The Information Policy Blog

The (unofficial) blog of the BCLA Information Policy Committee

Tag Archives: csec

Elizabeth Denham and Terms & Conditions May Apply – #MDD2013

Media Democracy Days 2013 was this past weekend in Vancouver and I was glad to be able to attend. In the IPC we’d talked a couple of months ago about trying to get together a screening of the film Terms & Conditions May Apply, and were happily pre-empted from that by the Media Democracy Project showing the movie at the Cinematheque on Friday night. Thanks

Before showing the movie though, Elizabeth Denham talked to the audience about her role as Information and Privacy Commissioner for the province of BC. It was a good talk, which highlighted some of the important reasons citizens should be concerned about their lack of privacy and how their rights are being protected.

Her main themes were transparency and accountability and how those principles are necessary for a democratic government to function. “Sunlight is the best disinfectant” was one of the phrases she used. This led into a discussion of how every scandal one can think of in government has an Access to Information angle to it. It’s the perception of secrecy by those people in power that messes everything up, because an informed citizenry knows you shouldn’t just rely on the goodwill of the folks making up whatever government is in power at any given time.

One of the things she discussed was how new democracies are so much better at enshrining laws about transparency and privacy regulation than older, more established democracies. When a country makes a constitution now, privacy rights are clearly seen as fundamental and get strong wording to protect them (in theory – she didn’t provide any specific examples).

The biggest concern Denham had for the future was the complacency of our citizens on privacy and transparency issues. keep these issues of privacy in the front of people’s minds. Even though no Canadian Snowden has dropped a bunch of CSEC powerpoint presentations in our laps there should still be a deep concern about the systematic collection of our personal data. Denham encouraged the audience to advocate and politicize this issue, and really, that’s something that librarians have every opportunity to do.

There is a real divide out there between people who have the technical knowledge to deal with privacy invasions and the people without that knowledge. We are out there working with people and their information habits every day. We need to be using the goodwill we create to try to correct the imbalance between what corporations and governments know about us and what we know about them. Denham talked about how important it was to pull back the curtain enshrouding these secret decisions.

The movie

Terms & Conditions May Apply is a movie about the things we agree to when we click through End User Licensing Agreements and how much information we are giving away to be used against us later. There were interviews with people from the EFF and the ACLU as well as with people held on pre-crime charges and the British guy who was banned from entering the US because he tweeted about how he was ready to go destroy America.

The movie was completed before Snowden and his big revelations about the NSA, but there was an added-on postscript mentioning it and how much that plays into the rest of the film.

It was a good documentary. If you’ve been immersing yourself in these types of issues there wasn’t a lot of really new stuff, but there was an ambush interview of Mark Zuckerberg, which was done well and used effectively. The weirdest part was that they had Orson Scott Card talking for a few sentences. Thankfully, it wasn’t about his thoughts on homosexuality, but it was a little weird.

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BCCLA Sues Canadian Government to Stop Illegal Spying

Canada’s CSEC agency isn’t as well known as its American counterpart, the NSA, but the Snowden leaks have brought them into the spotlight for their spying efforts. This spying has many questionable aspects, including economic espionage on Brazil, but even more concerning (if you’re Canadian) is how little we know about their spying on Canadians.

Not everyone is content to assume that things can’t be that bad in Canada. The BC Civil Liberties Association has launched a lawsuit against the Canadian government because of CSEC’s unaccountable illegal spying. This is a huge precedent-setting deal.

OpenMedia is organizing the public awareness campaign around this, as they’ve done with the stop online spying initiative (which the IPC is proud to remind you BCLA has signed onto).

There is loads of information on their sites for you to familiarize yourself with the issues, and to support these people who are fighting the legal fight for our rights to live unsurveilled.

Watch this space for more of what librarians specifically can do to help (and feel free to make suggestions here, on Twitter or wherever else you feel moved to).

BCLA joins the Protect Our Privacy coalition

In light of mounting concerns over user privacy and government surveillance of internet activity, the Intellectual Policy Committee is very pleased to announce the launch of the Protect Our Privacy coalition. We are also very proud to say that BCLA is a member – we are the first library association in Canada to participate in this effort.

In partnership with OpenMedia and dozens of other organizations around the country, the coalition centers on the following statement:

More than ever, Canadians need strong, genuinely transparent, and properly enforced safeguards to secure privacy rights. We call on Government to put in place effective legal measures to protect the privacy of every resident of Canada against intrusion by government entities.

Learn more at https://openmedia.ca/ourprivacy

OpenCanada’s Surveillance Primer

OpenCanada.org has done a bang-up post about NSA-style surveillance in Canada by CSEC entitled Canadian Surveillance 101. Here’s their preamble:

The information leaked by Edward Snowden about the U.S. National Security Agency (NSA)’s data collection programs is driving a nation-wide debate in America over the future of privacy and national security. Americans, however, are not the only ones who should be considering the consequences the NSA’s activities. Other countries, including Canada, operate similar surveillance programs and participate in national security data sharing partnerships that crisscross the globe. Given this reality, and the fact that much of Canadians’ online data flows though servers located in the U.S. where it is not subject to any Fourth Amendment protection, we think the tenor of the privacy-security debate within Canada is too quiet. Expanding the debate will require engaging more Canadians with what we know and don’t know about surveillance in Canada. To this end, here is a modest exploration of what we’ve learned since the Snowden story broke.

Go forth and read!

Open Media on Privacy and the Cloud

Catherine Hart wrote an excellent piece on privacy and storing data in the Canadian infosphere on OpenMedia:

As more and more of our personal information circulates online, is stored in ‘the cloud’, or is moved about on USBs and other portable devices, it’s essential that we make sure those data flows are secure. And as we’ve been seeing, due to a lack of safeguards they’re not secure at all when it comes to the government. Cloud services are likely more secure for both citizens and the government than carrying around USB keys or hard drives full of sensitive data (see “data breaches” below), but that increased security goes out the window when government bureaucrats recklessly use them for spying without our consent.

I tweeted it already but just wanted to stress how good a resource that post is. It’s filled with links so if you’re inclined to get lost in rabbit holes that’s an excellent place to start.

This kind of article is important because it’s not focused on the personalities involved, but the policies. Don’t get me wrong, I think we should be supporting Snowden and Manning and Swartz as people, but the issues these people brought to light are bigger even than them.