By Jesse Brown - Tuesday, February 14, 2012 - 0 Comments
Vic Toews wants to make one thing clear: He does not want to read my email. His office reached out to me after I wrote this post, which detailed the inability of our police to find one good example of why they need new Lawful Access laws, to be tabled today. Toews’ flack was eager to set me straight: “No legislation proposed by our Conservative Government will allow police to unlawfully read emails without a warrant.” Thanks, got it. Of course, I never said that it would.
By Jesse Brown - Thursday, February 2, 2012 at 11:26 AM - 0 Comments
Since launching eight years ago, Facebook has navigated an uneasy tension between profitability and privacy. From the start, Facebook had marketers and advertisers salivating. Forget surveys, forget guesswork, forget market research. Here was a fun, “free” service that somehow compelled users to willingly divulge the most intimate details about themselves. Facebook now owns the most comprehensive and accurate marketing database that the world has ever known. If fully exploited, it could all but guarantee that no advertiser ever waste money on a false impression again: no middle-aged man need ever see another tampon commercial, no teenager need ever again be urged to refinance their mortgage. Every dollar spent on an ad would connect products with people who might actually buy them.
By Jesse Brown - Wednesday, January 18, 2012 at 10:28 AM - 0 Comments
For the past 12 years, Canada’s cops have been pushing for new laws that would allow them to skip the pesky formality of having to get a warrant before spying on us on the Internet. (For some background on these Lawful Access laws, check out these posts.)
Critics of Lawful Access, such as our federal Privacy Commissioner and every provincial Privacy Commissioner, argue that police have yet to provide sufficient evidence that court oversight has actually slowed them down or stopped them from fighting crime. And now, Canadian police themselves are saying the same thing.
The online rights group OpenMedia.ca has obtained and released a message it says was recently sent by the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police (CACP) to law enforcement colleagues urgently requesting that they provide “actual examples” of cases where the need to get warrants before accessing private information from Internet Service Providers “hindered an investigation or threatened public safety.” The message goes on to admit that though a similar request had been made two years ago, it failed to produce “a sufficient quantity of good examples.”
By Peter Nowak - Wednesday, December 7, 2011 at 4:37 PM - 4 Comments
Last week, I had the honour of speaking at the Online Educa conference in Berlin, an annual meeting of education professionals that this year attracted 2,000 visitors from more than 100 countries. Conference organizers have put up a video of my speech, which was about how food technology is driving economic growth in the developing world and, as a consequence, the collective demand for education there.
I also had the pleasure of participating in a debate on technological developments and their effects on privacy and learning. My teammate Peter Bowers, a teacher in the U.K., and I had the task of arguing against the following statement:
This house expresses its concern about the effect developments in technology are increasingly having on personal liberty and believes this will have serious consequences for learning in the future.
On Thursday, before the debate, I wrote about how I thought the statement was indefensible; that technology enabled liberty and therefore learning like no other force on the planet. While true, the debate was ultimately quite lively and resulted in an almost even split among the audience. Alas, our side lost by a narrow margin.
By Jennifer Stoddart - Tuesday, November 8, 2011 at 11:39 AM - 0 Comments
Canada’s privacy commissioner on how the protection of personal information today starts with taking control
As Can teens escape embarrassment on Facebook? duly noted, it’s indeed very difficult for me or anyone over 30 to truly relate to the reality of today’s tweens, teens and young adults.
After all, I wasn’t raised in a world of texts, tweets, wall postings, status updates and smartphone-shot pictures and videos that can be uploaded and shared with multitudes in under a minute—by you, or of you by someone else. The same goes for most of the people who work in our office. That’s why my Office has done classroom presentations, and engaged a panel of teens from across Canada to advise on our youth outreach efforts. I’m happy to say that we’ve learned a lot. Continue…
By Aaron Wherry - Tuesday, November 1, 2011 at 4:32 PM - 13 Comments
Public Safety Minister Vic Toews first claimed that long-gun registry data needed to be destroyed lest it fall into the NDP’s hands. Mr. Toews then argued that destroying the data was necessary as a matter of privacy. On the latter point, the privacy commissioner seems not entirely to agree.
Jennifer Stoddart said there’s nothing in the Privacy Act that prevents the federal government from sharing the data with provincial governments. Indeed, the Privacy Commissioner said the act actually permits disclosure of personal information, provided it’s done through a federal-provincial agreement for the purpose of administering or enforcing any law or carrying out a lawful investigation.
By Peter Nowak - Tuesday, November 1, 2011 at 12:50 PM - 2 Comments
Halloween isn’t the only time when everybody seems to enjoy being frightened. We must enjoy it year round, given the steady diet of fear the media keeps us on. It’s particularly true in the technology world. Over the past year, we’ve had the ongoing Wi-Fi cancer scare, more stories about the potential problems with biotechnology and lots and lots of attention paid to how the Internet is threatening our privacy.
Alas, a glance through time shows this is nothing new. People have been worrying about the effects of new technology since, well, fire.
Here, then, are five great examples from history. Continue…
By Jesse Brown - Wednesday, October 19, 2011 at 11:52 AM - 8 Comments
Just because you ignore Facebook doesn’t mean Facebook is ignoring you. The group Europe vs Facebook has filed a complaint to the Irish Data Protection Commissioner, alleging that Facebook is breaking privacy laws by building “Shadow Profiles” of individuals who have never signed up with the social networking site.
It’s certainly true that Facebook collects information about non-users; whenever you use the site to invite off-site friends to join up, or when you invite them to events through email invites, Facebook, by necessity, is storing those addresses, at least long enough to send your pals an email. And whenever you sync your phone contacts or email address book to Facebook, the names, phone numbers, and email addresses of any non-FBing friends you may have are delivered to Facebook’s servers.
What we don’t know is what Facebook is doing with this info. Are they storing it indefinitely or destroying it? Are they compiling and aggregating it—matching an email address you typed in last year with a phone number you synced yesterday to a name you mentioned in today’s status update? Is Facebook mapping these individuals in a hidden social graph? Are they building an alleged network of “Shadow Profiles”? If so, why?
Facebook isn’t saying. The company provides no information on how it handles the non-member data it collects. Perhaps it’s time they cleared the matter up. After all, if you don’t have a Facbook profile by now, it’s probably because you made an active decision *not* to—it’s not like you’ve never heard of the the site. It’s just that you didn’t want them to hear about you.
By Chris Sorensen - Friday, September 30, 2011 at 9:00 AM - 4 Comments
Will its increasingly complex website be its undoing?
Mark Zuckerberg, the CEO of social networking giant Facebook, stepped onstage at a developers’ conference in San Francisco last week and, probably unwittingly, launched into his best Steve Jobs impression. Wearing jeans, sneakers and a grey T-shirt (the Apple Inc. chair favours black turtlenecks, but you get the idea), Zuckerberg took the wraps off a host of new Facebook features while peppering the presentation with Jobs-isms—“really easy” yet “so powerful”—that emphasized just how intuitive and exciting everything about the overhauled Facebook would be.
Except that none of the new features unveiled appear to be either—at least not at first blush. Once a relatively spartan piece of online real estate, users’ profile pages will now display a comprehensive “timeline” of their lives, curated in part by Facebook’s software and by users themselves, while a new window shows exactly what everyone in your network is doing at any given moment (Stephanie likes Peter’s status update, Lisa commented on her photo, Steve is friends with Sharon . . . and so on). Zuckerberg called it a place to monitor “lightweight” activity that threatens to bog down the main news feed, which will now consist entirely of material that is deliberately posted by a user’s friends.
Turns out there’s a reason Facebook decided to create a dedicated space for all of these auto-updates: it plans to unleash a torrent of them on its users. The company is planning to throw TV, streaming music and other online media services into the mix so that users can see, in real time, what songs their friends are listening to, which TV shows they’re watching and what news stories they are reading—and soon, no doubt, where they’re shopping. “What’s even more interesting and exciting than getting people signed up is all the things that are possible by having these connections in place,” said Zuckerberg, who suggested that Facebook and its partners will “rethink some industries.”
By Rebecca Eckler - Wednesday, September 21, 2011 at 6:50 AM - 1 Comment
Having 700 people remember your big day is gratifying, even if they’re strangers
Facebook has changed one really important date in people’s lives—maybe, for some, the most important date of the year. Thanks to the option of being able to wish people happy birthday on Facebook (your page shows reminders of the birthdays of “friends”), many users now receive hundreds upon hundreds of greetings on their big day. Granted, they may be from practical strangers, but Facebook users are basking in the glory of all the attention.
“Prior to birthdays being ‘pimped out’ on Facebook, which was after I graduated university, there were years and years where I didn’t receive many happy birthday wishes,” says Mindy Blackstien, founder and chief ambassador at BodyPROUD and creator of the Facebook group “It’s Time: Love Your Body! Be Body Proud.” Blackstien this year received “pages and pages and pages” of birthday greetings, some 400 or 500 notes on her wall.
“Because I did not often bring up my birthday in conversation, new people in my life didn’t know about it and others did not necessarily remember, except my family, and even that may have been primarily because my mom called to remind everyone,” Blackstien says. “So when Facebook started marketing it for me, a new energy was created.” The day of her birthday, March 16, and that whole week, became, she says, “meaningful in a different way. I found myself eagerly anticipating my birthday for Facebook reasons.”
By Alex Ballingall and Richard Warnica - Tuesday, September 20, 2011 at 10:00 AM - 0 Comments
A Vancouver Island First Nation sues over land claims, and a transgendered woman in Winnipeg accuses police of abuse
British Columbia: A Vancouver Island First Nation is suing the B.C. government and five homeowners over a sliver of land adjacent to its reserve. The lawsuit claims that a surveyor’s error in 1888 stripped the territory, just northwest of Nanaimo, from the Nanoose band. The First Nation has filed a trespass claim in a bid to get it back.
Alberta: A woman is suing the Alberta government for revealing her true identity after she spent years building a new life under a different name for herself and her daughter. She changed her name after she entered the New Identities for Victims of Abuse program in 2001. Eight years later, she found her real name published alongside her new one when performing a Google search. “You can’t imagine the horror, the grief, the anger, the frustration,” she recently told the media.
Manitoba: A transgender woman is suing the City of Winnipeg after she says she was roughed up by police and mocked for her sexuality. She was having a cigarette in her car when police surrounded her vehicle. She says she was forced out at gunpoint, pushed to the ground then shoved into a cruiser. She was released shortly after—police were looking for someone else—but not before she allegedly overheard an officer say, “He’s a tranny.”
By Colby Cosh - Wednesday, September 7, 2011 at 4:49 AM - 151 Comments
[Olivia Chow] won’t reveal the nature of [Jack Layton’s] final illness: “Jack’s wish is that we don’t talk precisely about what kind because we want to give other cancer patients the kind of hope they deserve and should have. If we talk about this kind of cancer, or that, then if you have that particular kind, you would be really worried…” –The Star, Tuesday
Pardon me, fellow Canadians, but this is preposterous. Olivia Chow’s explanation doesn’t even make sense on its own terms: in the absence of information about what kind of cancer killed Jack Layton, patients with any kind of cancer at all might be frightened or upset by his sudden demise. She is denying us information that could ease the minds of the vast majority of these people. But then, this isn’t the first time we’ve been given a strained, unconvincing excuse for secrecy when it comes to Jack Layton’s health, though it is likely to be the last.
When Jack Layton was first diagnosed with prostate cancer last year, his secretary Brad Lavigne told Canadians that we would not be receiving details of Layton’s treatment because, basically, we are too stupid to handle it. Cancer sufferers, Lavigne argued, might perceive such a disclosure “as general medical advice” and conclude that the same therapies “might be suitable for them.” This was an amazingly brazen answer in an era in which “awareness” is worshipped like a tiki. Jack Layton might have been the first cancer victim in decades who believed that his disease did not provide him with a morally binding opportunity to educate others—that, in fact, his duty was to conceal. The question nobody asked: what if there were prostate cancer patients who might learn, by means of Layton’s example, of a treatment that was truly “suitable”?
Instead, Lavigne’s bizarre rationale was accepted, and questions about Layton’s later hip fracture were shrugged off, even though Canadians have abundant, well-founded reasons to suspect politicians, as a group, of habitually queue-jumping and seeking private care outside the country. The NDP cannot shut up about how Tommy Douglas gave us medicare like some cornball Prometheus bringing fire unto primeval man; its leaders therefore might be regarded as having a special responsibility to rise above such suspicions.
This would be the case even if Layton hadn’t availed himself controversially of private clinics in the past, and it would be the case even if it weren’t for the mysterious affair of April’s disappearing “hip replacement”, when we were all asked to believe that Layton’s sister, who was travelling with him and essentially acting his physical therapist, got an exceedingly rudimentary detail of his treatment wrong. Could happen! It would have been awfully simple for him to confirm it with medical evidence!—he said so himself, and offered to provide that evidence!
But by that time, no one in a position to ask was interested: the adversarial relationship between politician and media had already broken down. It has been pointed out incessantly in defence of Layton’s privacy that Canada, unlike the U.S., has not established a full-disclosure norm in health matters for important politicians. What nobody observes is that the U.S. adopted this norm for very good reasons—reasons with labels like Grover Cleveland, Woodrow Wilson, John F. Kennedy. Long experience of republican government has taught Americans that politicians will tell merciless, outrageous lies about their health status to secure electoral advantage unless a full-disclosure norm is aggressively enforced by the press.
Jack Layton, of course, was never the chief magistrate of a republic—just a man who claimed to be running for our prime ministership in earnest, and, later, a officer of state with responsibility for assembling and leading an alternative government. Still, eventually Canada will, like the U.S., begin to oblige men in his position to be excruciatingly forthright about their health. And eventually someone will spill the beans about what killed him. In the meantime, 4.5 million Canadians who voted for a party led by Jack Layton will just have to wait and see what they actually end up with.
By Jesse Brown - Wednesday, August 24, 2011 at 12:17 PM - 8 Comments
Earlier this month, Google+ kicked a geeky hornet’s nest by suspending the accounts of users registered under pseudonyms and nicknames. The angry reaction to their Facebook-like “real names” policy was unsurprising, considering the tech-centric early-adopter types who currently populate the nascent social network. I don’t want to call the Google+ crowd (of which I am a member) nerdy, but let’s just say that more than a few users would rather be known as “Lord Voldemort” than whatever happens to be printed on their birth certificates.
Speaking of those birth certificates, Google would like to see them. When suspended users complained to Google, they were given ‘review’ forms. If you insist that “BonerKing” is your ‘common name,’ Google will ask you for government-issued ID to prove it:
We have reviewed your appeal and need more information in order to verify that the name entered [ __ ] is your common name.
Please reply to this email with a copy of your government issued ID, which we will dispose of after review.
Critics of the policy brought up numerous people for whom pseudonyms are perfectly reasonable and necessary, such as women with abusive exes or stalkers, government employees forbidden from using their real names on social networks, gay teens who are out online but not at home, and so on. (As an aside, wouldn’t the entire online dating industry cease to exist if ‘real name’ policies were standardized?)
The debate has come to be known as the #Nymwars, just in case additional proof of the disgruntled users’ geekery was needed. As it rages, Google has sprinkled fuel on the fire by introducing a “Verified” account system, similar to the one used on Twitter. Some team at Google now has the job of contacting every “Lady Gaga” on the network to find out if one of them is actually her highness Stefani Germanotta.
The move raises new questions: Lady Gaga, after all, is not the name on Ms.Germanotta’s government-issued ID. So why does she get to use her nickname when the rest of us cannot? Because she’s a celebrity, stupid. But since when does Google care about celebrities? And isn’t there something weird about Google demanding to see our ID under any circumstance?
It may not be ‘evil’ per se, but it sure does feel a bit…unGoogly. I have an interview request in with the search giant, who have been remarkably open with and responsive to me in the past. I hope to share their thinking on these policies in an upcoming post.
Update: Google initially granted me an interview on this, and then nixed it without explanation.
By Chris Sorensen - Thursday, July 21, 2011 at 11:08 AM - 13 Comments
A tool that lets users export their Facebook ‘friends’ to a rival service may expose the site’s Achilles heel
Investors eagerly awaiting a chance to get a piece of Facebook, valued as high as US$100 billion, might want to pay attention to the skirmish going on between the company and Google over who actually owns the “friends” of social networking users. Facebook’s lofty valuation is rooted in the idea that users will never abandon the site (as they once did with Friendster and later MySpace) because they don’t want to leave their friends behind. But what if someone makes it easy for them to take their friends with them?
Facebook, with some 700 million users, recently blocked a tool created by a third-party developer for Google’s Chrome browser that was designed to easily export a Facebook user’s friend list (including their all-important email addresses) to a rival social network. The developer assumed that Facebook users’ friends belong to them, not to Facebook. Facebook disagreed. With Google now trying to edge its way into the social networking space with Google+, Facebook explained that “each person owns her friends list, but not her friends’ information. A person has no more right to mass export all of her friends’ private email addresses than she does to mass export all of her friends’ private photo albums.”
What Facebook failed to mention is that it unsuccessfully tried to convince Google to allow its Gmail users to export their contact lists to Facebook last year. Getting other people’s email addresses is a key way Facebook helps to integrate new users into its site, allowing its software to suggest potential friends. Influential tech blogger Michael Arrington pointed out another irony: “Facebook already allows mass exporting of friends’ private email addresses via deals with Microsoft, Yahoo and possibly other partners.” In other words, it’s okay if Facebook does it to make money, but not if you want to switch to a rival network. And, as Arrington notes, that could be perceived as anti-competitive by the U.S. government. Suddenly, Facebook’s reign as social networking’s king looks a lot more vulnerable—as does that $100-billion valuation.
By Aaron Wherry - Thursday, June 30, 2011 at 3:52 PM - 12 Comments
Imagine that, because you’re pressed for time, you take a cab to the library. The cab driver is obliged by law to install a device that will monitor where he takes you. While in the cab, you call your friend to talk about your day. The phone company is obliged to track whom you talk to and for how long. At the library, you speak to a librarian, who jots down your query, because legally he must. He directs you to a specific shelf, and notes that too; each book you open will be recorded as well. Later, you see a film. The theatre notes which one, as it has to….
Most Canadians would be outraged about this situation, unless someone explained to them that all these actions – the visiting, conversing, research, commerce and movie watching – were conducted on the Internet. Substitute search engines for libraries and cabs, and telecommunications companies for the theatre, and lots of people quiet down.
By Chris Sorensen - Friday, May 20, 2011 at 8:05 AM - 0 Comments
Facebook’s attempts to plant nasty news stories about Google shows just how intense the rivalry between the two has become
The overlap between Facebook and Google isn’t immediately obvious—one is a social network, the other a search engine—but Facebook’s recent attempts to plant nasty news stories about Google demonstrates just how intense the rivalry between the two tech giants has become. Facebook was recently forced to admit it secretly hired PR firm Burson-Marsteller to urge journalists to investigate claims that Google had invaded people’s privacy with its new social networking tool, Social Circle, a potential Facebook competitor.
Despite their different business models, both companies rely on online advertising to pay the bills, with Google leading the charge with annual sales of about US$29 billion, compared to an estimated US$1 billion for Facebook. But Facebook is growing fast and, in many cases, is competing for the same bucket of ad dollars. Longer term, there’s speculation Facebook could replace Google as the Web’s gatekeeper, with users turning to their social networks when looking for online information. This may be the first time the fight between the duo has turned dirty, but likely not the last.
By Leah McLaren - Tuesday, May 17, 2011 at 9:50 AM - 5 Comments
Should government or the courts draw the line between free speech and the right to privacy?
No one can whip up a scandal quite like the British press. In a country in which the kiss ’n’ tell splash is both a lucrative and time-honoured tradition, many publications here view it as their right—in some cases raison d’être—to be able to publish the raunchiest details of a celebrity’s sexual indiscretions with impunity.
But the British courts don’t always agree. For several years now, British judges have been granting anonymizing court orders, commonly known as “super-injunctions,” which prevent U.K. media outlets (usually tabloid newspapers) from publishing stories that may be damaging to the parties involved. In some cases, the orders prevent the claimants themselves from being named, and in the most “super” of super-injunctions (a slang—not legal—term), the injunction itself is also banned from public mention. The injunctions cost between $30,000 and $80,000 on average to take out, prompting widespread criticism that they are an option open to only the already rich and famous.
If there is only one thing the British press like less than being scooped, it’s being muzzled. While super-injunctions have long been an irritant to the scandal sheets, they have only lately boiled over into front-page news, after the Wikipedia entries of four protected public figures were rewritten with lurid details inserted. In response, a number of others jumped at the opportunity to speak out against these gag orders, which some see as both hopeless in the digital era, as well as a dangerous infringement on freedom of the press.
By Jesse Brown - Friday, April 22, 2011 at 9:18 AM - 13 Comments
Okay, so Apple has been tracking your whereabouts through your iPhone or iPad without your consent for the past 10 months. So what?
No, really – so what? You don’t need to worry about Apple knowing where you’ve been. As they’ve explained (.pdf), they’re tracking you for your own good! By triangulating your whereabouts through cell phone towers, Apple can vastly narrow down the range of your possible GPS coordinates, making your GPS-reliant apps run much quicker. Feel better yet?
Maybe not. Okay, but consider this- even though your device secretly rats out your location to Apple every 12 hours, this data cannot be linked to you. Apple assigns you a randomly generated number that changes every 24 hours. It’s this number that’s linked to your location history, not your name. So even if law enforcement presented Apple with warrants, demanding the complete history of your whereabouts (as they routinely and successfully do with mobile carriers), Apple would be technically unable to drop a dime on you, even if they wanted to.
So don’t worry about the fact that Apple has your location data. Instead, worry about the fact that you do.
Your iPhone or iPad automatically generates an unencrypted file called “consolidated.db” which contains the last 10 months of your location data with time stamps. Any computer synched to your Apple device also has this file. Anyone who gets their hands on your gear can easily tap into the file and get an exact log of your movements. There’s already a handy app to turn this raw data into a pretty map.
U.S. Senator Al Franken has sent Apple a stern letter (.pdf) demanding answers on this flabbergasting revelation, and you can expect every privacy commissioner in the land to soon do the same. In the meantime, here’s how the nervous among you can delete your consolidated.db files – so long as your iPhone is jailbroken.
By Erica Alini - Monday, November 29, 2010 at 1:40 PM - 9 Comments
Are Canada and the U.S. sacrificing privacy in the name of security?
As stepped-up U.S. airport security has American Thanksgiving travellers boiling over pat-downs and naked-body scanners, Canada is getting ready to open up some more private records for Uncle Sam to look at. Starting next year, U.S. authorities will be able to collect personal information, which may include passport details and flight itineraries, for the roughly five million Canadians who cross U.S. airspace every year travelling to destinations such as Mexico, Latin America and the Caribbean, even if they never touch U.S. soil.
On both sides of the border a new round of government peeking in the name of security is refocusing minds on an old question: do we really need to do this? Increasingly, people north and south of the border are saying no. But the backlash is also raising debate about how we can best protect our borders while also minimizing the impact on privacy rights. Neither Canada nor the U.S.—whose systems are increasingly more closely intertwined—seem close to striking the right balance, experts argue.
By Stephanie Findlay - Thursday, October 7, 2010 at 2:00 PM - 0 Comments
Germans are among the most frequent users of Street View, they reportedly aren’t so comfortable over the possibility of seeing their own houses online
It’s been a rough couple of weeks for Google in Europe. Governments and residents are not thrilled with the company’s Street View service, which allows users to get an up-close-and-personal 360-degree image of any given location, including residential areas. In Guernsey, two of Google’s Street View cars were vandalized. Meanwhile, the Czech Republic shot down Google’s second request to collect data from Czech streets, saying the collection represents a threat to citizens’ privacy. One of the concerns revolves around the cameras, which are posted 2.7 m on top of Google’s cars. The Czech office says the cameras are too tall and allow intrusive photographs to be “taken over the fence.”
There’s similar resistance in Germany. Even though Germans are among the most frequent users of Street View, they reportedly aren’t so comfortable over the possibility of seeing their own houses online. Over 100,000 have already registered to have their homes blurred out on Street View, slated for a full launch in Germany’s 20 biggest cities by the end of the year. Others have until Oct. 15 to apply for their houses to be pixelated unrecognizable.
By macleans.ca - Thursday, October 7, 2010 at 8:00 AM - 0 Comments
Berlusconi strikes again, Justin Bieber as wedding singer, and B.C. investigates the alleged bunny killer
Her future’s so bright
Carrying not one but two glasses of bubbly, Beth Ditto trotted the catwalk for Jean Paul Gauthier at Paris Fashion Week. Ahead of the show, the U.K.’s size-28 singer discussed her weight with a British TV host: “One of the most tiring parts of being fat and being proud of it is you do a lot of proving yourself.”
Or an old-fashioned prorogue
Former Conservative cabinet minister Michael Fortier has a novel idea to eliminate the constant threat of a referendum in Quebec: make the province hold one every 15 years, with no option to hold another in the intervening years. “As a federalist, I’d prefer that we didn’t hold them anymore,” he said. “But I’m a realist.” Unfortunately for Fortier, novel ideas aren’t necessarily good ones. Federalist politicians across the country were quick to pan the proposal. “I’m sure there are better things to schedule every 15 years,” said PMO spokesman Dimitri Soudas, “like a high school reunion.”
Because the camera doesn’t lie
He’s as sharp on TV as he was on the stump, but Eliot Spitzer is still fighting the creep factor in his new role as co-host of the new CNN talk show, Parker Spitzer. “Crossfire meets Moonlighting” is how the New York Times television writer Alessandra Stanley described the show, noting an ill-advised air of flirtatiousness between the former New York governor and fellow host Kathleen Parker, a Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist with conservative leanings. Seated cheek to cheek behind a round table strewn with newspapers, the pair traded smiles and interrupted each other like second-marriage newlyweds, as they chewed over political news of the day with guests. Clearly, we’re supposed to forget the call-girl scandal that chased Spitzer from office. But his tight smile and darting eyes make it hard to suspend disbelief.
By Aaron Wherry - Monday, August 30, 2010 at 1:33 PM - 0 Comments
The policy director of the British Columbia Civil Liberties Association explains why aggregating government data to replace the census would be unfortunate for the basic principle of individual privacy.
The government has said that in addition to the new voluntary National Household Survey, it will rely on existing databases to paint a picture of the Canadian population, but Vonn said that approach is far more worrying than the long-form census.
Citizens’ privacy relies on data in government and private databases existing in silos, she said, but linking them will “create de-facto citizen dossiers that are a privacy Chornobyl waiting to happen.”
On the one hand, the measure outlined here could conceivably lead to a disastrous breakdown—a meltdown, if you will—of citizen privacy whereby a large amount of information is inadvertently released or abused.
By Andrew Coyne - Thursday, July 8, 2010 at 4:06 PM - 0 Comments
In the name of reducing government intrusion in people’s lives, the Conservative government is proposing to abolish the mandatory long-form census (it would become voluntary), a vitally important source of data that only applies to one-fifth of the population, once every five years.
At the very same time, the same Conservative government is proposing to tighten the requirement that every one of Canada’s 7-million or so boaters obtain an operator’s licence and carry it with them every time they get in a boat, on pain of a $250 fine — an utterly needless piece of bureaucratic busywork whose sole defence is that it is ludicrously unenforceable.
Sigh. Could we make up our minds, please? Doctrinaire libertarianism, nanny-state paternalism, whatever. But both at once is just too much to bear.
By Colby Cosh - Tuesday, May 18, 2010 at 6:01 PM - 17 Comments
Behold the compound stupidity that emerges from ill-made privacy law. There was a terrible murder near the entrance of Edmonton’s Hotel Macdonald early Monday; the Edmonton Journal conducted a careful, sensitive investigation into the background of the victim, who had committed a murder himself in 2001. Because the Journal disclosed that the dead man had once been in foster care and that he had been a young offender, the broadsheet couldn’t report his name for fear of inviting reprisals from multiple levels of government. Meanwhile, every other news organ in town was left free to identify him precisely because they didn’t have, or didn’t tell, the full story. The law, in its infinite wisdom, endowed this lucky brute with privacy rights that did not expire with this death. But for whatever it might be worth, those rights did absolutely nothing to shield his identity from anybody.
It would be lovely if governments decided that concealing information about suspicious deaths, or indeed any deaths at all, is horrible public policy. Privacy provisions in Alberta’s child-welfare laws are particularly awful in this respect; they have repeatedly impeded newsgathering on the quality of foster care in this province—an exercise of the free press that could not possibly be more urgent. I would add that various police forces are rapidly embracing the repugnant habit of concealing the identities of corpses discovered in public places “at the request of their families”. This does not appear to be a matter of law at all; it is just improvised self-regulation. The reporter, presented with a blank wall of sentiment, never has any ready means of confirming that a family has made such a request, or, indeed, been consulted or located at all. If we are prepared to accept this obfuscation as a matter of routine, we might just as well give the cops an explicit license to cover up homicide, or, indeed, to commit it.
[UPDATE, 6:46 pm: the Edmonton Sun has withdrawn the name of the victim from its story, which is linked to above. Here's how it reads now; here's a screenshot from 6 am Eastern time today, courtesy of the Google cache. Note here that general knowledge of the name of the victim might actually, I dunno, help the police solve the crime.]
By Barbara Amiel - Thursday, February 11, 2010 at 8:00 AM - 2 Comments
Barbara Amiel can’t imagine why anyone was upset with Joyce Maynard, one-time girlfriend of J.D. Salinger
Last week my editor mused that, in light of the recent death of J.D. Salinger, I might want to write about the “vicious” betrayal of Salinger’s privacy by Joyce Maynard. Maynard was Salinger’s live-in girlfriend for some months in 1972-73 when she was 18 years old and he was 53 (commonly known as an “abusive” relationship unless you are really important like Pierre Trudeau or Salinger, in which case the young woman is the exploiter). That’s how I came to dip into what George Steiner referred to as “the Salinger Industry,” which, incidentally, doesn’t need any stimulus money to keep going, even though he published only one novel and some short stories and then went dead quiet for the last 45 years of his life.
I stuck to a few primary sources: Salinger’s own work, his daughter’s autobiography Dream Catcher, and Maynard’s memoir At Home in the World, which she published in 1998. That’s the book that caused all hell to break loose, because in it she forfeited silence to write about her time with this pathologically private man.
I can’t imagine why anyone was upset with Maynard. I found her account of weirdo life in Cornish, N.H., with Salinger, veggies, and the great search for her simillimum to repair her vaginismus (look them up; I had to) absolutely riveting.