#CyberFLASH: It’s time for Canadians to fight for their privacy

1297236821813_ORIGINALWay back in 1996, a Reform Party MP questioned the privacy implications of an electronic voter registry, saying:

“The first and main concern is the privacy issue … since the information is to be shared by different levels of government and different governmental bodies. There is a risk that privacy can be compromised. The more information is transferred and shared, the greater the risk of security of the information.”

That MP was Stephen Harper.

Needless to say, times have changed.

Today, Prime Minister Harper and his Conservative government are trying to steamroll Bill C-51, its anti-terrorism bill, through Parliament.

Bill C-51 raises some serious privacy-related concerns.

The Security of Canada Information Sharing Act, a bill within the bill, is particularly troubling. The bill permits information sharing for an incredibly broad range of reasons, most of them unrelated to terrorism. This information would be shared across 17 government institutions.

The bill also allows the prospect of cabinet expansion to other departments as well as further disclosure “to any person, for any purpose.” It basically gives the government carte blanche to share your information with whoever they choose.

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#CyberFLASH: List of protests tracked by government includes vigil, ‘peace demonstration’

hi-bc-archive-surveillance-camerasOTTAWA — What do Canadian veterans, advocates for the disabled and the country’s largest union have in common? Their activities were monitored and reported on by police and government agencies over the last year.

Documents show the central Government Operations Centre received reports on more than 160 protests, community events, and demonstrations between May 2014 and February 2015. The RCMP, Public Safety Canada, and the Privy Council Office prepared reports for the GOC — which co-ordinates the federal government’s response to national emergencies and natural disasters.

While much of the monitoring focused on First Nations causes and environmental activism, the GOC showed a diverse set of interests, including:

• A rally on Parliament Hill pushing for better benefits for Canadian veterans.

• A “die-in” protesting police brutality against black Americans, including vigils for Ferguson, Mo. shooting victim Michael Brown organized by the Black Lives Matter movement.

• An event called “Paddle for Peace” in Fort St. Jean, B.C., where the report noted “public order issues are not expected.”

• Canadian Doctors for Refugee Care’s national day of action.

• An “interfaith peace demonstration” in Mississauga.

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#CyberFLASH: Invasion of privacy creeps into a culture

n-ONLINE-PRIVACY-largeOn March 14, I attended the rally protesting C51 outside the absent MP’s office. What struck me most was the genuine concern on the faces and in the voices of the 100 or more who were present.

They were not people protesting radically, screaming and uttering vulgarities. They were folks you see in the workplace or on the streets of our city every day. Some had their children with them. Their fears and concerns prompted me to share a little of my relevant experiences in the former Soviet Union.

That experience began in 1992, one year after the break up of the U.S.S.R. In the following 17 years, I did 25 management development projects in Russia, Poland, Ukraine, Romania and 11 other former Soviet republics.

You might ask, what does that experience in those former dictatorships have to do with Bill C51? The lesson I learned most emphatically was: the invasion of privacy creeps from the government to the police and security forces, e.g., KGB, CSIS, into the public’s mindset and ultimately into the culture of a nation. And it remains in the culture for many years.

Several times I was challenged or detained by members of the security forces – 10 to 15 years after the collapse of the U.S.S.R. Numerous times friends warned me not to talk in buses or public places. Raising questions or issues about the Lukashenka government in Belarus brought intense reactions from some who attended my public lectures.

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#CyberFLASH: RCMP records called ‘incomplete and inaccurate’ in memo: Geist

therrien.jpg.size.xxlarge.letterboxLast fall, Daniel Therrien, the government’s newly appointed Privacy Commissioner of Canada, released the annual report on the Privacy Act, the legislation that governs how government collects, uses, and discloses personal information. The lead story from the report was the result of an audit of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police practices regarding warrantless requests for telecom subscriber information.

The audit had been expected to shed new light into RCMP information requests. Auditors were forced to terminate the investigation, however, when they realized that Canada’s national police force simply did not compile the requested information. When asked why the information was not collected, RCMP officials responded that its information management system was never designed to capture access requests.

While that raised serious concerns – the RCMP has since promised to study mechanisms for reporting requests with recommendations expected in April – documents recently obtained under the Access to Information Act and reported here for the first time reveal that the publicly released audit results significantly understated the severity of the problem. Indeed, after the draft final report was provided to the RCMP in advance for comment, several of the findings were toned down for the public release

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#CyberFLASH: Valentine’s Day advice from RCMP: don’t get defrauded

tinderLove is in the air, but so is online dating fraud, warn Nova Scotia RCMP ahead of Valentine’s Day.

The financial crime unit says it sometimes receives calls from people who have been defrauded thousands of dollars from people they’ve met on internet dating sites.

Police say they’ve received reports of suspects who “groom” their victims for months, claiming to be able to get them cars, trucks and off-highway vehicles.

RCMP Cpl. Greg Church says as the relationships develop the suspects take advantage of their victims, often asking their victims to wire them money.

“Once the victim gives the suspect a large sum of money, the suspect mysteriously disappears,” said Church in a release.

“If you have been victimized, don’t let fear of embarrassment stop you from reporting an incident to police as secrecy works to the suspect’s benefit.”

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#CyberFLASH: 5 things to know about Ottawa’s new anti-terrorism measures

passport30.jpg.size.xxlarge.letterboxThe Conservative government introduced anti-terrorism legislation on Friday that would greatly increase powers for spies inside Canada.

Here are five things you should know:

1. The legislation would require building owners to let CSIS agents bug tenants’ rooms, if there’s a court order.

2.The legislation would create a new criminal offence: “advocating or promoting” terrorist activities. This refers to both online and offline activities. It would make it illegal to advocate attacks but not to praise them.

3.Airline boarding passes would be blocked for suspected terrorists. The retooled system would deny a boarding pass to anyone deemed to be a national security threat, even if there is no explicit plan to attack a plane.

4. Internet service providers would be required to take down websites featuring terrorist propaganda. This would require a court order and apply only to websites in Canada.

5.There would be an easier exchange of security-related information about passport holders. The new Security of Canada Information Sharing Act would allow officials to proactively share information with other security agencies.

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#CyberFLASH: Anti-terror bill: Critics worry about safeguarding civil liberties

Stephen HarperCanada’s new anti-terrorism legislation creates sweeping new powers for the nation’s security services, but it’s not clear there will be equally robust oversight to protect privacy, free speech or civil liberties.

Missing from the act, for instance, is a sunset clause for any of its provisions, though the Jean Chrétien Liberals put such a proviso in their anti-terrorism bill introduced after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. Nor is there a mandatory review by a certain date — though this may yet be added when the bill goes to a parliamentary committee for review.

Some question whether solidifying national security will come at the expense of civil liberties.

“Countries that are free are also safer countries. Civil rights and public safety go hand-in-hand,” NDP foreign affairs critic Paul Dewar said Friday.

The government argues that existing civilian oversight bodies – at the spy agency CSIS, the cyber-spy agency CSE, and the RCMP – are adequate. And the new law does require that the public safety minister regularly report to Parliament on how CSIS is using its new powers. Prime Minister Stephen Harper also said on Friday that the government has worked protections into the bill to prevent erosion of civil liberties in the name of security.

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#CyberFLASH: CRA data breach should be the final straw

image-12If heads don’t roll after the latest security debacle at the Canada Revenue Agency, they should.

The tax agency revealed yesterday that a spreadsheet containing detailed information on a number of high-profile Canadians, including former PM Jean Chretien, author Margaret Atwood, ex drug czar Richard Pound and media mogul Moses Znaimer, had been sent to the CBC. The 18-page file included names, home addresses, and details of donations made to Canadian museums and galleries.

In a statement released late yesterday, CRA Commissioner Andrew Treusch attributed the accidental release of the personal information to human error, and said it “constitutes a serious breach of privacy.”

The CBC said it received the file electronically in response to an Access to Information Request. In a move that surprises no one, Treusch said the agency “has launched an internal investigation into the privacy breach and its security protocols.”

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