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Posts Tagged ‘User Rights’

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.

Self-Expressionism And The Hypocrisy of Politics

January 8, 2015 1 comment

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(Credit: Olive Bites Blog)

Yesterday like many across the world, I became glued to newscasts as events unfolded in France regarding the shooting of satire cartoonists, and journalists. These innocent lives were gunned down in a rampage because a newspaper decided to publish satire portraits of the prophet Mohammad. What followed was an immediate and swift condemnation of an attack on freedom of expression by these terrorists from most global leaders.

What is freedom of expression? Freedom of expression to me is the ability to express myself freely without the worry of being gunned down by terrorists, or jailed for expressing certain points of view. This goes hand in hand, in my opinion with freedom of speech. It’s essential to a democracy to be able to question the politics or ideology of any given topic. Democracy is about different views, and the ability to express those views no matter how distasteful some of those views can be without fear of persecution, or censorship.

Every religion has been guilty of suppressing self-expression. Leonardo Da Vinci had a love for the human anatomy, and often disagreed with the Christian pope at the time. To study what we consider science today in Da Vinci’s time was considered blasphemy by the church, and punishable by death. Think of where the world would be now if Da Vinci and others of that time period were able to freely express their scientific views without persecution. The advancement of human knowledge is also a benefit of self-expression.

As events unfolded in France, I began to start questioning the Canadian response. First the CBC’s editorial staff refused to show the cartoons in question, in an attempt to accommodate the Muslim faith. I wouldn’t have thought twice about it if it were not for yesterday’s events. Those cartoons after yesterday became an important part of a global news story. Journalists have a responsibility to cover the facts of the story, and report it in full without fear of retaliation. The CBC is a publicly funded organization and should hold democratic values of free expression, which sadly were not present yesterday during the initial reporting of the events. Here is an example of one of the cartoons:

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(French Translation: Love is stronger than hate)

Another troubling aspect is the fact that these terrorists were known to authorities. In an age of mass surveillance even people who are known to have terrorist backgrounds keep slipping through the cracks. This is now becoming a considerable theme across the globe since the Boston bombings a few years ago, and the frequency of these attacks in recent months strongly suggests that the policy of mass surveillance is inadequate to prevent any future attacks. In fact it looks to be doing quite the opposite. Too often than not, hard police work and targeted investigations are lacking even on known suspects.

After 9/11 the US gave birth to a state run security sector and public dollars flowed into private security firms. Today that security sector is huge and continues to grow with Canadian companies also benefiting. We’ve ended up giving away our right to privacy online as a result of events like yesterdays. We’re spending vast amounts of money beefing up our surveillance capabilities, and yet these known perpetrators who commit these horrible acts of terror are continuing to do so at an alarming rate. With today’s surveillance capabilities, shouldn’t we be seeing a significant decrease in these attacks?  With the capabilities we have in place today, there should be no excuse for this.

Yet every time society goes through these types of attacks, the private sector security lobby has no problems lining up at the door of public coffers. This lobby is now very strong and keeps stating we need to give up more of our constitutional rights, and enable more failed national security mass surveillance policies to prevent future attacks. Since our Conservative politicians are mainly twits (and could care less about civil liberties), rather than looking at the past decade and learning, they just throw money at the situation, and pass laws that undermine the importance of freedom of expression by attacking our privacy.

What does privacy have to do with freedom of expression you ask? Ask yourself this; if Da Vinci lived 10 years from now with no expectation of privacy, would he become the artist we know him today? A lot of Da Vinci’s most provocative works were hidden from those that would have certainly put him to death if they found them. Some of those works are still being unearthed and studied even today. If he didn’t have any private moments, what would we know of Da Vinci today? Will we end up even having our own private thoughts of self-expression in the future, or will give into those who claim to protect us and are financially benefiting from fear?

If politicians are serious about defending self-expression as so many did yesterday, why then are they attacking the very core of that expression by diminishing the very right to privacy (in the name of national security), where that democratic right of self-expression is birthed? If we can’t freely express ourselves in the privacy of our own homes, through private communications, or through the public without “fear” of prosecution or government listening in, than those that died yesterday, did so without purpose, or meaning and not in defense of core democratic values.

Following The Fallout of The Teksavvy vs Voltage Decision Pt 1

February 26, 2014 1 comment

I think it’s important that others with concerns now come forward within the legal community.  As the “sensationalist” media posts of all of this die down, and people have time to reflect, the conversation will shift from the PR talking points to what really matters in this situation as it pertains to privacy and online rights.  At least I’m hoping it will.  This decision will impact all Internet users in Canada regardless if you download or not.  I will continue to watch reaction, and continue to accumulate links and info to post on this blog.  For more immediate notification of info, please follow my twitter feed.

From an article on the decision on Torrentfreak:

CIPPIC adds that Teksavvy shouldn’t hand anything over to Voltage, as this will “infringe the privacy rights of the subscribers and may affect the scope of protection offered to anonymous online activity.” CIPPIC fears that any ruling in this case could have a detrimental effect on whistle-blowers and others who leak documents in the public interest.

A view also backed up by a poster on the blog for Comparative Law: Privacy and Data Protection course at Osgoode Hall Law School.  The commentator posted:

It makes me wonder whether people will argue that their privacy has been infringed upon due to the unauthorized identification, and whether this has the potential to flood the legal system with various cases.

For the legal savvy and from The Court which is an online publication of the Osgoode Hall Law School :

This decision does seem to establish an effective filter on Norwich order motions made with a view to copyright troll potential infringers. But in ordering the release of information about the identities of Teksavvy users, the FCC has given the green light to other companies following the same path as Voltage—gather IP information, establish a bona fide case, and aggregate enough potential claims to make the claims cost effective despite the statutory ceiling on individual damages.

In effect, this decision establishes a process for copyright holders to pursue claims against alleged infringers. Copyright trolls may be barred from compelling ISPs to release their customers’ information through Norwich orders, but copyright holders who are serious about commencing litigation now have an important precedent to use against alleged infringers.

More to come soon.

The Plan of Obama’s Meta Data Collection Punt Needs Consideration

January 18, 2014 Leave a comment

Obama’s full NSA speech:


Obama has made some very small changes, but may end up being significant meaningful ones as the politics of this plays out. When I’m looking at Government policy, I try and read in between the lines a bit to try and forecast the overall effects policy may have.  In order to do that, you have to also take into account the political environment as well as law.  I’ve been pretty outspoken on privacy issues on this blog.  After Obama’s speech, there was a firestorm of criticism of the US president on not doing enough to curb NSA spying.  Right now I can not take a position for or against that argument due to looking at the politics of the situation.  I think Obama’s speech was very calculated, in a way that circumvents a deadlocked and commercially owned congress, and pushes liability on user privacy to the private sector in an unprecedented way that will have huge impacts on the business models surrounding big data.

This may have been Obama’s only political move here from following US politics.  Will it be enough to satisfy allies, and private industry that their private information is safe?  Probably not, because trust has been broken.  Trust needs to be earned back.  Some were expecting that trust to be thrusted back in the form of sweeping reforms.  Even if Obama came out swinging, there is still the issue of a deadlocked congress on this matter, and a very skeptical global population.  A quick fix to this issue, may not be the fix needed to earn trust back, and put forth meaningful and sustained changes on how our private digital information is used by the US Government, and the private sector abroad.  This post will focus on the changes Obama made to the phone meta data collection program, as it relates to digital policy and effects thereof.

Obama in his speech has punted the issue of private data collection to the telecom providers, thereby shifting the collection and storage of data to the private sector and out of Governments hands.  By punting the collection of mass data to the telecos opens the door for litigation on those telecos.  This is in stark contrast to the Canadian Governments position on giving Canadian telecom immunity over privacy issues through bill C-13 (I will touch up on that in future post).  This means the US courts will determine the course of mass collection in the US.  A case that would appear before the US Supreme Court against the government would only curb governments use of this information, not private industry I would suspect.

Many of you are probably saying right now, “yeah but private industry won’t do anything, or it will fight for the collection and use of this data”.  In some cases that is true, but with the US telecommunications sector, before Obama gave his speech, released a statement that they are ready to war with the administration on this due to privacy concerns, and threats of litigation.  After Obama’s speech, there’s a very good chance these telecom providers, as a result of being angry in having to do this, will fight to reduce the amount of information collected, and the time for how long it is being kept.   A large reason why Obama is playing things this way, is because congress is deadlocked on the issue, and no matter what he says or does regarding the NSA, it will have to be approved by congress, with the exception of getting the Government out of the mass collection of data.  This also kills two birds with one stone, as it’s clear that Obama also has the use of big data by private industry in his sights as well.  By punting this to the private sector, it will determine how everyone collects online data, not just the US government.

Moving the collection of data to the telecom providers also saves substantial tax payers dollars in implementation and legal costs; it would also be hard to argue against politically in this climate due to international and domestic pressures the US is facing right now.  This I would strongly suspect is how the phone meta data, in fact all data collected by private companies will be changed.  In my opinion from following US politics closely on this issue, it’s a very interesting and calculated political move.  This political move essentially removes the politics of the situation and ensures a resolution to data collection as it relates to constitutional rights, far beyond government collection, or politically; changes congress or any future president can make and will be solidified within case law.

There has been a huge firestorm of criticism on Obama’s speech regarding the meta data collection.  Understand that he also has to play around the politics of this if the goal is to develop meaningful changes.  The US is a democracy (some will dispute that), and in order to see meaningful changes the politics of this has to be played correctly by the president.  There is a chance that the uproar regarding phone meta data collection will be dealt with in congress, however congress is pretty much owned by private industry and anything coming out of them due to big money on big data will most likely be severely watered down.  Solidifying case law in data collection against the US constitution through litigation, will over rule any insignificant and watered down changes congress comes up with.  If I’m right on all of this, this political move by Obama on meta data may in fact have been his only logical choice to bring in meaningful long term changes to overall data collection if the plan plays out as expected.

Obama has also called the international community to set up an international agreement on privacy issues.  This is in stark contrast to the USTR’s approach to policy in trade agreements we’ve seen in ACTA, TPP and so forth.  This could mean a significant change in direction of US foreign policy  if an international agreement on privacy can be established.  Overall from what I’ve seen, this looks to be Obama’s plan.  Whether or not it materializes the way it’s looks to be set up, is something that I think maybe up for debate, and the reason why I reserve my comments on the effectiveness of this plan for another time.  But from looking at this from a logical and political angle, I think Obama did only what he could do to try and earn back the trust of Americans.  Whether it’s enough politically won’t be determined by US Citizens or courts, but by international pressure.  The one thing that he didn’t take into account from the looks of it, were issues outside of the US and growing international dissent which will grow with time, in which I will agree his speech and politics didn’t speak very well too.  Essentially Obama wants time to deal with this internally, time he may not have due to international, and economic pressures.  Only time will tell how successful this approach can be, but it is a step forward from my perspective.  Next week I’ll focus a bit more on the effects Obama’s speech may have on Canadian policy and law.  Stay tuned.

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