#CyberFLASH: Google, B.C. firm duel over free speech, copyright in Supreme Court battle

google-logo-jpg-size-custom-crop-1086x714OTTAWA—A legal fight between Internet giant Google and a British Columbia technology company unfolds today in the Supreme Court of Canada, where they will duel over competing free speech and copyright infringement issues.

At issue is whether Canadian courts have the jurisdiction to make sweeping orders to block access to content on the Internet beyond Canada’s borders.

Google is challenging a 2015 ruling by the British Columbia Court of Appeal that ordered it to stop indexing or referencing websites linked to a company called Datalink Technologies Gateways.

The B.C. appeal court granted that injunction at the request of Equustek Solutions Inc., which won a judgment against Datalink for essentially stealing, copying and reselling industrial network interface hardware that it created.

Equustek wanted to stop Datalink from selling the hardware through various websites and turned to Google to shut down references to them.

Initially, Google removed more than 300 URLs from search results on Google.ca, but more kept popping up, so Equustek sought — and won — the broader injunction that ordered Google to impose a worldwide ban.

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#CyberFLASH: Google and Facebook cases dominate Supreme Court fall session

supreme-courtjpg.jpg.size.xxlarge.letterboxOTTAWA—Can a Canadian court curb Google search results worldwide if they advertise a Canadian company’s counterfeiting competitor? Does Facebook violate your privacy rights when it uses your name and photo in ads to endorse products after you “liked” a website? What’s the proper test to release a convicted murderer on bail while he appeals a conviction?

They’re just some of the big questions among 29 appeals facing a short-handed Supreme Court of Canada as it starts a busy fall session next month.

Six months after Thomas Cromwell announced his Aug. 31 retirement, no replacement has been chosen. The deadline for a shortlist of interested candidates to be submitted to the prime minister is the end of this week.

But the high court’s work cannot be put on hold. So, seven or eight judges will sit on panels through October and likely into November while the time-consuming vetting and consultation process for a new judge is completed.

At the heart of the Google case is how far Canadian courts can go to uphold the public interest — in this case the intellectual property rights of an industrial design company — as defined and protected by Canadian statutes. The small Burnaby technology business sued a company called Datalink for stealing their company secrets and manufacturing a competing product. It also got an injunction against Google from displaying search results related to the company, which operates from an undisclosed location.

Google said it has nothing to do with the lawsuit but was dragged into it, even though the offending website is still operating and available “using readily available information location tools, such as other search engines and social networking sites.”

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#CyberFLASH: Phones are more private than houses – so shouldn’t be easier to search

Cyberfile+Mobile+Banking+20Last month, the Supreme Court of Canada decided that police do not need a warrant to search the contents of your cellphone. In R v Fearon, a majority of the court decided that police can search the contents of your cellphone as long as the search is “truly incidental” to a lawful arrest and is tailored to the reason for the arrest.

This decision does not appreciate how technology has changed the privacy interests of Canadians. Smart phones have forever altered the way we use, store and relate to information. This has upended many of our intuitions about privacy. This is especially true for Millennials, who make greater use of smart phones and have a greater privacy interest in their contents.

Modern phones contain an astounding amount of private information. If a police officer searched our phones, he could access every digital conversation we’ve had since 2006. Like millions of Canadians, we use mobile financial software to track our expenses, investments and debt. Our phones contain most photographs we take and give access to every important document on our home computers through apps like Dropbox. If you use Grindr, or another LGBTQ dating app, an officer could discover your sexual orientation merely by viewing the home screen. Google automatically displays travel routes to frequently visited places, providing an officer our work address or the address of a significant other. Many apps record location information, providing a record of your movements over a period of weeks, months or years. Even if you don’t use such an app, most smartphones automatically keep location data that can be easily extracted with equipment available to the police.

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#CyberFLASH: Hacker threatens ‘bombshell’ after Ottawa city websites attacked

n-ONLINE-SPYING-CANADA-large570A hacker who took down several official websites in Ottawa during the weekend, including those of the municipality and the local police, threatened further actions Monday.

The pressure tactics were unleashed as part of a campaign in support of an Ottawa-area teenaged boy who was arrested last spring with 60 criminal charges alleging that he made hoax calls to police across North America.

A hacker, who goes by the moniker Aerith, is now saying that there is evidence the teen was framed.

“We are preparing a huge ‘bombshell’ right now that we will release in the next few hours, let’s just say – it will discredit the police forces … ,” Aerith said in an e-mail on Monday morning after being contacted by The Globe and Mail.

The website of the Ottawa police remained disabled Monday. “Our systems remain secure,” the Ottawa police said via Twitter.

The city of Ottawa’s website was also inaccessible for part of the day. On its Twitter account, the city said it was “experiencing some technical issues.”

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#CyberFLASH: Conservatives urged to explain position on Internet privacy


image-1OTTAWA – Canada’s privacy watchdog is urging the Conservative government to explain their position on police access to Internet users’ personal data.

Appearing before the Senate committee, Daniel Therrien said he’s concerned the government is taking too narrow a reading of a landmark Supreme Court decision that limited warrantless access to Canadians’ personal information.

“Several months after (the Spencer decision), Canadians are still in the dark about what may happen to their personal information. There appears to be wide variation in how the Spencer decision is being interpreted,” Therrien said. “I would therefore urge Parliament to put an end to this state of ambiguity, and clarify what, if anything, should remain of the common law policing powers to obtain information with a warrant, post-Spencer.”

Therrien was speaking to Bill C-13, legislation introduced by the Conservatives in the name of cyberbullying victims.

Therrien, a former Justice Department lawyer and recent Conservative appointee, said provisions in the bill would greatly increase authorities’ ability to obtain Canadians’ personal information without a warrant.

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#CyberFLASH: Anonymous denies involvement in hacks

fingerprint-on-keyboardThe vigilante hacker collective known as Anonymous has denied involvement in a series of cyber attacks on police, court and government institutions, apparently motivated by the supposed wrongful arrest of a Barrhaven teen.

A Twitter user named Aerith has claimed responsibility, while releasing a series of statements to the press and signing off each time with the Anonymous trademark, “We are Anonymous, We are Legion, We do not forgive, We do not forget, Expect Us.” After the first series of cyber attacks took down the City of Ottawa website, the sign-off was altered to read, “You should have expected us.”

But late Saturday, Twitter user @AnonQC — attached to the Quebec chapter of Anonymous — denied this is one of the group’s operations. It suggests a splinter group of hackers known as Commander X might be behind the operation.

“Op that comes from nowhere no one heard about? Sounds like Commander X,” wrote AnonQC to the Sun, saying that “if you ever come across something that claims (to be) speaking in the name of Anon, it’s false… even your mom could have sent that (press release).”

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#CyberFLASH: Hackers pledge more attacks

1322203954274_ORIGINALThe Anonymous hacker group that carried out Friday’s cyber attack on City Hall has pledged attacks on eight more targets, including Ottawa Police and the Supreme Court.

The group has taken responsibility for hacking Ottawa.ca, hijacking the site with a taunting image of a dancing banana, and naming an Ottawa police officer with the ominous message “You know what we want…” Launching a hacking campaign dubbed Operation Soaring Eagle two weeks ago, the group claims they have already penetrated the Ottawa police server.

The group taunted police to find a “digital footprint” left behind as proof of their capabilities, and also threatened to deface the Ottawa police website, as well as publishing email exchanges between officers and the home addresses of investigators.

“For every one technical (expert) you think you have, we have 20.. 50.. 100.. Do you believe us now?” the group posted following Friday’s hack.

“Are we serious enough? This is just the start, Operation Soaring Eagle will continue, until we see fit that it is completed. We will be taking over all ottawa police networks, shutdown communications on the internet, hijack domains, servers, and soo much more (sic). It all starts today (Friday).”

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Supreme Court Confirms Privacy Survives in the Workplace

Millions of Canadians go to work each day, turn on their workplace computers, and wonder whether they have also shut off their privacy. Many employers seek to remove any reasonable expectation of privacy by telling employees that they should not expect any privacy when using workplace computers during company time.

Earlier this month, the Supreme Court of Canada grappled with the question of workplace privacyand arrived a somewhat different conclusion. My weekly technology law column (Toronto Star version, homepage version) notes it ruled that the workplace environment may diminish an employee’s reasonable expectation of privacy, but it does not remove the expectation altogether. 

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