In February I’m attending iConference 2012, and helping to organize a workshop titled “Networked Surveillance: Access Control, Transparency, Power, and Circumvention in the 21st Century.” The workshop’s participants will consider whether networked surveillance challenges notions of privacy and neutrality, exploits openness of data protocols, or requires critical investigations into how these surveillance technologies are developed and regulated. Participants will be arriving from around the world, and speaking to one (or more) of the workshop’s four thematics: Access Control, Transparency, Power, and Circumvention. As part of the workshop, all participants must prepare a short position statement that identifies their interest in network surveillance while establishing grounds to launch a conversation. My contribution, titled “Transparent Practices Don’t Stop Prejudicial Surveillance,” follows.
Controversies around computer processing and data analysis technologies led to the development of Fair Information Practice Principles (FIPs), principles that compose the bedrocks of today’s privacy codes and laws. Drawing from lessons around privacy codes and those around Canadian ISPs’ surveillance practices, I argue that transparency constitutes a necessary but insufficient measure to mitigate prejudicial surveillance practices and technologies. We must go further and inject public values into development cycles while also intentionally hobbling surveillance technologies to rein in their most harmful potentialities.
Digital literacy is a topic that is regularly raised at Internet-related events across Canada. As Garth Graham has noted, “some people will remain marginalized even when everyone is online. It’s not enough to give those who are excluded basic access to the technologies. It requires different social skills as much as different technical skills to come in from the cold of digital exclusion” (29). Perhaps in light of Canadians’ relative digital illiteracy, key Canadian policy bodies and organizations have seemingly abandoned their obligations to protect Canadian interests in the face of national and foreign belligerence. Bodies such as Industry Canada, the Canadian Radio-television Telecommunications Commission (CRTC), and the Canadian Internet Registry Authority (CIRA) are all refusing to take strong leadership roles on key digital issues that affect Canadians today.
In this post I want to first perform a quick inventory of a few ‘key issues’ that ought to be weighing upon Canadian policy bodies with authority over the Internet. I then transition to focus on what CIRA could do to take up and address some of them. I focus on this organization in particular because they are in the process of electing new members to their board; putting votes behind the right candidates might force CIRA to assume leadership over key policy issues and alleviate harms experienced by Canadians. I’ll conclude by suggesting one candidate who clearly understands these issues and has plans to resolve them, as well as how you can generally get involved in the CIRA elections.
I’m happy to let my readers know that Marita Moll’s and Leslie Shade’s (eds.) The Internet Tree: The State of Telecom Policy in Canada 3.0is now available for purchase. The book interrogates how Canada’s digital future does, and should, look in coming days by discussing present policies and proposing policies to enhance Canada’s position in the digitally connected world. The editors have done an excellent job in contacting academics, advocates, and solicitors from around Canada to develop an exciting and accessible edited collection on Internet and broadband in Canada. It includes scholars such as Dwayne Winseck, Michael Geist, Catherine Middleton, and Richard Smith, along with contributions from Steve Anderson (Open Media), Michael Janigan (PIAC), and a host of graduate students and researchers.
The book is published through the Canadian Center for Policy Alternatives (CCPA). The publisher and editors describe that book as a collection in which:
… committed public interest advocates and academics present primers on provocative digital policy issues: broadband access, copyright, net neutrality, privacy, and security, along with a consideration of structures of participation in policy-making and communication rights.
Contributors to The Internet Tree argue for a digital economy strategy that casts a winning vote for openness, broadband as an essential service, and community engagement and inclusion.
The Internet Tree is available for just $14.95 and is supportive of digital economy strategies that are guided by the principles of openness, broadband as an essential service, community engagement and inclusion, national sovereignty, and digital literacy programs. My own contribution (“Is Your ISP Snooping On You?”) explains the technical and social concerns raised by deep packet inspection to someone who doesn’t know a coaxial cable from a fibre node, with other authors similarly working to explain issues to the layman while offering suggestions to alleviate, mediate, or overcome the challenges facing Canada’s digital ecosystem. It’s got a great set of authors and I’d highly recommend it as a complement to Open Media’s recently published report on digital networks in Canada.
Scholars and civil advocates will be meeting next month in Toronto at the Cyber-surveillance in Everyday Life workshop. Participants will critically interrogate the surveillance infrastructures pervading daily life as well as share experiences, challenges, and strategies meant to to rein in overzealous surveillance processes that damage public and private life. My contribution to the workshop comes in the form of a modest overview of literature examining Deep Packet Inspection. Below is an abstract, as well as a link to a .pdf version on the review.
Deep packet inspection is a networking technology that facilitates intense scrutiny of data, in real-time, as key chokepoints on the Internet. Governments, civil rights activists, technologists, lawyers, and private business have all demonstrated interest in the technology, though they often disagree about what constitutes legitimate uses. This literature review takes up the most prominent scholarly analyses of the technology. Given Canada’s arguably leading role in regulating the technology, many of its regulator’s key documents and evidentiary articles are also included. The press has been heatedly interested in the technology, and so round out the literature review alongside civil rights advocates, technology vendors, and counsel analyses.
The Canadian SIGINT Summaries includes downloadable copies, along with summary, publication, and original source information, of leaked CSE documents.
Parsons, Christopher; and Molnar, Adam. (2021). “Horizontal Accountability and Signals Intelligence: Lesson Drawing from Annual Electronic Surveillance Reports,” David Murakami Wood and David Lyon (Eds.), Big Data Surveillance and Security Intelligence: The Canadian Case.
Parsons, Christopher. (2015). “Stuck on the Agenda: Drawing lessons from the stagnation of ‘lawful access’ legislation in Canada,” Michael Geist (ed.), Law, Privacy and Surveillance in Canada in the Post-Snowden Era (Ottawa University Press).
Parsons, Christopher. (2015). “The Governance of Telecommunications Surveillance: How Opaque and Unaccountable Practices and Policies Threaten Canadians,” Telecom Transparency Project.
Parsons, Christopher. (2015). “Beyond the ATIP: New methods for interrogating state surveillance,” in Jamie Brownlee and Kevin Walby (Eds.), Access to Information and Social Justice (Arbeiter Ring Publishing).
Bennett, Colin; Parsons, Christopher; Molnar, Adam. (2014). “Forgetting and the right to be forgotten” in Serge Gutwirth et al. (Eds.), Reloading Data Protection: Multidisciplinary Insights and Contemporary Challenges.
Bennett, Colin, and Parsons, Christopher. (2013). “Privacy and Surveillance: The Multi-Disciplinary Literature on the Capture, Use, and Disclosure of Personal information in Cyberspace” in W. Dutton (Ed.), Oxford Handbook of Internet Studies.
McPhail, Brenda; Parsons, Christopher; Ferenbok, Joseph; Smith, Karen; and Clement, Andrew. (2013). “Identifying Canadians at the Border: ePassports and the 9/11 legacy,” in Canadian Journal of Law and Society 27(3).
Parsons, Christopher; Savirimuthu, Joseph; Wipond, Rob; McArthur, Kevin. (2012). “ANPR: Code and Rhetorics of Compliance,” in European Journal of Law and Technology 3(3).