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Facebook: Insurmountable(?) Challenges to Privacy Protection in a Social World

In September 2010, Canada’s Federal Privacy Commissioner officially completed a two year investigation of Facebook’s privacy practices. As a result of this process, Facebook was compelled to make several improvements to its site, to the benefit of its 500+ million global users. Yet there was little of a self-congratulatory air to the Commissioner’s statement, which noted ongoing concerns with the site’s privacy compliance. PIPEDA, Canada’s data protection statute, has been hailed historically as a model for privacy protection in an increasingly challenging environment. It attempts to balance the legitimate interests of businesses against privacy rights of individuals, primarily by ensuring users are well aware of the privacy choices they make and the consequences thereof. In this sense, ultimate responsibility for privacy remains with the user.

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Facebook, Privacy, Regulation, Privacy Commissioner of Canada

The Cookie Crumb Trail: Website to Website Tracking

Most internet users are probably aware that the websites they visit may collect information on them. It is common practice for a website to record details such as how often a user visits the website, and even how a user spends time on the site -- tracking, for example, what articles a user reads or what books a user buys.

However, many users may not be aware that major advertising companies are aggregating this information together from many different websites. If you use your browser's default privacy and security settings, you are being tracked from site to site. With each additional site you visit, you give away another piece of information on who you are.

Bill C-32: New copyright bill is in need of repair!

A new copyright bill was introduced in Parliament yesterday as Bill C-32, the Copyright Modernization Act. This bill includes some important new provisions that recognize the right of the public to use works fairly. Canadians will be given wider scope to use copyrighted works for parody, satire, and education. It will become legal to place legally-purchased music on an iPod, as well as to record television shows for later viewing.

Unfortunately, most of these gains for the Canadian public will be for naught if another significant provision of the bill passes into law: U.S.-style anti-circumvention measures. By simply placing a digital lock on content, any commercial copyright owner will be able to ensure that no fair dealing provisions apply. "Copyright" may be infringed even where content is used after the fifty-year copyright protection in a work has expired!

This bill has not yet been passed into law and is still open to amendment. The time to act is now! If you'd like to see this bill reflect Canadian interests rather than accede to U.S. pressure on introducing these digital-lock provisions, please take action! Click here to find out how you can help!

Government: Update Investigative Techniques, Not Privacy

The Government is willing and eager to update police surveillance laws in order to meet challenges posed by new technological changes, but when asked by the Privacy Commissioner of Canada and the House Standing Committee on Access to Information, Privacy and Ethics to update the Privacy Act so that existing privacy protections will apply to new forms and uses of information, the answer was no.

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Quebec 'educates' students on evils of CD piracy, ignores private copy levy

In annually released and updated 'eduactional materials', Revenu Quebec has been educating Quebec youths as to tragic impact of CD Piracy, ignoring not only the fact that such copying has been legal in Canada for almost a decade, but also that copyright holders are compensated for blank CD sales.

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CRTC Allows Bell to Apply Per Usage Pricing to Wholesale Customers

The CRTC released a decision allowing Bell to impose user based pricing on its wholesale customers. This is problematic for a number of reasons.

First, it exacerbates the lack of competition already present in the wireline Internet industry by effectively making usage based pricing a non-competitive issue. Second, it is unfair as much of the bandwidth in question will be in off-peak hours and so would cost Bell nothing in provisioning. Third, it allows incumbents such as Bell to further abuse their gatekeeper position, leading to a diminshed internet experience for Canadians.

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Harms of Malware to Consumers Measured in Billions of Dollars

The OECD has issued a comprehensive report quantifying the harms resulting from malware. The report estimates that consumers spend billions of dollars every year on information system repairs or replacement to fix damage caused by malware. The report further states on average businesses spend between 6 and 10% of their total operating capital costs on addressing issues arising from malware.

This highlights the need for anti-malware legislation in Canada! Learn more, then Act

UK Example: Lawful Access Legislation is a Dangerous and Slippery Slope

Reports from the UK show that authorities have made more than 500,000 requests for confidential communications data over the past year alone - roughly 1 for every 78 adults in the UK. These requests come under an Act that allows authorities to gain access to information on who individuals have been phoning, emailing, which websites individuals visit, etc.

Originally enacted for the purpose of combating terrorism, the UK example shows how easy it is for lawful access legislation to lead to abuse - in some cases, the access powers were used to snoop on suspected litterers.

Defenders of the UK Act, like those who tout the Canadian version, say the Act does not allow access to the content of communications, but only the 'traffic' (who you are speaking to, etc.).

While the Canadian version of lawful access is not as broad as the UK version, this demonstrates that it is indeed a slippery slope and care should be taken to ensure the proper safeguards are in place before any expansion of police powers is allowed.

See the UK Information Commissioner's full report as well as a breakdown of some of the numbers.

Announcing DA's Idea Torrent

We are happy to announce that the Digital Agenda Idea Torrent is live and ready to be used. This service is using Ubuntu's Idea Torrent application (known in a previous life as Brainstorm).

We think Idea Torrent will be a fantastic way of collating a large number of problems, solutions, and discussion. It should allow for focussed discussion and eventually the production of a document that is balanced and responsive to people needs.

Welcome to Digital Agenda

Welcome to Digital Agenda (.ca). Recently, the Government has stated it intends to pursue a strategy aimed at restoring Canada's leadership role in the global Digital Economy. This will involve comprehensive changes to a number of fields impacting on Canadians' digital experience.

This site is part of CIPPIC's plan to play a more active role in the important issues that will come up from this new Government initiative. We aim to provide a forum for information, discussion and action on such issues.

We have decided to begin by with four main digital advocacy issues - Copyright refrom, Canada's proposed 'Safe-Internet' Act (the ECPA), Lawful Access and Net Neutrality. Copyright is currently our primary focus, in light of the ongoing government consultations on the topic. For that reason, the Copyright portion of the site is most developed at the moment. Look for more content and action items on other issues as they increase in priority over the coming months.

The site is also still under a bit of construction. If you find anything that is not working quite right drop us a line. Also let us know if you would like to get involved or if you have any ideas about the site.

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