Home > C13, cdnpoli, CDNTech, Digital Policy, Economics, EU, NSA, Privacy > Harper and CDN ISPs Set To Destroy International Credibility of The Canadian Tech Sector

Harper and CDN ISPs Set To Destroy International Credibility of The Canadian Tech Sector

Last week, information became available through access to information requests which threw the spotlight on exactly what Canadian telecommunications companies (one would suspect independent providers who apparently support the “pro-internet” community and have remained for the most part completely silent on this issue) are doing with respect to subscribers information and data requests by law enforcement.

Our telecommunications companies are handing over data of thousands of subscribers per year without a warrant to law enforcement. Apparently this is all “legal” due to an exemption in our privacy laws.  Michael Geist explains:

The absence of court oversight may surprise many Canadians, but the government actively supports the warrantless disclosure model. In 2007, it told the Privacy Commissioner of Canada that an exception found in the private sector privacy law to allow for warrantless disclosure was “designed to allow organizations to collaborate with law enforcement and national security agencies without a subpoena, warrant or court order.”

Last week, the EU and US submitted a joint statement after the EU threatened the US to veto trade agreements starting with immediate suspension of the EU safe harbor provisions to US companies.  The joint statement released last week, seems to suggest that court oversight on subscribers information is a big sticking point for US and EU trade relationship.  The statement stated that both the US and EU agree to stronger private sector judicial oversight:

We are committed to expedite negotiations of a meaningful and comprehensive data protection umbrella agreement for data exchanges in the field of police and judicial cooperation in criminal matters, including terrorism. We reaffirm our commitment in these negotiations to work to resolve the remaining issues, including judicial redress. By ensuring a high level of protection of personal data for citizens on both sides of the Atlantic, this agreement will facilitate transfers of data in this area.

Viviane Reding, European Commissioner for Justice, Fundamental Rights & Citizenship, has given the US until this summer to shape up, with very strong language suggesting that if this doesn’t happen, immediate suspension of safe harbour provisions will most likely go through, and veto’s on US trade deals will be possible by the new year as a new parliament sets to fully address this issue.  Reding gave her US counter parts a 13 point “to do list”.  Reding’s office has not been available to further explain exactly what that 13 point list details, however judicial oversight looks to be on that list from the joint statement.  From the sounds of it, the US seems to be committed to working with the EU on the issue of data privacy.

In light of all of the developments in the EU the United Stated Trade Representative  (USTR) has just piped up in regards to branches of Canadian government that have taken the approach of stopping data transfers to the US.

The strong growth of cross-border data flows resulting from widespread adoption of broadband-based services in Canada and the United States has refocused attention on the restrictive effects of privacy rules in two Canadian provinces, British Columbia, and Nova Scotia. These provinces mandate that personal information in the custody of a public body must be stored and accessed only in Canada unless one of a few limited exceptions applies. These laws prevent public bodies such as primary and secondary schools, universities, hospitals, government-owned utilities, and public agencies from using U.S. services when personal information could be accessed from or stored in the United States.

The Canadian federal government is consolidating information technology services across 63 email systems under a single platform. The request for proposals for this project includes a national security exemption which prohibits the contracted company from allowing data to go outside of Canada. This policy precludes some new technologies such as “cloud” computing providers from participating in the procurement process. The public sector represents approximately one-third of the Canadian economy, and is a major consumer of U.S. services. In today’s information-based economy, particularly where a broad range of services are moving to “cloud” based delivery where U.S. firms are market leaders; this law hinders U.S. exports of a wide array of products and services.

Rather than taking this as a diplomatic threat to Canada by the USTR, it’s representative on how weak the US tech sector has become economically on the issues of privacy protections, when the USTR is coming out with statements like this.

This should serve as an example of a potential downfall in the Canadian tech sector, should the Government continue with it’s approach towards lawful access legislation in the cyber bullying legislation, and not get in front of all of this, to strengthen our privacy laws.  I think it could be devastating to Canadian tech companies when eventually the EU comes knocking looking for change in our laws, and forcing that change, rather than implementing that change before it’s forced upon us, at a time when our democracy is currently under the microscope internationally due to the Government’s Election Reform Act.

While the two most powerful economic bodies are working on solutions to enhance data privacy protections for citizens, the Canadian government doesn’t seem to want to let go of the idea of warrentless wiretapping.  Even though it’s legal in Canada already, the point continues to be made clear with Harper’s cyber bullying bill, which reaffirms the stance of the Canadian government that it is extremely reluctant (even after all of the diplomatic dance between the EU and US on data privacy) to recognize that this provision can and most likely will cost Canadian jobs if they don’t change it.

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