#CyberFLASH: Legal experts to mull risks to privacy, safety at conference in Halifax

computer-closeupCyber-crime and privacy issues top the agenda at the International Society for the Reform of Criminal Law annual conference in Halifax this week.

It is the first time the conference, slated to run Sunday through Thursday has been held east of Montreal.

Judges, lawyers, legislators and law enforcement officials from around the globe will weigh in on the difficult balance between the rights of the individual and society’s collective security, said Hon. Justice Michael MacDonald, Supreme Court of Nova Scotia, who is co-chairing this year’s conference along with Supreme Court Justice Thomas Cromwell.

“It’s a huge challenge in the face of technology that’s changing at warp speed,” MacDonald said.

“The internet is changing our lives daily and it’s a challenge at the best of times to find that right balance between protecting your and my privacy with the need to protect society,” he said.

While judges are loath to give police the right to hack anyone’s account without good reason, with the internet changing life in almost every way, the justice system has to act appropriately to make sure the use of the internet as an instrument of crime is minimized, MacDonald said.

One of the biggest challenges is that of the principle of open court, he said.

“In Nova Scotia and Canada and all leading democracies we value our open courts principle, which means everything that happens must be open to the public and the public must be able to scrutinize to make sure justice is administered properly,” MacDonald said.

The problem is that information that can be gathered through open court principle can be manipulated for malicious purposes, he said, recalling his law practice in the 1970s, when a messy divorce case might yield personal details about children or other vulnerable people.

Those same details, online, could be Googled and exploited, MacDonald said.

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