government representatives in the industry.
This is what Mr. Therrien had to say about privacy and moving forward and further in a digitized world. “Canadians have entrusted you with their digital lives. And in the 21st century, so much of what we do and who we are is tied to our online activity which comes with an immense responsibility. At the heart of this relationship is respect for privacy. You know as well as I do that Canadians value their privacy and prefer to do business with companies that respect their privacy rights.
A recent poll was taken by the commission, 9 out of 10 Canadian told them that they are worried about their privacy and meanwhile 81% said that they are more likely to choose to do business with a company specifically because it has a good reputation for respect for privacy practices. But they also want our government to act on their behalf is protecting their safety and security given your unique privilege and position you know how important all this data is to government and law enforcement agencies. Governments around the world are collecting more and more data about their citizens often through intermediaries such as organizations that you represent.”
Now I probably shouldn’t but nevertheless, I am going to directly quote parts of Therrien’s speech because what he has to say is so important, I don’t want it lost in my translation. (here’s the link to the speech) He says, “The current standards dictate that the current government and institutions may share information among themselves so long as it is “relevant” to the identification of national security threats. In our view, that threshold is inadequate and could expose the information of law-abiding citizens. A more recent low threshold would be to allow sharing when necessary.
Another Bill for concern is Bill C13 the Cyber-Criminality Act which has also raised many questions about how law enforcement obtains telecommunications data. The Privacy Commissioner’s office has worked with both telecommunications service providers and Innovation, Science and Economic Development since December 2014 to encourage companies to provide helpful information with respects to transparency guidance from companies that share personal information with law enforcement. They have also called on federal institutions to maintain accurate records and to report publicly the nature of access requests that they made to the telecommunications.
Warrantless access is a debate with law enforcement that has recently resurfaced. A debate that many of us in the Privacy community thought had been put to bed following the landmark Supreme Court of Canada ruling. R vs Spencer 2014 case concluded that subscriber information linked with specific internet activity should not be obtained without a warrant except in very precise circumstances when they have a chance to prevent imminent bodily harm or if the information does not raise the reasonable apprehension the reasonable expectation of privacy. Therrien urges colleagues to be diligent when approached by law enforcement for subscriber data and work with the courts who are in the best position to balance warrant access vs privacy.
With respect to government surveillance, some of you may know that this was one of the four identified of the strategic privacy priorities that will guide the work my office does over the next five years. There have been recent disputes over encryption on devices in the US mainly and to some extent in Canada have and this also raised many questions about this delicate matter between privacy and security. Encryption is extremely important for the protection of personal information it should be used, it should not have tampered without extremely good reason. Companies that manufacture telecommunication devices play a big role in this. The rule of law prevails at the end of the day. If you break encryption or create an exception to the protection provided by the encryption technologically, what impact will that have on the population?
On another matter, there are sensitivities on meta-data which came up recently in the context of surveillance. Research has found that meta-data can be quite revealing. It can include all sorts of information related to phone calls, emails, social networking and internet browsing activities. When combined this data can say a lot about a specific individual. So when the government, the security establishment Minister of National Defense say “don’t worry the risk is low because it’s meta-data and not content”, take that with a big grain of salt.
All this to say that government institutions that collect or considering collecting such information of metadata should not underestimate what the information can reveal about an individual and the same goes for private sector organization, ISPs, social media and device manufacturers as they may be asked to disclose such information to government institutions or that they may disclose to third parties so that they could use for marketing, analytically or other purposes. Given the ubiquitous nature of metadata and the powerful instances that can belong to specific individuals, government and private sector organizations must be very prudent of their collection use and disclosure activities.
Canadians value security in the days of threats confronting the world today but they also care deeply about their privacy they want to ensure that laws and procedures are in place that respects Canadian values and they want the police and national security agencies to do their job but to do it lawfully. They want greater transparencies so institutions can earn their trust at the end of the day we live in a country that is governed by the rule of law. A democratic country that promotes and respects human rights. Still, we need to be vigilant if we are to ensure the privacy rights of Canadians remains protected.
As you know, consent has been the cornerstone of our Federal private sector privacy law. However, in this increasingly complex market, many are questioning how Canadians can meaningfully consent to the collection and use disclosure of their personal information. We recently launched a consultation on the foundational use of consent in this digital world. We hope to identify improvements to that process through current consent model and bring clearer definition to the roles and responsibilities of the various players who could implement, by the various players, I mean the player’s individuals concerned, the data subjects, companies, organizations, regulators and potentially legislators. So I hope you’ll agree that this is something that is important and that you’ll participate in the process…”
We’ve covered a lot of issues in this article; access to the internet as a basic human right, access to the network in rural areas, civic engagement, safeguarding our democratic process from bad actors in our social media leading up to the 2019 elections, information sharing, meta-data, encryption and so forth. It is my hope the viewer will come to realize that safeguarding the internet, enjoying our freedom while balancing it with safety is a shared responsibility; the private sector, government and us by improving our digital literacy and doing what we can to improve our own personal safety. It’s much like providing safeguards for your home with an alarm system, upgrading the windows, installing new locks ensuring all access points has some level of security so you and or possessions are safe. Well, these same practices should be reflected in your digital world as well.
But to say all this many won’t realize just how precious freedom and privacy is, that is until it actually happens personally to them. So to conclude we will return to our visualization exercise we started at the beginning of the article, you might have to go back and read it to capture the feeling of losing your freedom and privacy. Got it? Good. Now to close this exercise visualize it’s the day where you finally gain that freedom and ability to return to a life of privacy. But only this time it is different. You’re different. Because you’ve spent 730, 24hr days – 1825, 24hr days in confinement. Your friends are now strangers, your family are now relatives, you find little joy in the things that once you enjoyed and through information sharing, the storage of all that surveillance data you’re not really sure what happened to your identity while you were in there (let alone what got you in there in the first place) and how best to proceed into your new future. What elements do you keep and what do you throw away?
Yet, the good news is; instead of one ray of sunlight you get to enjoy the sun in all its glory, instead of one beam from the moon you’re able to delightfully observe its full bloom underneath a blanket of stars, you have a warm soft bed to sleep in with a fluffy pillow, a bathroom door to close and with no recording devices you can truly appreciate your own company – well, that’s a pretty good start! It’s almost like wiping your computer system’s hard drive and installing new software and security techniques with all the things you have learned. Got that feeling? Good.
Now go out there, be safe, be secure and equipped with the knowledge you’ve learned, living in this great country, you can now consider yourself free!…well, somewhat …but you’ve got the idea….