The very nature of our technology-empowered digital lifestyle is being threatened by recent actions taken by the new government – both in the U.S. and here in Canada.
Business and industry leaders, privacy advocates and civil libertarians, voters and members of the general public in both countries are among those decrying steps they say are weakening our online privacy and undermining business confidence and resiliency.
As such, a national day of action is planned in Canada to protest the developments and increase awareness of their potential consequences.
A consumer’s ability to control their own personal data to avoid its abuse or misuse, and to prevent potential discrimination such as being denied a job, a loan or insurance coverage, is being reduced. A government’s ability and willingness to use sophisticated techniques and technologies to collect, store and share highly valuable personal data about specific individuals and broad population groups is increasing.
So, a coalition of concerned citizens and organizations will gather in cities across Canada on Saturday, February 25, and call on the Prime Minister and his government to repeal Bill C-51, the so-called Anti-Terrorism Act of 2015 (first tabled by the previous government, the Liberals have maintained they would amend, if not actually repeal, the law).
C-51 says sensitive data gathered about you by any one of as many as 17 government agencies can be freely shared among them, privacy advocates note. That data includes private information about your financial status, your medical history, your sexual orientation, even your religious and political beliefs.
It’s not just government agencies; businesses gather enormous amounts data about us too, and they share a lot of that information with each other and with our government. Privacy experts say such information should not be “repurposed” or used in “open-ended” digital dragnets.
Voicing their concerns about personal data collection and use, a group of more than 60 tech leaders, business owners and concerned Canadians have sent an open letter to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, expressing concerns about Bill C-51 and its predicted negative impact on both personal privacy and the health of our economy overall.
The group warns that plans for warrantless access to subscriber data, new interception powers, weakened encryption and mandatory data retention by business would “dramatically exacerbate” the negative impact of Bill C-51, which they say should be fully scrapped.
“Whether it’s the illegal sharing of Canadians’ personal information with foreign governments, the mass collection of cell phone information without a warrant, or the illegal build-out and concealment of secret spy databases,” says tech entrepreneur and privacy advocate Frederick Ghahramani, “we’ve seen an all-out assault on Canadians’ privacy rights.”
The signatories (please see the announced list, posted below) cite several concerns with the government’s online security plans; among them its positive framing of mandatory interception powers to access our sensitive business and customer data, including powerful IP addresses that can unlock other highly intimate digital details about law-abiding Canadians.
They’re also concerned that elements of the Act can force companies (such as telecom providers) to retain valuable customer information for various purposes, leaving business to bear the cost burdens of the retention and the responsibility to protect that data for an unspecified length of time.
In a frighteningly ironic twist on data protection and retention concerns, the ability to make important data disappear is just as concerning to privacy advocates.
In the flurry of activity and executive action now taking place in the United Sates following the installation of its new administration, an online publication called the Privacy in our Digital Lives: Protecting Individuals and Promoting Innovation report was removed from the White House website, and replaced with a smiling photo of the new administration leaders and a sign- up form to get government information in exchange for personal information.
The report, still available elsewhere, outlined the previous Obama administration’s attempts to improve consumer privacy protections, including its work to coax legislators to enshrine the Consumer Privacy Bill of Rights, which warned of the potential privacy infringements caused by increased data collection by the U.S. government, some of it derived from the same commercial sources advertisers use.
As the international rate of personal, business and government data collection and transmission steadily increases, the omnipresent, and to some, omniscient nature of the beast is a threat to individuals, companies, economies and the Internet itself.
What’s more, as described during a speaker’s panel presentation staged by the Information and Privacy Commissioner of Ontario in recognition of Data Privacy Day called Government and Big Data: Privacy Risks and Solutions, data protection is much more than a technical or even legal issue now.
It is a social and moral matter that impacts everyone living a digital lifestyle.
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Signatories to the Open Letter to Prime Minister Trudeau
Regarding Online Privacy Security and Bill C-51
The following individuals and companies have signed the letter:
Laura Tribe, Executive Director, OpenMedia
Julia Fournier, President & CEO of HCMWorks
Wyle Baoween, CEO, HRx Technology
Sara Blenkhorn, Director of collaboration, Leverage Lab
Tim Bray, co-founder, Open Text Corporation
Mark Buell, Director, Internet Society (ISOC), North American Bureau
Matt Buie, Financial Planning Advisor, Assante Capital Management
Graeme Bunton, Manager, Public Policy, Tucows
Sana Kapadia, Spring Activator
Kirsten Starcher, Founder, outside in the sun productions
William Anderson, CEO, Resolver
Dean Mailey, President, Fusion Communications Group Inc
Jason Collinge, VP Technology, Payfirma
Jennifer Cutbill, Executive Director, Vancouver Design Week
Mo Dhaliwal, Director of Strategy, Skyrocket
Phillip Djwa, President/CEO, Agentic Communications, Inc.
Ryan Dochuk, Co-founder, TunnelBear Inc.
Kat Dodds, Founder/Director, Hello Cool World Media
Bryce Evans, Founder, The One Project
Rachel Forbes, Principal & Legal Eagle, Sharp Six Services
Benjamin Fox, Founder, Tapstream
Martha Fusca, President, The Storyz Network
Mehrdad Gharib, President, FEED Engineering Inc
Frederick Ghahramani, Founder & CEO of airG
Mike Gifford, President, OpenConcept Consulting Inc.
John F. Gray, Co-founder, Mentionmapp
Michael Goodman, Chairman, Tri City Group of Companies
Mack Hardy, President, Affinity Bridge Consulting Ltd.
Daryl Hatton, CEO, ConnectionPoint
Kelsey Heikoop, Owner, Adion Systems
Raynard von Hahn, Lawyer, Genesis Law Corporation
Peter Henry, CEO, GrowthLogic Inc.
Keith Ippel, CEO, Spring Activator Inc.
Gary Isberg, President, AGI by Design
Andrew Jung, Information Architect, Skipping Rock Communication Arts
Alex Krohn, CEO, Gossamer Threads Inc.
Christopher Larsen, Owner, DeadRatGames Inc.
Jordan Lewin, CEO, Digital Sparks Media
Urszula Lipsztajn, CEO and founder, WorkBrite
Campbell Macdonald, CEO, Proxxi
Monika Marcovici, Director, Board of Change
Tara Mahoney, Founder/Creative Director, GenWhy Media
Susan McLennan, President, Reimagine PR
Frank Michlick, Founder, DomainCocoon Inc.
Adam Millard, Chair, 3Fold Partners
Chris Nissen, President, Nissen Fasteners
Philip Neves, President/CEO, Neves Software Inc.
Ken Nickerson, CEO, iBinary LLC
Sandra Nomoto, President, Conscious Public Relations Inc.
Andrei Odeski, CEO & Founder, Fortify Communications Inc
Meredith J Powell, Advisor, Finn.ai
Shamus Reid, Co-Founder/COO, New/Mode Inc.
Vanessa Richards, Director, Creative Together
Michael Richardson, Chief Scientist, Sandelman Software Works
Steve Rio, CEO, Briteweb
Thomas Savundra, CEO, Sync.com
Joel Solomon, Chairman, Renewal Funds
Josh Stuart, President, cStreet Campaigns Inc.
Marten Sims, European operations lead, Happy City
Steven Tannock, Founder & CTO, Codegnostic
Michael Tippett, CEO, Wantoo
Matt Toner, President, Zeros 2 Heroes
Andrew Wyllie, Founder and CTO, NU Frontier Communications
Zaid Zawaideh, COO, Sandglaz