Technology, Thoughts & Trinkets

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Tag: open media

Canadian Social Media Surveillance: Today and Tomorrow

Image by Maureen Flynn-Burhoe

After disappearing for an extended period of time – to the point that the Globe and Mail reported that the legislation was dead – the federal government’s lawful access legislation is back on the agenda. In response to the Globe and Mail’s piece, the Public Safety Minister stated that the government was not shelving the legislation and, in response to the Minister’s statements, Open Media renewed the campaign against the bill. What remains to be seen is just how ‘lively’ this agenda item really is; it’s unclear whether the legislation remains on a back burner or if the government is truly taking it up.

While the politics of lawful access have been taken up by other parties, I’ve been pouring through articles and ATIP requests related to existing and future policing powers in Canada. In this post I first (quickly) outline communications penetration in Canada, with a focus on how social media services are used. This will underscore just how widely Canadians use digitally-mediated communications systems and, by extension, how many Canadians may be affected by lawful access powers. I then draw from publicly accessible sources to outline how authorities presently monitor social media. Next, I turn to documents that have been released through federal access to information laws to explicate how the government envisions the ‘nuts and bolts’ of their lawful access legislation. This post concludes with a brief discussion of the kind of oversight that is most appropriate for the powers that the government is seeking.

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(Un)Lawful Access: Vancouver Premiere & Panel Discussion

Image courtesy of UnlawfulAccess.Net

I’ll be presenting at a panel discussion on Canada’s forthcoming lawful access legislation this Thursday, January 12. It looks to be a terrific panel, and includes British Columbia’s Information and Privacy Commissioner, Elizabeth Denham, the BBCLA’s policy director, Michael Vonn, the producer of the documentary (Un)Lawful Access, Dr. Kate Milberry, and myself. Andrew Clement, professor at the University of Toronto and co-producer of (Un)Lawful Access will be moderating. In addition to a panel discussion, Drs. Milberry and Clement will be showing their documentary, (Un)Lawful Access, and the BCCLA will be revealing their report on lawful access. I’ve contributed research to the report, with my focus being on how lawful access powers are taken up and used by governments and authorities in the US and UK.

It should be a terrific event. If you’re in the area I highly recommend attending. Information is available at the event’s Facebook page and below:

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Creeping Towards a State of Surveillance

internet down :(  On Wednesday, July 27 2011, I’ll be talking at the forum to stop online spying. The forum is part of a larger national campaign to raise awareness about the potentials of state surveillance and the implications of the Government of Canada’s (expected) surveillance legislation that will be announced in the fall 2011 session. Amongst other provisions, the legislation is expected to significantly reduce the degree of judicial oversight surrounding government acquisition of subscriber data – data that users of the Internet provide to their ISP, chat services (e.g. MSN, AIM), social networking sites (e.g. Google+, Orkut, Facebook), and other online communications mediums.

I’ll be giving a short talk entitled “Creeping Towards a State of Surveillance” that is meant as an introduction to the gravity and nuances of surveillance legislation. In it, I’ll first talk about what constitutes surveillance and what constitutes function creep. From there, I’ll briefly discuss the challenges associated with classifying data as ‘public’ or ‘private’ and the deficits of ‘anonymizing’ data. This will focus on distinguishing between so-called traffic and content data types, and the kinds of private information that can be extracted from ‘mere’ traffic data. I’ll wrap things up with a quick overview of the positive, and problematic, aspects of audits, advocates, and government commissioners in restraining the state’s appetite for intelligence for so-called policing actions.

If you’re interested in coming out then head over to StopOnlineSpying.com and register. The talks start at 1:30 and run until 5:30, and are a non-partisan discussion of the forthcoming legislative agenda. It’s meant to be heavy on discussion and maximally accessible to people that don’t focus their lives studying privacy, democracy, or telecommunications and has a good mix of advocates and scholars. If you can’t make the forum, but are either bothered by or want to learn more about the Canadian government’s expanded surveillance laws, check out the national campaign.