#CyberFLASH: Bell faces $750 million lawsuit over targeted ad program

bellThe battle over BCE Inc.’s contentious targeted advertising program is moving into the courtroom after a $750-million class action lawsuit was filed against its Bell Mobility and Bell Canada units.

Court documents filed with the Ontario Superior Court of Justice allege that the Mississauga, Ont.-based subsidiaries of BCE breached contractual obligations, privacy laws and the Telecommunications Act resulting from their “unauthorized use and disclosure of [clients’] personal information” to a third party without explicit consent. By doing so for a fee, Bell was “unjustly enriched” and ought to be financially liable for “the anguish, suffering and distress” caused by its “unlawful intrusion,” the filings state.

Bell spokesperson Jacqueline Michelis declined to comment on the lawsuit, filed Thursday.

Ted Charney of Toronto’s Charney Lawyers, one-half of the counsel representing plaintiff Settimo Tocco, a Bell Mobility client with data service who resides in Windsor, Ont., estimates as many as five million of Bell’s 7.9 million wireless customers were tracked under the so-called Relevant Advertising Program (RAP) through their use of Internet data, making this “the largest privacy breach ever ” in Canada.

“We think there’s going to be some damages awarded to each class member, and the real question is ‘what’s the amount going to be?’” Charney said in an interview Friday. “Could be anywhere from a couple hundred dollars to a couple thousand dollars, depending on the nature of the privacy breach and the circumstances of how the breach happened.”

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#CyberFLASH: Ranking Canada’s Telecom Providers on Consumer Complaints, Code Violations, Privacy Protections


typing-image-genericGovernment agencies, citizen awareness groups and international spy agencies have been assessing Canada’s Internet Service Providers – and not necessarily for pricing, monthly minutes or bandwidth caps.

The companies that connect most Canadians to the digital world are letting us down, reports indicate.

Yes, we are still among the highest ranked users of Internet and cell services, but companies that deliver the goods to us have more work to do in terms of being open and respectful about service contracts, consumer privacy and, yes, monthly fees.

Even as more and more of us sign up for wireless phone packages, billing errors continue to be the most commonly raised issue (13 per cent of all issues), followed by complaints about non-disclosure of contract terms (almost 12 per cent of all issues), according to the most recent report from the country’s Commissioner for Complaints for Telecommunications Services (CCTS).

Its Mid-Year Report (for August 1, 2014 to January 31, 2015) does cite a reduction (8.5 per cent) in overall complaints, but also a concerning increase in specific types of complaints, as well as an uptick in the number of violations of The Wireless Code, that set of rules and regulations designed to protect Canadian consumers.

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#CyberFLASH: New report rates internet service providers on privacy

pdphonejpg-jpg-size-xxlarge-letterboxA new report is calling on Canadian Internet service providers to be more transparent about how they handle customer privacy, and rates them on their current practices.

The report, “Keeping Internet Users in the Know or in the Dark,” is authored by two Canadian online privacy groups: IXmaps.ca and The New Transparency project.

“What I’d really like to have is that our carriers are pro-active in telling us about their behavior around handling personal information,” says Andrew Clement, a professor in the University of Toronto’s Faculty of Information, who spearheaded the report.

Except for Rogers, Teksavvy and Telus, the report says, companies aren’t forthcoming about how they’re disclosing requests for consumer information from law enforcement and other government agencies. However, Clement adds that what Rogers reports on that score is “very thin.”

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#CyberFLASH: Why We Need To Fight For a Free and Open Internet in 2015

large_cybersecOne of the most challenging things about working for an Internet freedom organization like OpenMedia is that there’s often a lot going on. As in, a LOT. It certainly makes for an exciting work life, but I’d be the first to admit it can also make it tricky to take a step back, reflect on the journey to date, and look at the bigger picture.

That’s partly why December is one of my favourite months. Not just because of the chance to catch up with old friends and family, but because it gives a rare opportunity to step back from the day-to-day campaign work and look forward to the challenges ahead.

And, when it comes to 2015, there’s a lot in store – it’s shaping up to be a pivotal year for digital rights and Internet freedom. Let’s look at just some of the key challenges we face:

Affordable Internet and cellphone service: Canadians have long suffered from some of the highest prices in the industrialized world for Internet and cellphone service. Our lack of choice and sky-high prices has held back innovation and our whole economy. 2015 will be a decisive year, with an important auction of key wireless resources, and with policymakers at the CRTC poised to rule on three vital decisions on wholesale wireless, access to affordable fibre Internet, and the future of TV in a digital era.

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#CyberFLASH: Google eyes expanded smartphone advertising in 2015

9631175Internet giant Google aims to better use smartphone data to enable advertisers to reach out to mobile users. Google Canada’s Sam Sebastian says the challenge is finding a balance between information collection and user privacy.

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#CyberFLASH: Privacy issues could not be ignored in 2014

hackers.jpg.size.xxlarge.letterboxIt’s been a year like no other for those who follow the privacy, telecommunications and online security debate in Canada.

It started with a bombshell revelation that Canada’s electronic spying agency CSEC had monitored Canadians at airports and elsewhere within the country, apparently in contravention of the law. That was followed by a series of data breaches, court rulings, new legislation and a robust public debate about when and how citizens’ personal data can and should be accessed.

To help put 2014 in perspective, we spoke with telecom and cybersecurity expert Christopher Parsons, post-doctoral fellow at the University of Toronto’s Citizen Lab and managing director of the Telecom Transparency Project, to review how the discussions around privacy shifted in 2014 and what to expect in the new year.

Postmedia: Looking back on a year of new privacy legislation, Supreme Court rulings and yet more Snowden revelations about how much governments are spying on us, what were the biggest takeaways for you as a researcher who studies these things?

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#CyberFLASH: ‘Sensitive’ surveillance figures worried feds

blackburnnews_national-620x356OTTAWA – A move by telecommunications firms to be more forthcoming with the public about their role in police and spy surveillance could divulge “sensitive operational details,” a senior Public Safety official warned in a classified memo.

Company efforts to reveal more about police and intelligence requests — even the disclosure of broad numbers — would require “extensive consultations with all relevant stakeholders,” wrote Lynda Clairmont, senior assistant deputy minister for national and cybersecurity.

Clairmont’s note, released under the Access to Information Act, provided advice to deputy minister Francois Guimont on the eve of his one-hour April 17 meeting with representatives of Telus Corp. to discuss specifically what information the company was allowed to tell the public about electronic surveillance activities.

Telus released a so-called “transparency report” five months later, revealing it had received more than 103,000 official requests for information about subscribers in 2013.

Rogers Communications published a similar report in June — three months before Telus — becoming the first of the major Canadian telecom firms to issue one. Bell Canada, the other major company, has yet to release a report.

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#CyberFLASH: RCMP failed to keep records on warrantless access, watchdog says


OTTAWA—There’s no way to know if the RCMP complied with privacy laws in requesting Canadians’ personal information without a warrant, or even how often the Mounties made such requests, according to Ottawa’s privacy watchdog.

Privacy Commissioner Daniel Therrien said his office was not able to track how often the national police force requested access to Canadians’ personal information without a warrant — because the RCMP don’t track that information themselves.

“We were disappointed to find that limitations in the RCMP’s information management systems meant we were unable to assess whether such controls were in place,” said Therrien, in a statement.

“It was not possible to determine how often the RCMP collected subscriber data without a warrant. Nor could we assess whether such requests were justified.”

Therrien’s office revealed they were formally reviewing the RCMP’s warrantless access practices after the Star and the Halifax Chronicle Herald reported that police forces asked nine telecommunications companies for their customers’ information 1.2 million times in 2011 alone.

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