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Posts Tagged ‘Openmedia’

Indie Telecom Lobbying Efforts Putting Users at Risk

January 13, 2015 Leave a comment

I recently wrote about how BMG/Rightscorp have been providing false and misleading notices for ISPs to hand over to users suspected of downloading.  While most are focusing on the Government, questions have arisen on what role these ISPs have in the new copyright legislation yet again.  Those questions became quite the discussion in the comments section of Micheal Geists latest blog.  One poster identifying himself as an ISP insider from an indie ISP came out stating that most agreed the legal risk to ISPs on withholding these notices was minimal:

I think that most people would agree, including I suspect most lawyers, that if it were tested in court that ISPs would probably be exonerated for not forwarding these notices.

So why the public fiasco?  Well turns out after a lengthy discussion on Geists blog, that indie ISPs seem to want a zero risk approach when dealing with consumer related issues.  They wanted complete clarification within law, so that there was no inherent risk to the ISP for not forwarding these notices.  Not even a 0.01% risk.  So they piped up, made the issue public in an effort to use public discourse to essentially lobby government for a zero risk approach to protect their own business interests, rather than assuming a small amount of risk in these copyright complaints.

Openmedia has come out with an interesting tool today supporting those lobby efforts, asking people to sign a petition to get Government to stop misleading copyright notices in law.  The government has already responded, by posting information on those notices to consumers.  There are also reports that most if not all ISPs are not forwarding off these misleading notices with the governments blessing.

The problem for this Openmedia petition though, is the government is in the process putting in laws which may allow for the sharing of your personal information by Industry Canada under bill S-4.  Presumably, those who write in concerned about misleading copyright notices would be those that would be affected by those notices (ie. peer to peer users).  Bill S-4 proposes:

an organization may disclose personal information without the knowledge or consent of the individual… if the disclosure is made to another organization and is reasonable for the purposes of investigating a breach of an agreement or a contravention of the laws of Canada or a province that has been, is being or is about to be committed and it is reasonable to expect that disclosure with the knowledge or consent of the individual would compromise the investigation;

Government could very well disclose the information you provide through this tool to rights holders to some day identify repeat offenders, or even breach of an Internet providers contract without your knowledge or consent.  This tool is an inherent risk to users privacy as a result, and not a very well thought out process by Openmedia who should be putting internet users above the lobby efforts of it’s telecom financial supporters.  Openmedia should be very well aware of inherent risks this tool poses with proposed legislation in the pipeline.  Openmedia should also be re-thinking it’s approach to supporting a telecom sector, which has no intentions of sticking their necks out for consumers as long as there is risk involved in doing so.  To continue support for this sector, contravenes the very values this organization is fighting for.

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Lessons Learned Through Digital Advocacy – Final Act

December 9, 2013 2 comments

Over the course of the past several years, I’ve been actively involved in fighting for our digital freedom.  I’ve watched the web transform from into a powerful tool for democracy, and have seen first hand the web community and people of all political stripes stand together to bring in accountability to our political process.  The ideology of net neutrality, open and accountable government, and the protection of civil liberties over the past few years has become a strong focus for me, and many on the front lines of this fight to protect this environment that is very new to the democratic system.

As many of you know, my son has a severe form of Autism.  Over the past year, I’ve been busy advocating for both him, and the citizens of the net here in Canada.  As any parent with a disabled child will tell you, and as I found out this year, you have to fight big time within the system in order to get your child the support they need.  It’s extremely unfortunate (and also a crisis here in Ontario with many parents exhausted to the point where they are abandoning their kids dropping them off at group homes because the support they need isn’t there or they don’t have the energy to fight), and I didn’t realize how big of a fight parents have to put up with in the current bureaucracy to get things sorted out and put into place for disabled kids until recent months.

Over the past few months I’ve successfully advocated both legally and within the system to ensure that the supports my son needs is put into place.  As with any advocacy you learn a lot about the failures of the system and know where things need to be corrected, so my fight moving forward will be focused on ensuring parents have the proper supports in place when needed, and that the bureaucracy surrounding all of this learns how to make the system better for all.  Due to the time and effort this is going to take, I will not be able to continue the my fight on digital advocacy issues, however before I leave this venue of advocacy, I think there are some very important lessons that need to be learned in order for the fight for digital rights to be meaningful and successful.

Lesson 1: Your Voice Matters

Back in 2007 – 2009 I was involved in the Fair Copyright For Canada movement.  This movement was the first very real introduction to digital advocacy in Canada.  A movement that was created by Micheal Geist.  It was greatly successful in pushing back draconian copyright laws in Canada, and I believe that movement was successful due to one man.  Kempton Lam.  Lam showed up at his local MP’s Jim Prentice’s Christmas party one year and played 20 questions on copyright to Prentice.  Prentice was taken back big time with respect to people showing up at his office on copyright asking questions.  A deer in a headlight moment when local politicians are starting to get questions in person from constituents.

About a year and a half later, and very shortly after the introduction of the first copyright bill Prentice was working on, there was a local event happening basically in my back yard, in which my MP Peter Van Loan was invited.  I spoke with the event coordinator who at the time was a bit puzzled by Van Loans’ reluctance to show up.  Apparently his office accepted the invitation but wouldn’t confirm or deny he would come.  The event coordinator stated the tone of the conversation with Van Loans office was as if he was worried about something happening during the event.  She asked me if I knew something about it since I do follow politics, I stated that the Government had just introduced it’s copyright legislation, and that I was in touch with Van Loan’s office regarding copyright on behalf of Fair Copyright for Canada on a regular basis.  I brought up Lam’s ambush that happened about a year and a half earlier, and most likely his reluctance was due to the fact he didn’t want to answer questions on the copyright file.  I told her Van Loan had nothing to worry about, and I wouldn’t bombard him with questioned if he showed, in large part because the event coordinator really wanted him to show support for the cause she was promoting.  Van Loan did eventually confirm a few days prior to the event and after reassurance that he wouldn’t be bombarded with questions on copyright.

Within the context of digital advocacy, it is more effective when one shows up in person to your local politicians office or at a political rally where these politicians are attending.  Simply signing your name to a digital petition is not effective, and almost always is filed away by political staffers, and in most cases not even read by your MP.  Which brings me to my next lesson.

Lesson 2: Know what you are signing your name too.

I and many Canadians signed a petition from Openmedia a few years back on usage based billing (UBB).  I didn’t read the petition when I first signed it, I have to admit that.  Many Canadians didn’t from looking at the way the petition was drawn up and also from the initial press and online conversations that happened when Openmedia started screaming about this issue. A lot of the initial press and online conversations that followed was generic towards the UBB issue at heart.  Canadians in general opposed the UBB plan put into place by all ISPs.  That conversation seemed to be misrepresented by Openmedia which at that time should have filed a part 1 application with the CRTC to bring the UBB issue up that would cover all ISPs, instead that conversation was used to the advantage of the third party internet providers (which Openmedia receives funding from and actively promotes on their website) to further their competitive edge with the big ISPs.  In my books that’s a misrepresentation of the public voice on that issue from a group that is supposed to be actively fighting for the concerns of net citizens on whole.  After closer examination of the issue once UBB was reversed, I read the petition I signed my name too at Openmedia, and it was specifically worded to benefit third party internet providers at the CRTC, and not the net community on a whole on this issue.

It wasn’t until I tweeted the following that Minister Clement took notice of the UBB issue and Openmedia’s petition, and reversed the CRTC decision within hours of this tweet making it’s rounds (retweeted 191 times):

70,000 people wrote into Clements office, and it took a tweet to bring the UBB issue to his full attention. This actively proves that political staffers  possibly MPs are filing away petitions you sign online without assigning value to them.  It wasn’t Openmedia that drew the political attention to the UBB issue, it was the above tweet from someone who voiced his individual concern on the matter directly to the appropriate politician in a personal non-templated response.

Lesson 3: Open and Accountable Public Representation Within the Political and Regulatory Realm

The only real way to effectively make sure that public representation isn’t being filtered through special interest groups, is for direct consultation by the regulatory system, and government.  Rules also need to be put into place that severely punish those that interfere with the public consultation process in favor of special interest groups.  Those that claim to represent the public voice on digital issues, should by now be working to ensure that a process is being set up that allows that direct consultation, rather than simply claiming to “represent” the voice of the public.  If this doesn’t happen my worry is that essentially consumers voices will continue to be filtered to benefit special interests groups, which are more interested in profiteering rather than putting forward concrete solutions to digital rights issues.  Essentially those that “represent” the voice of the public in the political and regulatory frame work within the context of digital right issues, should by all accounts be ensuring that representation isn’t needed through direct consultations.  These individuals that represent the public view should also have all their private industry donations fully visible to the public they claim to serve.

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Before I leave this chapter in my life to new ventures where I will be working on giving those who don’t have a voice on a different set of issues a very strong one in the years to come; my fear going forward with those involved in digital advocacy is that at some point, those representing the voice of the public to regulators and to government will end up diminishing that voice rather than helping it.  Those that have filtered the public response in the past have a lot of bad karma on them right now regardless of current perceived efforts. That karma will come in full circle in due course.  A lesson I learned over the years while watching the entertainment industry be held to account by the internet community.

If we are truly in charge of our digital future, than we must act collectively as individuals.  We must bridge digital advocacy with real world democratic values.  If you care about our digital future, take the time to educate yourself on all the issues from several online sources and from all sides.  Take the time to individually sit down with local politicians of all branches and discuss your concerns.  And above all do not allow others to censor your individual right to speak and be heard on any issue, and do not allow that individual voice to be filtered through by anyone.  Only then, can one reap the benefits of a free, open and democratic digital word.

Teksavvy Could be Liable for Infringing on Consumers Privacy Rights

July 3, 2013 1 comment

After a lot of personal thought on this subject, I’ve decided that there needs to be one last response on this blog on this issue.  I think I have an obligation here to my readers to respond.  I’ve read both former CIPPIC lead counsel in the last file sharing case against BMG Howard Knopf’s recent post and telecom academic David Ellis’s recent blog posts on last Tuesday’s hearings.  While Knopf’s blog focuses on the law of the issue at hand and consumers rights under that law, Ellis’s post is more suitable to a dramatic movie script with little substance explaining consumer rights.

A few months ago I started an online debate with respect to the privacy issues at play.  A lot of very big academics and legal guys entered that debate as a result of me asking a lot of questions on the privacy issues relating to this case.  What resulted, was those in support of Teksavvy’s move were arguing based on Teksavvy’s past reputation as being pro-consumer and that we should all wait for the end game to find out what they were up to.  Those opposed where arguing law.  We’re now at the end game.

These debates brought out some very important information. The oversight on our privacy system is very simple.  If the evidence you receive on requests for customer’s information sucks so bad as it does right now, and you provide your customer’s information without objecting, you become liable as a business to any false accusations that arise as a result.  So “guilty by accusation” only occurs when businesses do not up hold their legal responsibilities under current law.  The law does need to change however.  Specifically to throw businesses that do not act within accordance with the law under the bus, and kicked to the curb a few times, especially in this current climate where private interests are so strong on detailed user information ISPs keep on its customers.

The evidence within the Teksavvy vs Voltage provided is so bad (even Ellis agree’s there are substantial issues) that this could have been done and over with in November in 2012 had Teksavvy objected to the motion.  Even if they end up appealing this case if information is ordered released, questions need to be posed as to why the CIPPIC was even needed here when this could have been done and over with in November.  Why it’s taken so long to get here when the evidence is so bad?  Why is Teksavvy putting up smoke and mirrors with respect to consumer rights, when acting as though they are a pro-consumer company when this case is an extremely simple one of privacy law and responsibilities of oversight? Just want to be clear I applaud the CIPPIC’s efforts here, but there was no need for them to be involved had Teksavvy dealt with this case properly.  The CIPPIC did the best they could under these circumstances, it’s Teksavvy’s legal job to test the evidence before the courts on the requests not theirs.

Ellis paints a dramatic picture of Teksavvy’s legal counsel throwing in a last-ditch effort to ensure users privacy is respected if the judge throws an order to release that information.  The fact is Teksavvy can be held liable if ANY information is handed out due to the evidence that’s in question in this case in accordance with the law, regardless of how Voltage tried to frame this with the evidence in Federal Court rules.  A lot of innocent people could be targeted as a result of any future orders to release information.  Considering Teksavvy’s legal advisers are not stupid, they should know all of this, and questions need to arise as to after all of this, Teksavvy is still not following through with its legal obligation to its customers.

The interesting part in all of this is Teksavvy’s decision not to oppose according it’s CEO was to bring online discussion on the matter.  Openmedia promoted that discussion online.  A lot of interested consumers and bloggers know where their legal rights lie in this case going forward as a result, and it should now be expected that Teksavvy follows through with those legal commitments or may end up being punished for not doing so by the customers they claim to protect and advocate for.  I think their customers now are fully equipped to see past what seems to be dramatic movie scripts for a good  legal drama that should be handed to Voltage producers (god knows they can use a few good script writers) from Teksavvy supporters, and see this as a matter of law and their rights on this issue.  If that’s not the case here, than the door has just blown wide open, were all anyone has to do is accuse you of something to obtain your personal data from your ISP. That’s a lot of unnecessary risk to take to make a point at the very end.

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