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Governments Cyber-bullying Front Man Gets Taken To Task Online

January 10, 2015 Leave a comment

Glen Canning, the governments’ sales person on the controversial cyber-bullying bill has received a lot of flak recently from internet users over the past few days, for tweeting out a compromising picture on social media of an MSVU professor.  Those that have followed the cyber-bullying legislation through committee know that Canning was a stark defender of the cyber-bullying bill; often coming out strongly against those who had privacy concerns on the bill.

Canning’s daughter killed herself when compromising pictures of her were circulated online, and was aggressively cyber-bullied as a result of those pictures.  The Conservative Government had a hard time getting victims’ rights groups to fully support the controversial bill which enshrined into law lawful access provisions allowing the police warrant-less access to an internet users information.  Eventually they put Canning (a grieving father) front and center on the bill which polarized the debate around the bill.  Canning became a supporter of lawful access, and quickly became a polarizing figure in the debate surrounding the cyber-bulling bill as a result of his support for police access to information without judicial oversight.

Canning was recently approached by a female student at MSVU as a result of one of her professors trying to engage in sexual activity with her.  The professor sent her a nude photo of himself, in which landed in the hands of Canning, and was also sent to media outlets.  Canning (who I believe was well intentioned) tweeted out the photo prior to media reports on the story to try and gain public attention to this students’ case.  This lead to a lengthy discussion on reddit, social media, and blogs regarding Cannings’ actions since the cyber-bulling bill that was recently passed has a provision dealing with unauthorized sharing of intimate images.  Canning quickly removed the tweet, and continued to defend his actions.

Section 162.1 of the new cyber-bulling bill states:

162.1 (1) Everyone who knowingly publishes, distributes, transmits, sells, makes available or advertises an intimate image of a person knowing that the person depicted in the image did not give their consent to that conduct, or being reckless as to whether or not that person gave their consent to that conduct, is guilty

It’s important to note that the cyber-bullying bill has yet to come into effect, so questions and debate around this case would be purely speculation, and whether the Canning image tweet qualifies as enforceable under the act, is also entirely open for debate.  One thing is clear cut though.  From the back lash that Canning is getting surrounding this issue, it’s clear that many Canadians have been closely following developments surrounding the new cyber-bullying bill, and the take home from all of this should be that Canadians are very concerned about their rights regarding this bill.

What I don’t agree with; the Government using a grieving parent to play politics and sell a bill that attacks Canadians rights. Canning has become a polarizing figure in this debate around cyber-bullying that I believe was intentional by design regarding the politics of the situation.  It’s quite easy for Government to distance themselves from Canning now that the bill has been passed, and I would strongly suspect that this will happen as a result of the online debate around Cannings’ tweets that will most certainly continue into the halls of parliament.

While I’m not defending Cannings’ move in tweeting these photos’, it’s apparent that there are underlying political issues surrounding this bill, and the debate needs to be focused away from grieving parents, and on to a so called “responsible” government who’s used Canning in an attempt to deflect political attention away from the Conservative party on a controversial bill that the population is extremely concerned about.

I quite strongly disagree with Cannings’ views regarding internet privacy,  as a father myself I have a great amount of respect for this person.  If I had lost a child in the way Canning did, I couldn’t care less about privacy.  That would be fraternal instinct, and I would be acting in much the same way Canning has been throughout the debate.  The government knew this on the political side of things, which is why Canning became front and center on this bill.  The new cyber-bullying bill C-13 is a bill that’s been sold on emotion, not substance, and those that disagree with the bill should note we have an election in a few months’ time.  Rather than attacking a grieving parent, Canadians should be using their right to vote to signal their discontent.

Any politician that has used grieving parents in the way the government has done to sell C-13, in my opinion doesn’t have the moral authority to lead, nor should command our respect at the voting booth.

Canadian Cyber Bullying Legislation a Threat to EU Data Privacy

A few months ago, I blogged about the possibility that the EU would be reviewing our privacy laws due to the NSA disclosures and Canada’s role in US surveillance. Since that date, there have been staggering disclosures regarding warrant-less access to subscribers’ information by the telecommunications companies in Canada, legislation drawn up that is a blatant attempt to expand warrant-less access, and a lawsuit launched this week on the constitutionality of the misuse of our current privacy laws by government and telecommunications companies.

Conveniently Canada for the most part has entered this debate under the radar of the EU Justice Commission most likely as a result of the EU being busy dealing with the US disclosures of its citizen’s data, and being in an election campaign for EU Parliament. Politically this would be the best time for the Canadian government to try and squeak surveillance legislation through under the noses of the EU Justice Commission. Judicial redress has been a big sticking point for US and EU trade negotiations, something the cyber bullying legislation seeks to dismiss for Canadian telecom and is most likely a result of heavy lobbying by the telecom industry to avoid accountability for essentially being accessories to constitutional crimes against the Canadian citizenry, and quite possibly breaking EU and international law.

The last review of our privacy laws by the EU was in 2006, in which found no evidence of abuse at the time. Abuse has certainly occurred over the years, and the EU Parliament in recent months have been steadfast on curtailing warrant-less disclosures that are being abused by the US Government and US law enforcement. I have a hard time believing that EU Parliament and the EU Commission would agree to such abuse that has been now disclosed. Simply put recent comments that were made in the media by Canadian government officials over the months regarding the adequacy of our laws with the EU are out of date, and sorely inaccurate considering recent disclosures of current warrant-less access by our telecom companies. From following the diplomatic stance the EU Justice Commission has taken in recent months with the US that the EU will have stark issues with what the Canadian Government and Canadian Law Enforcement have been up too.

This week I’ve tweeted out a few links to Paul Nemitz who is a director at the EU Justice Commission making him aware of the situation and public debate in Canada in hopes to put pressure on the government to abide by the constitutional rights of not just Canadians but ensure that going forward, any breaches of EU law are dealt with accordingly. Next week is when Vice President to the EU Commission Viviane Reding returns back from paid leave. Reding has been extremely outspoken regarding data privacy in recent months with the US, and I would find it hard to believe that if the information sent to Nemitz landed on her desk, that Reding wouldn’t pipe up either through diplomatic channels or publicly on the abuse and subsequent adequacy of our privacy laws.

Next week is when a large portion of our legal community in Canada will be also speaking out on the current lack of privacy on the cyber bullying bill C-13 in committee in which I’m expecting calls from the legal community to have government split the bill. Pass the cyber bullying portion of it, and separate the surveillance portion of it for further study. That maybe a wise move, in order to ensure that Canada’s economic trade isn’t put at risk with the EU under the leadership of Defense Minister Peter McKay and Prime Minister Harper.

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.

NSA: Targeted Investigations, Exploits, Tech Innovations and Political Pressure

January 13, 2014 1 comment

Over the past few days, there has been a whirl wind of developments ahead of President Obama’s address on NSA reforms.  So here’s what you need to know.  The New America Foundation (an independent research firm) has released a report on the impact mass surveillance has had on the fight against terrorism.  The study concluded that the majority of the foiled terrorist plots were accredited to traditional investigation techniques, and that mass surveillance and data collection has largely been ineffective in detecting terror plots.  This essentially backs up a common theme regarding mass surveillance by most former NSA employees.  Canadians should be following the development in this report as well, since our law enforcement is calling for mass surveillance powers in the form of lawful access legislation in it’s cyber bullying bill C-13.

On the technical side of things, it’s long been suspected that if you intentionally create a back door for law enforcement that it could be exploited by our adversaries as well.  A researcher has been able to derail and exploit hardware back doors “with ease” created for mass surveillance by dual use technology companies such as CISCO and Huawei.  CISCO and Huawei are the two main networking hardware providers for Canadian Internet service providers. If the researcher can access these back doors with ease, other state sponsored hackers will have the capability to do so as well, and probably have for some time.  Bell Mobility, and Bell’s Internet services use Huawei.  Shaw and Rogers both use CISCO.

In tech innovations, the response to the NSA in the private sector is going to be massive.  I remember when I had a twitter conversation with a few of my techie tweeps a while ago about what has exactly changed as a result of the NSA leaks.  Tech innovation right now takes about 18 months if not sooner (and is expected to speed up to half that in 3 years due to the annual doubling of computing power) , however we are starting to see tech innovations poke out in alpha stages only 7 months after the leaks broke.

A tech innovator has created an NSA-proof version of twitter called “Twister”.  It combines open source code from bit torrent and bitcoin to in theory scramble the IP addresses of it’s users, making users anonymous.   I would suspect as we get closer to May 2014, we’ll start to see more, and more innovations to curtail mass surveillance come out in the beta-alpha stage of development.

I’ve been trying to follow what is going on in Obama’s head right now through statements from the white house and press on the subject.  Last Thursday, he met with privacy advocates, and the press was reporting that he may just curb spying on Americans.  Last Friday he met with IT companies who are extremely worried right now over their businesses.  Friday the press was reporting that he may go a lot further than just Americans, and that he wants to implement some changes right away but reserves the right to comment further.  In other words his decisions on Friday may not be the only ones forthcoming.  From the sounds of it, he hasn’t made up his mind yet, but would suspect based on the above, that he may end up surprising all of us, and go a lot further than the press was expecting on last Thursday. There’s a lot of domestic and international political pressure to really coming out swinging on the NSA right now.  This weekend former conservative/republican presidential candidate John McCain piped up wanting a full investigation into the matter, and called the current NSA spying an “overreach” of government.

Whatever the case maybe, Canadians need to keep an eye on the next few days with interest.  Any decision made will profoundly effect our digital economy and policy up here in the great white north.

Mass Surveillance to Come to a Political Peak Within Days

January 10, 2014 Leave a comment

The NSA spying scandal is about to come to a political peak over the next few days and weeks with the Harper government still pushing on mass surveillance in the form of anti-bullying legislation.  Next week (precisely the afternoon of Friday January 17th 2014) US President Barack Obama is expected to address the NSA reforms head on.  A large number of political pundits expect that Obama will stop the NSA from collecting meta data from Americans, due to the fact that if this issue hits the US Supreme Court; the court will likely strike it down on constitutional grounds.  Obama coming out curtailing domestic meta data collection would be in stark contrast to the Canadian Governments agenda in accelerating the use of meta data by law enforcement agencies through its anti-bullying legislation in bill C-13.  Michael Geist explains the use of meta data around lawful access in bill C-13 a recent interview on TVO’s The Agenda. It isn’t clear on whether Obama will stop the mass collection of meta data from foreign communications (including meta data from Canadians or from EU citizens) even after the EU sent a stark economic threat this past week to the US and Canada over the NSA’s activities.

The politics I would suspect is going to get extremely interesting globally in the coming days and weeks over the issue of mass surveillance.  The political responses from global governing bodies are going to happen hot and heavy, with very real stakes economically and politically for all leaders.  It is very clear from following the political angle in the US that Obama will not accept a halt to mass collection of communications, however will do what is minimally required to try and reassure Americans that their rights are safe, and to save face on any future Supreme Court ruling. US Democratic Senator Ron Wyden who met with Obama on the issue of mass surveillance yesterday tweeted the following:

From the sounds of this tweet lawmakers are having an extremely hard time making their point to Obama, and are asking for the public’s help. A lot of the focus in the US politically has been what to do with Edward Snowden. Whether he’s a hero or a criminal.  That effectively has distracted the public purposely away from the mass surveillance debate.  This maybe to mute public opposition at a critical time in this debate. Even our Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird came out last month strongly suggesting that Snowden should turn himself in.  Meanwhile this week the EU Parliament has voted to invite Snowden to testify in European Parliament later this month around the NSA revelations, as they begin to produce their final political response to protect their citizens human rights in the weeks ahead.

Advocacy groups announced a day of protest on February 11th, 2014 against NSA surveillance. It doesn’t sound like these advocacy groups are going to be happy with whatever Obama announces next Friday either.

There’s a saying that “history repeats itself”.  For if we are truly students of history, then now is the time when we must all demand better from our political representatives, while we still can. Here is an excellent interview with former NSA cryptologist William Binney, and US Journalist Chris Hedges on the lessons history can teach us around mass surveillance:

EU Parliamentary NSA Report Threatens CETA Trade Deal

January 9, 2014 1 comment

Yesterday the EU Parliament’s Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs issued a scathing draft report in which it is threatening to pull all personal data communications from the US and it’s “five eyes” surveillance partners (which includes Canada) sighting human rights concerns over mass surveillance. Michael Geist decodes the report stating:

“For non-privacy lawyers, the European Union law requires that non-EU countries maintain an “adequate” standard of data protection. Countries that do not meet that standard run the risk of being subject to restrictions on data transfers between themselves and all EU members states. The importance of receiving an adequacy finding was one of the prime motivations behind enacting private sector privacy law. “

Essentially it was the EU that pressured Canada in giving us our electronic privacy laws known as PIPEDA. The implications of this report could be huge for Canada.  Geist further explains:

“The European Parliament report now says the finding should be re-examined in light of the revelations of Canada’s active participation in global surveillance activities. Given the Canadian government’s emphasis on expanding European trade through the new Canada – EU Trade Agreement, a change in the adequacy status of Canadian privacy law could be enormously damaging. Moreover, given that the European Parliament will ultimately be required to approve CETA, the concerns about the trustworthiness of Canadian law within the EP could lead to opposition to the broader trade deal. “

Although this being a draft report, I think the EU has effectively made its point clear. This not only puts CETA a risk, but also the credibility of the Harper governments policies around lawful access legislation.  The EU may even end up going further than pulling personal data communications from the five eyes in the coming days, as it is set to review regulating “dual use” technologies and digital arms as I reported in 2013.  The new regulations on “dual use” technologies may black list tech companies who develop technologies around mass surveillance from doing business with EU countries.  CISCO in the US is one of the main dual use providers, and there are a number of Canadian companies that will also take a hit from this as well.

The policy and law coming from the EU over the next few months, will in fact shape our digital rights and landscape far beyond mass surveillance and international trade deals.  It will test the Harper governments ideology surrounding our basic civil human rights, with a libertarian Conservative movement growing in Canada each day and within currently elected Conservative MPs.  Harper may want to look around after this latest EU report.  It has effectively threatened his crowning achievement.  A tone deaf response may also serve to continue to fracture his political party on civil rights issues.

Federal Privacy Commissioner Cautious On Cyber Bullying Bill

November 28, 2013 Leave a comment

The Federal Privacy Commissioner cautiously supports to the Governments controversial cyber bullying legislation and expanded police powers in the lawful access provisions. In a statement to the globe and mail, the outgoing Privacy Commissioner Jennifer Stoddart stated:

“I think it stands to reason that in order to literally police the Internet, you do need these powers. And if you want to be effective against cyberbullying, I would understand you do need extraordinary powers, so it doesn’t seem to me inappropriate,” she said. “That’s my take on it at the moment, but as we learn more, perhaps there are things in there that you don’t need.”

Stoddart also said that her office is looking into this matter deeply and will be reporting fully on the new legislation at a later date. Stoddart stated that her issue with respect to the last attempt at lawful access regarding lack of judicial oversight has been “partially addressed” in this legislation, however cautioned that she has found problems with the bill, and wouldn’t elaborate on that.  As stated in a previous post, there seems to be a loop hole that would allow warrant-less access to your information through your internet provider.

Both the BC Civil Liberties Association (quoted in the Globe and Mail article) and the NDP are calling for the Government to split up the cyber bullying and lawful access provisions of this legislation in order for both to be debated separately.  A move I strongly support.  The lawful access provisions of the cyber bullying bill will have far reaching effects than the cyber bullying provisions, and both need careful and separate examination and public debate.  There has been no official statement from the Liberals on this issue.

The Department of Justice has issued a media roll call for today at 12:00pm to discuss the technical details of the cyber bullying legislation.  More to come…

UPDATE Nov/28th 4:35pm: The Privacy Commissioner has released a statement clarifying her offices’ response to the cyber bullying legislation along with concerns of her office which include:

  •    new investigative powers, (including preservation orders) proposed by the Bill and the thresholds for their use;
  •     the potentially large number of “public officers” who would be able to use these significant new powers; and
  •     a lack of accountability and reporting mechanisms to shed light on the use of new investigative powers.

The preservation orders of this legislation refer to the voluntary disclosure loop hole that would allow warrant-less access to your information through your internet provider.  Michael Geist explains that provision further here and here.  It appears with this latest statement on the cyber bullying legislation from the Privacy Commissioner, those provisions are also of concern to her office.

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