Information Technology and Privacy – 2013 Update


The original post on Information Technology and Privacy was published in 2011. That post discussed a number of areas of privacy including consumer privacy, social media and privacy, national security, legislation and law enforcement and also looked particularly at Facebook, Google and Wikileaks as applied examples on the privacy landscape. This post provides updates on consumer privacy, national legislation in Canada, Facebook and Wikileaks where the past year has seen some notable developments.

Consumer Privacy

Evidence is now appearing that suggests that consumer online privacy risks may be getting worse. A new study, established in June of 2012 at the University of California at Berkeley Law School called the Web Privacy Census looks at the activities of corporate internet sites in tracking the activities of consumers. They say that there is more tracking on these websites than ever before. They count tracking vectors (cookies etc.) and say that the number of these on popular consumer websites is growing quickly.

Web Privacy Census 1

Canadian Legislation

In Canada, debate has mirrored that in many countries (including the US and UK) over access to information on the internet activities of citizens by law enforcement agencies. Canadian legislation (Bill C30) was championed by federal government minister Vic Toews who argued that it was necessary to tackle internet based crime:

and was criticised by many, including CBC personality Rick Mercer in his Rick Mercer Report:

Ontario’s Privacy Commissioner, Anne Cavoukian, was also vocal in her opposition:

An update on the situation – was provided by OpenMedia.ca:

On February 12th, 2013 the federal government announced that it was abandoning Bill C30 with the following statement (quoted by ITWORLD Canada):

“We’ve listened to the concerns of Canadians who have been very clear on this  and responding to that,” said Federal Justice Minister Rob Nicholson in a  statement to reporters on Monday.

“We will not be proceeding with Bill C-30 and any attempts that we will  continue to have to modernize the Criminal Code will not contain measures in  C-30, including the warrantless mandatory disclosure of basic subscriber  information or requirement for telecommunications service providers to build  intercept capability within their systems,” he said.”

Facebook

Concerns continue to be expressed about Facebook’s privacy practices. Of particular note in 2012 was the coninuing activity by an Austrian student, Max Schrems, to get access to the data that Facebook have stored about him. This has turned into a wider campaign (Europe vs. Facebook) and the Irish Data Protection Commissioner is being pressured to act against Facebook under European law. Facebook’s European data is stored and managed in Ireland and so Ireland is responsible for enforcing European law with them.

Wikileaks

Wikileaks has been controversially responsible for the release of the confidential data of many governments around the world and Julian Assange has been their main spokesperson. He has faced allegations of sexual assault in Sweden and was in the process of being extradited to Sweden to be tried in court when, in 2012, he sought refuge in the Ecuadorean embassy in London. Assange alleges that the sexual assault charges have been fabricated because of his Wikileaks activity and that they could lead to his extradition to the US where he could face treason charges. Others argue that he is using his Wikileaks notoriety to avoid prosecution for sexual crimes. He remains in the Ecuador embassy at the time of writing.

Summary

This post has updated the original post in this blog in 2011 on the internet and privacy. A further update will be provided in February 2012.

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