Toronto G20 security cams down?

September 12th, 2010

G20 surveillance Toronto
As part of its $1.2 billion security budget for the G20, the Toronto Police Service erected 77 closed circuit security cameras in the so-called “security zone” as well as throughout downtown. The mainstream media reports that by the beginning of July, half of these had been taken down, with the other half slated to be removed that month. It is unclear,  however, if all of them have been removed. According to one report, the remaining cameras were turned off while awaiting their removal. The 18 cameras that were in place prior to the G20 remain operational.

Dr. Andrew Clement, of the Faculty of Information at the University of Toronto (where I work!) was skeptical that these cameras would come down as promised, fearing they might become a sort of “security legacy” as has happened during other mega-events. While CCTV cameras are promoted as beneficial to society, preventing, deterring and helping solve crime, the empirical evidence is overwhelmingly to the contrary. Their legacy is rather one of social control and privacy invasion, as many civil libertarians and privacy advocates have pointed out.

Dr. Clement began a Flickr group to document the location of the cameras, and also to provide material evidence should the TPS renege on their word. Anyone interested in taking a boo? See if all the cams  have been removed according to plan? Check out the map of their locations, and then start snapping. With the photos uploaded to the Flickr group, we can start the process of elimination, and find what, if any, cameras remain.

Cyber-surveillance in Everyday Life

August 13th, 2010

Cybersurveillance website

As part of my postdoc at U of T’s Faculty of Information, I’m helping organize an international workshop entitled Cyber-surveillance in Everyday Life. It’s part of a series of workshops organized by the New Transparency: Surveillance and Social Sorting. I attended the Surveillance Games, held in Vancouver last year, and Camera Surveillance in Canada, hosted by Queens University, both of which featured excellent speakers and interesting art exhibits.

Our workshop will continue the rigorous process of inquiry already established by the New Transparency, probing *burning* and emergent questions around surveillance in the digital sphere. The workshop will bring international experts, activists and students together to share, network and collaborate. For more information, such as submission and registration deadlines, visit the website. The  CFP is here.

.

Notes from outside the fence: Police state, violence, aggression roundup

June 26th, 2010

Reports are coming in fast and furious to the Alternative Media Centre about house raids and pre-emptive arrests of key organizers in the G20 resistance. It appears as if the Integrated Security Unit is deploying a pre-planned sweep of known activists.

Police visited two houses in Toronto’s westend early this morning. In one, a warrant was not initially shown; when police later produced it, they did not allow those being arrested to read it. Later this morning, police rounded up 13-15 community organizers from Montreal. This morning, Syed Hussan, spokesperson for the Toronto Community Mobilization Network was arrested on his way to a press conference to discuss the roundup of activists and organizers by police.

This wave of pre-emptive arrests follows increasing aggression and violence by police against activists, demonstrators, journalists and citizens. Yesterday, Emomotimi Azorbo, a deaf man unrelated to G20 organizing, was beaten and arrested because he did not hear police commands to stay off the road. Azorbo was handcuffed, preventing him from communicating with officers, who also refused his friend Saron Gebresellasi’s offer to interpret. To date, Azorbo has been refused an American Sign Language interpreter in the temporary jail where G20 arrestees are being  held. While trying to film the Azorbo’s violent arrest, Jesse Freeston, of the Real News Network, was punched in the face twice by police.

As the day of action unfolds today, things are quiet at the AMC Neighbours are stopping by to offer support and donate food. Others are dropping in to say hello before heading to the action.  A few journalists are here working on stories, while others take phone calls from the heart of the action and post up-to-the minute reports via Twitter (using the #hashtag #g20report). We are hearing about police lines forming, police & camera crews donning gas masks, and activists getting beaten as they head south toward the fence.

Twitter remains the unofficial backchannel of the G20, as the activists, organizers, media and the police tweet rapidly from the midst of the demonstration. The hashtag #g20report is currently the top trending tag for all photos uploaded to the microblogging service in Canada, including this cute one, from @NowToronto:

Cops get free lap dances, courtesty @NowToronto

If I can't dance I want no part of your revolution! Cops get free lap dances. (courtesy @NowToronto)

Notes from outside the fence: Challenging corporate media messaging

June 25th, 2010
If I can dance with crossdressing Harper I want no part of your  revolution
If I can’t dance with crossdressing Harper I want no part of your revolution.

If there’s one thing the corporate mainstream media love, it’s a good story. And by good story I mean sensational. And by sensational, I mean fear mongering.

We have seen this as a baseline for the vast majority of mainstream reporting on the actions, events and demonstrations planned for the week of resistance to the G8/G20 in Toronto. Thousands of people will gather on the streets of Hogtown this week to demonstrate against the undemocratic nature of these unaccountable world bodies, as well as their role in proliferating war and deepening poverty. Standard fare coverage seems to include a mandatory reference to “violence” “anarchists” and “protesters”, which are apparently considered equivalent. I have found the confusion over the goals and purpose of those challenging the legitimacy of the G8/20, those thousands of regular folks lumped in to the uninformative category of “protester,” to be widespread.

Since when did exercising our democratic rights to free speech, including political dissent, to freedom of association and freedom of assembly automatically translate into a threat, a radical anarchist? The threat, of course is real. But it is not a threat to the safety of the general public, as is constantly intoned by the corporate media. The threat presented by political agitation is to the status quo, to “business as usual,” to the governing elite who are, arguably, out of touch with the average citizen.

Why is exercising citizenship and practicing democracy (participating in the political process) now automatically associated with violent, dangerous, *gasp* anarchist behaviour? The idea of democracy being limited to voting day is ludicrous and reflects the sorry state of things, even in prosperous, “first world” countries like Canada.

And what is a radical anarchist anyway? The Hamilton Spectator offered a refreshing take on this hackneyed story, providing this portrait of the typical anarchist opposed to the G8/G20: a doctoral student at McMaster University, a husband and father of one young child.

Yesterday in my Facebook newsfeed I saw an exchange on the wall of a well known Detroit deejay, an old friend from my Windsor days. Ignoring the racist and misogynist overtones, the exchange perpetuated the tired, ill-informed stereotypes of global justice activists, including that protesters are dirty, long-haired, patchouli-wearing, unemployed drains on society. More offensive and more disturbing are the incorrect assumptions, perpetuated by the corporate media, that “protesters” are ill-informed of the issues they “purport” to be challenging, and that they attend actions because they are “bored”, spoiled, randomly “anti-American,” or “for kicks.” This is closely related to the common (and by common I mean base) sentiment that if people weren’t “threatening violence” there wouldn’t be a need for the militarization of Canada’s biggest city.

In fact the inverse is true. The fence is a symbol of violence and an invitation to members of democratic societies everywhere to tear down. The fence encapsulates all that is wrong with the G8/20: unaccountable (because self-appointed), unrepresentative and therefore illegitimate supranational bodies that decree and enforce economic policies that harm communities and the environment that sustains us all while increasing profits for corporations that are by and large self-regulating and unaccountable.

There is a need to justify the outrageous $1 billion security budget. There is a need to deflect all the attention away from the highly problematic (and by problematic I mean impoverishing, life threatening) economic policies of the G8/G20. There is a need to demonize protesters and criminalize dissent. This is achieved by parading the bogeyman of the “dangerous radical anarchist protester” across every corporate media outlet, repeatedly referring to the corporate property damage by an extremely small minority of demonstrators (fringe elements who in any case cannot being positively associated with the global justice movement/s) at major street demos. It is done by police making preemptive arrests of known movement “leaders”—even better if its in a dramatic raid, and laying inflammatory and bogus charges. These are usually dropped, well after the frightening story has spread like wildfire through the public imaginary via the only too obliging corporate media.

Another uncritical assumption around diversity of tactics needs to be challenged. The refusal of groups like the Toronto Community Mobilization Network to condemn property damage (often confused with “violence”). There is rarely an examination or understanding of the daily violence that millions of people around the world live under, violence in the form of poverty and starvation, displacement and environmental devastation.

There is a further need to question what is meant by violence. Typically, the corporate media are referring to “property damage” when they discuss the behaviour of activists in massive street demonstrations, at least in the North American context. The tens of thousands who demonstrated against Free Trade Area of the Americas Summit in Quebec City in 2001 were “non-violent.” A small handful of participants in the action – maybe Black Bloc anarchists, maybe fringe elements with no affiliation with global justice activism, vandalized corporate property, and engaged in a street fight with police, responding to their aggressive advances by creating barricades with street “furniture,” returning tear gas canisters and throwing rocks and molotov cocktails at police lines. This is in *no way* characteristic of the global justice movement, nor of its core values or tactics… That some in the movement won’t condemn property does not negate the movement’s legitimacy.

Let’s examine this notion of “violence” further. What or who is harmed? A Starbucks window? Some concrete sidewalk? Maybe some other property owned by corporations that wreak havoc in lesser “developed” nations…? Who feels the physical effects of violence? Protesters being mocked, beaten, tear gassed, and pepper sprayed by police during actions certainly do. Activists present during the raid of the convergence centre at the G8 summit in Genoa in 2001 certainly did. That vicious event resulted in the severe beating of 60 people, three of whom, including British journalist Mark Covell, were put into comas. The walls of the centre were literally covered in blood and one officer officer described police as “beating youths like wild beasts.” The 27th G8 Summit in Genoa is perhaps worst remembered for the death of activist Carlo Guiliani, who was shot at point blank range by police and run over.

What about in Europe, where the memory of fascism is fresh, or in still-developing countries, where oppressive, undemocratic governments are a reality? Or in nations darkened by the long shadow of colonialism, still under the thumb of first-world resource extraction? In this context, where democracy fails, violence remains a legitimate recourse—perhaps the only one. Day 3 of Submedia’s Rebellion Reporting has a nice bit about this.

I wonder what those who condemn violence as an academic or rhetorical exercise, or to justify the increasing militarization of democratic society, would do if they did not live in the highly privileged society that we do, one that enjoys the fruits of earlier violence, such as genocide against first nations, and civil war against colonial rule and slavery…?

Finally I need to address the misguided notion that some in the corporate press and elsewhere have about community organizers and activists opposed to the G8/G20 as: “demonstrating for the media” (as one CBC journo put it to me). Marcus Gee was more blunt, if completely incorrect:

The fact is that activists find the violent fringe useful. Violence draws television cameras – if it bleeds, it leads – and cameras draw attention to the struggle. Activist leaders may not throw bricks themselves, but many will be quite content if others do. And when it happens, you can be sure they will blame the violence entirely on the police. To sock the copper and cry police brutality when he hits back is the oldest trick in the book.

First of all, I’d seriously question how Gee know this “fact.” Sounds completely like opinion to me. But then, the corporate media don’t have much problem parading personal opinion as “fact.” Secondly, it’s the corporate journos who are the ambulance chasers – demonstrators don’t have to anything to get their attention. “If it bleeds it leads” is the mantra of the press, not activists! Gee is a bit confused. Finally, I don’t know any “activist leaders” (c’mon corporate press, how many times do we need to remind you there are no leaders in the global justice movement…?). I also don’t know any dedicated community organizers who are “quite content” when others throw bricks or engage in more extreme tactics. Activists tend to respect a diversity of tactics because we don’t tell people what to do. That’s the job of law enforcement, and pseudo-democratic states. Activists don’t need the press. And certainly, not the press that misrepresents their objectives and intentions, and ignores the issues that motivate their activism. So as far as courting the corporate media, all I can say is: you wish.



Media making at the AMC

June 22nd, 2010
Submedia's Escape the Freedom Fence

Submedia's Escape the Freedom Fence

Day 2 in the Alternative Media Centre saw more media making and collaborating activity, with AMCistas sharing tips, sources and story ideas, working out tech problems and forming affinity crews to cover events based on interest and need. There have been a number of activist arrests, including one beating and one raid… rest assured, AMCistas are on it.

Media makers from across Canada are beginning to arrive in town, stopping the AMC to get their credentials and check in. Old friends are reuniting, new connections are being made and the creative energy is flowing fast and furious. Franklin Lopez from Submedia put out his first video report today, a wickedly irreverent piece called “Escape the Freedom Fence.

I worked on a couple of stories all day, despite announcing in the orientation meeting that I would do no media production, only staffing. Ah well. What can I say? The old bug bit. Check out my latest story on The Media Co-op here.

I’ve also been labeled a Twitter reporter: you can follow me as I scour the the interwebz for G20-related updates, advisories and announcements.

g20AltMediaCentre is open!

June 21st, 2010
TCMN's Syed Hussan meets the scrum, handles journos nicely.

TCMN's Syed Hussan meets the scrum, handles journos nicely.

I’ve been at the AMC all day – arriving just before the press conference at 10 this morning. You can read my story on the media scrum here. The mainstream media never cease to amaze me with their myopia and single-minded focus on sensationalism. Goddessforbid we talk about some issues. It really does get boring.

Right now, most folks are out covering the Allen Gardens autonomous action (All out in defense of the rights of all), where the riot cops arrived two hours ahead of the start time. I’m holding down the fort at reception while some others are getting the server up and running, figuring out software use and interoperability and shit. Good times.

Also, the first daily edition of The Spoke, discussed with some hesitation at last night’s story meeting, hit the streets this a.m., in an awesome instance of collaboration and sheer will. Grab the pdf here. And like everyone’s been saying all day today: See you in the street!

All up in G20′s grill…

June 21st, 2010

It has been a ridiculously busy last bit, but I thought I’d try to get a few things down.

My research on social justice activists’ experience of and response to cybersurveillance in the lead up to the G20 is proceeding apace – I’m slowly gathering the stories of folks who’ve been followed and intimidated by law enforcement, and also those who’ve had their email cracked (ok that’s being dramatic: their email has been read), apparently because of their organizing activities.

Thursday morning (way too early) I did a bunch of interviews for a CBC radio program called Syndication. Metro Morning picked up the story after about 3 interviews, and I had a fun chat with Matt Galloway. (You can listen here).

Friday I was at the Digital Rights Roundtable, which was part of the launch of Ryerson’s new Law Centre. That was pretty interesting, and the first time  I’d seen Michael Geist talk (on net neutrality, no less). Other folks whose work I’d only read and finally got to hear from were Teresa Scassa and Sam Trosow. I also met Ryerson’s Catherine Middleton finally. She talked about the fake competitive nature of the broadband market. Lisa Austin, from U of T’s Faculty of Law, talked about the changing nature of privacy. “Is it about social withdrawal or securing conditions for social interaction and identity formation. We need to get away from thinking privacy is about things we conceal. Rather it’s about the kinds of revelation we want to engage in,” she said.

Saturday was PrivacyCampTO, which was nominally an unconference. The most wicked presentation was by Gordan Savicic, entitled Privacy by Deletion: The Web 2.0 Suicide Machine. This is a fantastically silly and witty project – and what I’m beginning to call software-as-critique. Savicic himself obviously has a sense of humour and seems to fuck around quite a bit. I got a little kick out of his refusal to use a projector, but just show us his computer screen, turning it around for us like a librarian reading a story at circle time. The take away? If you want to kill your digital self, it’s just a click away.

My talk got bumped to a later session because one presenter decided not to self-moderate (not very unconference-like) but that meant I got to present alongside Andrew Clement and Joseph Ferenbok, who talked about their research on the “enhanced” drivers licenses (EDLs) that many provinces introduced in advance of the new US border crossing requirements. I also got to connect with some rad folks, including my favourite pink-haired hacker, Leigh Honeywell (who had some sobering thoughts on internet privacy, being she’s a, and the awesome Kate Raynes-Goldie, a PhD student at York who organized the event.

I went straight from PrivacyCampTO to an organizing meeting for the G20 Alt Media Centre (the real one, not to be confused with the “official” Alternative Media Centre the one inside the fence. This is an amazing effort, the result of many months of organizing. I will write later about the major influence of Indymedia on radical media organizing, the G20 AMC included. The only thing missing are the tech activists. I’d argue they are what made Indymedia the phenomenon it was (and still is to some extent, especially in totalitarian regimes). The AMC has about one tech activist. A lot of work for one person… :/

Today I spoke at the People’s Summit on a panel I organized called Digitally Mediated Surveillance: Rights & Resistance. That drew a bunch of concerned folks – maybe 60 or so, with standing room only. My co-presenters Jonathon Goldsbie (Toronto Public Space Committee), Justin Saunders (Tao Communications) and Andrew Clement (disclosure: my boss) totally rocked it with their discussions CCTV and digital spying, and what we can do about it. You can see my slides here.

After People’s Summit I zoomed over to the AMC for an orientation meeting and then story meeting – a whopping four hours in a row. There was a lot of excitement from the indy media producers gathered, and I suspect things will go into the wee hours tonight, in preparation for the official opening of the AMC (and press conference at 10am) tomorrow.

More postcards from outside the fence to follow…

Privacy Commissioner on the trail of online trackers

April 29th, 2010

Before you even clickToday the Privacy Commissioner of Canada is hosting a one-day public consultation about the various new privacy challenges citizens face when navigating the online world. The motivation for the consultation, which is the first in a series of three events across Canada, was the upcoming review process for the Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act (PIPEDA), which has not been modified in 10 years.

Commissioner Jennifer Stoddart identified three challenges that are of particular concern for her office: behavioural or targeting advertising; location-based or geospatial tracking; and the online tracking of children. The general idea, she said, was to understand our “digital footprint” – what it means for our privacy and how we can minimize the impact on protection of our data.

David Vladeck, director of the Federal Trade Commission’s Bureau of Consumer Protection, gave an accessible talk, peppered with good one-liners, about the international context of the consultations. “We learned the hard way that existing privacy frameworks have limitations that are no longer tolerable,” he commented. Lengthy and complicated “privacy agreements” place undue burdens on consumers to read and understand, he said. In fact legal, “privacy agreements” are legal disclaimers written by lawyers that explain how companies will not protect users privacy. The harm based model of privacy is problematic, Vladeck said, because they only recognize a narrow set of harms and not privacy as value unto itself. Further, this model is applied retrospectively.

What Vladeck said what became clear from roundtable consultations in the US, as well as some prominent cases before the FTC, was the consumers did not understand breadth of collection of personal data engaged in by online corporations, as well as the uses to which their data would be put. He cited a recent case where 7500 Americans “sold their souls” to an online computer gaming company. The hoax intended to make point that consumers did not read privacy agreements when shopping online. There was an opt-out option, which almost no one selected:

If you a) do not believe you have an immortal soul, b) have already given it to another party, or c) do not wish to grant Us such a license, please click the link below to nullify this sub-clause and proceed with your transaction.

It’s clear, said Vladeck, that older privacy models are out of date for the internet and mobile era. “It’s hard enough to read a privacy policy on a full computer screen; imagine reading on cell phone.”

One potential new model is “privacy by design“, the philosophy and approach of embedding privacy into the design of technology, business practices and physical design. Developed by Dr. Ann Cavoukian in the 1990s, privacy by design acknowledges that “the future of privacy cannot be assured solely by compliance with regulatory frameworks; rather, privacy assurance must ideally become an organization’s default mode of operation.”

Another question Vladeck raised was whether we can we build security and privacy into internet after the fact? That is to say, on top of a foundation that was built to be trusting and open? Related to that is the question of a common understanding of what characterizes private information, and whether there is a need for consensus around this if people can control online flows of their own data.

Elizabeth Denham, the Assistant Privacy Commissioner of Canada, said that PIPEDA is a robust piece of legislation, whose principle-based approach makes it flexible, enabling PIPEDA to serve its purpose despite its age. “We have been able to apply the law to technologies and business models that didn’t exist when PIPEDA came into force. It’s a neutral law that does not thwart technological innovation,” she added.

Denham explained PIPEDA as law that applies to personal information used in commercial activity and that has strengthened Canadians’ privacy rights. She reminded, however, that the Privacy Commissioner does not have order making powers, and can not enforce the law. Thus PIPEDA’s success is dependent upon businesses and organizations submitting to the authority of Canadian privacy law. The main concern she raised was the profiling of consumers via behavioural advertising, largely enabled by users who routinely and unquestioningly volunteer significant amounts of personal information.

Other interesting highlights:

Jules Polonetsky, from The Future Of Privacy Forum, explained what happens to users’ data before they even click through a website with a this visual map.

Anne Toth, head of privacy for Yahoo! explained her company’s efforts to allow users to control targeted ads. The idea is that transparency in data use will empower their users, for example, providing privacy notices outside privacy policies and making privacy choices relevant and contextual to consumers. I’m not sure that just showing people how they are being targeted by marketers, or allowing them to manipulate advertising experience is enough, however: they need to know how and why their data is being used, and what the broader implications are. Nevertheless, I suppose Ad Interest Manager is a baby step…

Ian Kerr discussed the problem of social graphing by websites, in particular Facebook’s open graph (opt out here), which he called Google Street View for people. He called social graphing is transformative for marketers, in that it allowed them to build a smarter, more “social” web that weaves connections from a long list of multiple and diverse ties. This new marketing paradigm “soft surveillance,” heavily reliant on what Gary T. Marx refers to as “mandatory volunteerism.” The tricky bit about this new model is that it is consensual, and Kerr said this is one reason, among others, that new privacy law is likely to be retrofitted to fit new technology. Interpreting privacy by design as privacy by default is one approach to legislation that can thwart the slippery slope of Zuckerberg’s privacy-phobic “social web.”

Teresa Scassa gave a kickass talk on tracking and surveillance. She pointed out that this is not a new phenomena – Canadian courts and lawmakers have experience in dealing with these issues, most commonly in employment or law enforcement. The character of tracking and surveillance is changing, however, with new technologies, actors and social contexts emerging and expanding objectives.

Scassa said there are new issues for which established responses are no longer adequate. In the old days, surveillance was imposed upon us, for example through surveillance cameras. Corporations and governments were required to justify transgressions of privacy and create a balance between these and the preservation of dignity and autonomy.

In today’s data protection context, things are less focused on privacy, dignity and autonomy and more on accommodating commerce. Whereas tracking/surveillance was formerly specific, and limited to government and employers, the new context is dominated by the private sector. Rather than surveillance being imposed, we are now being asked to be the enablers of own surveillance. Thus it’s difficult to argue against it from a privacy perspective because we have consented. We facilitate our own online tracking through the data trails we shed.

Scassa added that it is difficult to cover our digital tracks, or avoid leaving them altoghter because many feel the benefits outweigh drawbacks. However, and this is important, the drawbacks are certainly there, but unlike the benefits, which are immediate, the drawbacks are nebulous, remote, and non-transparent.

Tracking has become “social” in the Facebook redefinition of the word. Personal information drawn from our online consumption practices is used to profile us, and Scassa said it’s important to understand the implications for autonomy, dignity, privacy,fairness and liberty.

Warrantless access for Canada?

February 28th, 2010

I went to a panel entitled Overdue Update or Big Brother? Lawful Access and Cyber Surveillance at U of T’s Faculty of Law yesterday. It was moderated by Graeme Norton, director of the Canadian Civil Liberties Association’s Public Safety Project. The panel included David Murakami-Wood, a member of the New Transparency project (and the only non-lawyer), Lisa Austin from the Faculty of Law and Robert Hubbard, counsel with the Crown Law Office – Criminal of the Ministry of the Attorney General of Ontario.

The idea behind the panel was to explore the implications of two bills, C-46 and C-47 for the preservation of Canadians’ privacy, and of their potential for broad infringement of our rights and liberties. The bills are ostensibly aimed at “modernizing” current the “lawful access” regime, which enables the state to access electronic communications data. While investigative powers are claimed to be central to the “rapidly evolving methods of crime”, there is the everpresent threat of abuse. As one audience member put it, you can’t rely on the “good men and women” of the state or its appointees. The law has to protect all interests, and seek a balance where these compete.

Norton gave an overview of “lawful access legislation” and its “modernization,” which has been on the state’s agenda since 2002. This has been the subject of some consultation (it was unclear how much or how broad) around updating the legal regime that deals with accessing the telecommunications of Canadians. The claim is that current rules are frustrating police investigations; proponents of Bills C-46 and C47 say proposed changes are mere “modernization” to keep pace with changes in technology. I am always suspicious of this disclaimer: it’s only technology, stupid. Where technology is used as an excuse for greater social control, I think we need to be extremely sceptical.

Opponents see the proposed legislation as an advance toward privacy invasion. At the least, the title of Bill C-46, Investigative Powers for the 21st Century, suggests an overbroad jurisdiction. C-46 would require telcos to preserve and provide customer information on a standard of reasonable suspicion. This data could be obtained under two different types of judicial orders: a warrant (when the data is acquired in real-time), or a production order for historical data. Transmission data is who sent an email to whom and tracking data is the location of a specific technology at a particular time. Finally, C-46 it would give a new authority to activate tracking devices in customers’ technologies, such as cell phones.

According to the Department of Justice: “The amendments would create a preservation order that would require a telecommunication service provider (TSP) to safeguard and not delete its data related to a specific communication or a subscriber when police believe the data will assist in an investigation. A preservation order is a “quick-freeze”, temporary order, and would only be in effect for as long as it takes law enforcement to return with a search warrant or production order to obtain the data.”

A tracking order would “allow police to remotely activate existing tracking devices that are found in certain types of technologies (such as cell phones and tracking devices in some cars) and would also continue to permit the police to install a separate device that would allow for tracking. A new provision would also be added to allow peace and public officers to obtain the tracking information through a production order.”

The Canadian Internet Policy and Public Interest Clinic (CIPPIC) is concerned that the standard required for the production, preservation and tracking orders “will not meet the typical ‘reasonable and probable grounds’ level.  Even though the production order would not allow access to the content of private communications, dates, times, and header information on e-mail messages has the potential create a detailed picture of an individual’s social network, online activities, and personal interests.  The generation of such profiles ought only be allowed in the case where there are reasonable and probable grounds that the individual has committed a crime, and should therefore be granted by judicial authorization to that standard.”

Bill C-47, titled Technical Assistance for Law Enforcement in the 21st Century Act, “will not provide law enforcement or CSIS with any new interception powers, nor will it change or expand existing interception authorities in any way. Rather, it will address the challenges posed by modern technologies that did not exist when the legal framework for interception was designed nearly 40 years ago. Police forces and CSIS will continue to require warrants for interception,” according to Public Safety Canada

Bill C-47 has two components: Intercept and Subscriber Information. The Intercept component requires companies to upgrade their infrastructure to ensure they have capacity to monitor, capture, preserve information. The Subscriber Information component requires telcos to provide—without a court order—basic identifiers such as name, address, telephone number and Internet Protocol (IP) address, e-mail address, service provider identification and certain cell phone identifiers to police forces and CSIS in a “timely fashion.” Law enforcement would have to be authorized, the request would have to be made in writing, and it is all subject to internal audits and discretionary audits by the Privacy Commissioner.

Jennifer Stoddart, Canada’s Privacy Commissioner, has already weighed in with her concerns, noting that “Canada has a legal regime governing the use of surveillance that protects individual rights while also giving authorities access to communications when authorized. This framework has been carefully refined over decades by Parliament and the courts. To date, the federal government has presented no compelling evidence that new powers are needed.”

She further states that right balance between individual privacy and the legitimate needs of the authorities might be struck by “obliging the government to demonstrate that the expanded surveillance powers they contain are essential and that each of the new investigative powers is justified,” and “exploring the alternative that, should these powers be granted, they be limited to dealing with specific, serious crimes and life-threatening emergencies.”

David Murakami-Wood, Canada Research Chair and associate professor of Surveillance Studies at Queen’s University, took a broad perspective, and focused on the ethical and social implications of this new legislation. He also linked Canada’s efforts at the “modernization” of its lawful access regime to an international trend to expand the definition of lawful access as well as the definition of data—who owns it and who controls its flow? He argued that decisions made in Canada on such matters will have a ripple affect as other nations struggle to tame the wilds of cyberspace.

Robert Hubbard saw nothing particularly troubling with the proposed legislation. “Generally generally speaking [it is] no different than any other criminal legislation that involves a breach of expectation of privacy. The protection there by requiring judge to sign on to it. It is a species of warrant.” Hubbard said that in the criminal law context, it is “very consistent with laws there now that involve breach of privacy. Canada is about 10 to15 years behind in intrusion into privacy.”

The audience did not care much for Hubbard’s cavalier disregard for the potential threat this privacy invasion poses for democratic society and he took most of the heat during the Q & A. He was non-plussed, however, and repeated his central point, which was that the new powers would still require authorization by a judge, which he felt was a sufficient check.

Lisa Austin, who also works with U of T’s Privacy Project gave the lie to the assumption that a lawful access regime was mainly about balancing privacy against other interests, such as those of law enforcement. “We’re talking about a Charter right – not just an interest.”

Austin explained that certain criteria must be met for justifying the exercise of police authority—criteria that are constrained by notions of rule of law and accountability. She pointed out that the Privacy Commissioner has identified a lack of justification for privacy intrusion outlined in C-46 and C-47. “No systematic case has been made for need to circumvent current regime,” she noted, wondering further exactly how current provisions failed to meet the investigative needs of law enforcement.

Austin was concerned about what she called an infrastructure of surveillance being built into the communication systems, especially the internet. With this legislation, she said, “there is nothing you can do on the net that the police can’t identify.” Emerging case law, she added, seems to support warrantless access to people’s information: “there is no reasonable expectation of privacy.”

My dissertation, finally

January 26th, 2010

It took me almost five and a half years, from the first class to my final defense, but here it is: my dissertation. Maybe one day I’ll write about the emotional and personal cost of a PhD but for now, I’ll try to revel in the relief of completion. Comments, as always, welcome! And of course, it is copyleft. So share and share alike (but give credit where credit’s due!).

BTW did I mention I’m a doctor?