Joint letter on data collection and privacy in the COVID-19 era.

BC FIPA, along with other civil society groups, has signed on to Open Media’s joint letter calling for measures to be put in place to ensure Canadians’ right to privacy is protected, and not undermined after the crisis is over.

Specifically, we are asking for a clear message from the provincial and federal governments stating that they will not turn to digital tracking and location data collection to address COVID-19 concerns.

With that in mind, we are looking to pre-empt potential bad policies by putting forward seven key principles that should be in place to preserve our privacy and our democracy:

  1. Prioritize approaches to help people stay at home which do not involve surveillance.
  2. Due process for adopting any new powers.
  3. Consent must be favoured.
  4. Put strict limits on data collection and retention.
  5. Put strict limits on use and disclosure.
  6. There must be oversight, transparency and accountability.
  7. Any surveillance efforts related to COVID-19 must not fall under the domain of security, law enforcement or intelligence agencies.

More information on these principles can be found here.

Transparency, Privacy, and the Federal Election

It is election season, and the leaders of Canada’s political parties are making promises, presenting platforms, and answering questions about plans and policies.

The next Government of Canada will have to take positions on transparency reform, privacy in a digital age, democracy and Big Data, and the regulation of increasingly-intrusive surveillance practices.

We want to make sure that the information and privacy rights are part of the public conversation during the election period, and we want your help!

Send us an email at fipa@fipa.bc.ca and share the information and privacy policy questions that you would like to see answered by the federal political parties.

We will be compiling an Election Questionnaire, just as we did during BC’s last provincial election, and sending it to the major parties.

The election is on the horizon, so we hope to hear from you soon!

We are Recognizing The Tyee for Outstanding Reporting Related to Surveillance and Privacy

On June 27th, 2019, at our Annual General Meeting, we’ll be presenting The Tyee with an award that recognizes their outstanding reporting related to surveillance and privacy. (More information about our AGM and registration.)

As a nonprofit society, the BC Freedom of Information and Privacy Association holds an Annual General Meeting. We like to make our AGMs engaging by inviting a guest speaker to give a talk related to information and privacy rights. This year, we are excited to welcome Bryan Carney, Director of Web Production at The Tyee, as our AGM guest speaker. Bryan’s talk is entitled ‘Accountability Cannot Be Automated’.

FIPA’s Directors and Staff thought that this would be a good opportunity to recognize The Tyee for its consistent attention to stories related to surveillance and privacy. Investigative reporting and insightful writing by Tyee contributors have broadened and informed public debates about a range of important privacy rights issues, including these 2018-2019 examples:

The last few years have seen a welcome across-the-board increase in media attention to surveillance and privacy, driven by, among other things, the Cambridge Analytica scandal, increasing public concerns about Big Data and the power of social media, the ongoing expansion of government surveillance powers, and a steady churn of massive data breaches. There have also been some positive shifts in the tone and scope of media coverage, and we have seen an increased willingness to pose big questions and examine structural and systemic problems.

Despite these developments, many media organizations still struggle with the task of connecting specific surveillance and privacy issues to both the lived experiences of individuals and broader trends like surveillance capitalism.

This is why we are so impressed with The Tyee’s work on these topics. The Tyee consistently publishes detailed and informative stories that examine the everyday dimensions of surveillance practices, address their implications, and pose vital questions about accountability and the adequacy of legal and institutional privacy protections. And, while The Tyee does provide reactive coverage and follow-up reporting when important privacy rights issues are broken by other media organizations, it is also tenaciously proactive, posing questions, following leads, and using FOI and Privacy requests to further original reporting. We would not know what we know about TransLink data sharing, RCMP social media snooping, or the BC connection to the Facebook scandal without the work of Tyee contributors and editors.

So, on behalf of FIPA, kudos to The Tyee for continued excellence in reporting on these vital topics. I am glad that Bryan Carney will be at our AGM to accept this award on behalf of The Tyee, as he has had a hand in many Tyee stories on privacy issues. To The Tyee’s staff, editors, and contributors, I hope that this award serves as recognition of a job well done and an affirmation of the value of continuing to invest in the ‘privacy beat’. We are at a pivotal moment in the history of privacy rights, and we have yet to adequately grapple with the challenges posed by Big Data, surveillance capitalism, the Internet of Things, and the security state. We need more detailed, forward-thinking journalism in this area, and other media organizations would do well to follow in The Tyee’s footsteps.

By Mike Larsen (President of the BC Freedom of Information and Privacy Association)

Introducing: Data Subjects, a new podcast from FIPA

Data Subjects is a new podcast dedicated to issues surrounding privacy and freedom of information rights in Canada.

The show marks FIPA’s first foray into the world of podcasts. Episodes will tackle a wide variety of topics, from the history of FOI in Canada, to the pitfalls of our modern privacy rights, and many more. Each episode will feature interviews with some of Canada’s most renowned figures from both the privacy and FOI landscapes, as well as stories from within FIPA.

Data Subjects will launch this spring and will be available on your favourite podcast provider like Apple Podcasts, Stitcher, Spotify, and on our website.