Posts Tagged ‘Privacy’

Latest Issue of LawNow Magazine: Elections and the Law & Privacy Law

November 8th, 2012 Comments off
Featured Articles: Elections and the Law

Free and fair elections are the cornerstones of democracies. This issue of LawNow examines elections law in Canada and around the world.

American and Canadian Election Laws

There are many differences between the U.S. and Canadian election laws. Here are our top 10!

Democracy After Post-Conflict Elections – Are we there yet?

Perhaps our hopes are too high. The reality is that post-conflict elections are often far from satisfactory.

Running for Office: A Candidate’s Journey

From theory to reality: a candidate’s journey through an election is both bruising and rewarding.

Riding the Election Cycle

Elections in Alberta follow a four-year cycle, and there is lots of work to do in between elections.

Electoral Finance Rules at Home and Around the World

There is consensus in Canada and around the world that strict electoral financing rules are necessary for democracy and transparency.


Special Report: Privacy Law

Privacy Law in Canada

There are many challenges to the right to privacy for Canadians: fortunately, we have committed and engaged privacy commissioners to help.

Intrusion on Seclusion: The Tort of Invasion of Privacy

The new tort of Invasion of Privacy has been created in Canadian law, aptly summarized as Intrusion on Seclusion.

Privacy Issues in Criminal Law

Nowhere is protection of personal privacy more important than in the realm of criminal law. The Canadian Charter of Rights contains important safeguards for Canadians facing criminal charges.

The Complexities of Privacy and Social Networking Sites

Facebook users need to know about the privacy challenges that can arise from the use of this popular social media site.



Freedom from bias always your right

First Nations people can now seek equality other Canadians enjoy

Bench Press

Children and Cyber-bullying

What do We Mean by Public Standing?

A Task for Solomon?

Reid This: Police Tactic Oppressive


Human Rights Law

Sexual Harassment is a Continuing Issue in Canada

Family Law

Considering Custody

Law and Literature

Miss Julie’s Revenge, or Men Who Hate Women, Please Meet Lisbeth Salander

Employment Law

The Law of Embellished Credentials

Landlord and Tenant Law

Protecting Your Personal Information When You Rent

Not-for-Profit Law

Questioning Jurisdiction

What Ever Happened to … A Follow-up to Famous Cases

Roncarelli v. Duplessis


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Cameras in court?

March 18th, 2010 Comments off

That’s what BC Attorney-General, Mike de Jong, would like to see.

BC does not allow cameras in their courtrooms at the moment and de Jong says changing this policy would give the people of the province an opportunity to learn about the court process.

Citing what he calls “a growing disconnect between citizens and their justice system,” de Jong is suggesting court proceedings be allowed to be filmed and broadcast on television and the Internet. He says this will give people an opportunity to develop a greater understanding of how the system works.

He told the Globe and Mail,

“There will be times in any proceeding where it will be necessary for protection of a minor, of an informant, a vulnerable witness to restrict media access. That is not an issue,” he said. “But I think it is time to throw the doors open a lot wider than they have been, and say to people, this is your justice system.”

The proposed changes are part of a larger project of justice reform in the province. These reforms are being looked at after an investigation by Victoria’s Times-Colonist which revealed access to public information about cases was being denied.

The announcement has been met with mixed reactions. While some people think this is a great opportunity to open up the court system to the public, others worry that the implementation will end up diminishing access to justice.

Canadian courts are open to the public, and if someone wants to watch the proceedings they are allowed to go to a courthouse and do so. However, many things – including time and space – can limit someone’s ability to attend. Broadcasting would allow people to watch proceedings regardless of their location.

There are concerns, however, about privacy – especially for vulnerable witness and jurors, about how the presence of cameras may effect the behaviour of people within the courtroom, and about what the media will broadcast.

One of the main problems with the idea is the lack of government funding for cameras. Relying on the media to broadcast cases has potential downfalls. From the Globe and Mail article:

Prominent Vancouver criminal lawyer Peter Ritchie, who defended serial killer Robert Pickton, said putting cameras in a criminal courtroom was “a very bad idea.”

He anticipated that the media would come to court with cameras only on high profile cases. “They [the media] are not going to be there on the average Tuesday when Joe Blow is being charged with impaired driving. They are going to be there in high profile cases and will be a distraction to people involved, despite efforts to prevent that,” he said. The temptation to play to the cameras that witnesses, lawyers and judges may face would be “an extraordinary distraction,” Mr. Ritchie said. “You should not be playing to the cameras. You should be dealing with the matters at hand.”

Reactions reported by The Province were mixed.

Vancouver lawyer and journalist Donna Turko, who wrote her University of B.C. master’s thesis on cameras in the courtroom, said she’s “swung back and forth on the issue.”

“It’s going to take a lot of energy and cost to get to the right spot, that it benefits rather than hurts everybody,” Turko said.

The B.C. Civil Liberties Association welcomed de Jong’s ideas.

“It’s very important to increase the opportunities for the public to see the work of the court, and television is clearly the way to reach the people,” said policy director Micheal Vonn.

The Canadian Encyclopedia has a great article on Cameras in the Court with information on the history of cameras in Canadian courtrooms, arguments for and against, and how the Charter figures in to the debate.

What do you think? Would allowing cameras in to courtrooms increase Canadians understanding of the justice system? Or would it lead to sensationalism and make people hesitate to pursue cases? Or would it lead to something in between? Let us know your thoughts in the comments.

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Not all email contacts are friends

February 18th, 2010 Comments off

Google Buzz, a new social networking site, was launched last week. Originally, it was an opt-out service, which meant users of Gmail were automatically signed up and their most frequent email contacts were automatically added as friends. These contacts were automatically granted access to Readers – including any comments – and Picasa photo albums. Furthermore, Buzz revealed the real names of many people using pseudonyms in email contact.

This caused a huge outcry. People were not pleased with having their information exposed to the world. While some people were simply annoyed their contacts found out about the embarrassing blogs they subscribe to, others faced huge risks by having their information exposed.

Many of those outraged were journalists who wanted to protect their sources and contacts. Protecting the confidentiality of sources is an important part of journalism and something journalists in Canada are fighting to protect at the Supreme Court.

Others faced a very real threat to their safety, especially people who are trying to keep their location and other information private from abusive ex-partners. Someone may have their abuser as an email contact, but that does not mean they want to share personal information with them.

These are not small concerns. One of the LRC sites which has seen a large growth in visitors in the past six months is VIOLET: Law & Abused Women. One third of all homicides in Alberta are related to domestic violence and one of the most dangerous times for someone in an abusive relationship is when they leave. Email contact can present a safer way of communicating with an abuser, but not if your information is exposed.

To its credit, Google has responded to the criticisms and taken steps to improve Buzz’s privacy. However, it may be too little, too late. Chief Executive Eric Schmidt may claim “nobody was harmed” by having their contacts, blog subscriptions, and photos made available to the world, but many people disagree.

In the US a class action lawsuit has been launched and a complaint has been made to the Federal Trade Commission.

Here in Canada, Privacy Commissioner Jennifer Stoddart released a statement asking Google to explain how it has addressed privacy concerns since its launch.

“We have seen a storm of protest and outrage over alleged privacy violations and my Office also has questions about how Google Buzz has met the requirements of privacy law in Canada,” Commissioner Stoddart said. She also chastised Google for not consulting with her office before launching Buzz, “My Office has a variety of resources available to help companies build privacy into their products and services. When companies consult with us at the development stage, they can avoid the problems we’ve seen in recent days.”

In my last post on privacy issues and social networking, I wondered if people wanted to protect their privacy on the Internet, or if social networking sites were changing the way people feel about it. Based on the reaction to Google’s recent foray in to social networking, I’d say privacy is something people want – and in some cases need – to protect.

Click here for information on how to disable Google Buzz


How private is your profile?

February 1st, 2010 Comments off

It was a Canadian decision, released by Privacy Commissioner Jennifer Stoddart in July 2009, that made Facebook change its privacy policy, but do Canadians know how – or even want – to keep their profiles private?

When Facebook’s privacy settings changed in December, users were given the option to keep their custom privacy settings or switch to the new defaults (check out Terms of Service Tracker for an excellent breakdown of the changes).  The new default settings, however, are not very secure. Users must customize various settings if they want their profiles to remain private. A recent article in the New York Times explains The 3 Facebook Settings Every User Should Check Now (h/t

That is, of course, only if you want to make your profile private. According to Mark Zuckerberg, one of the founders of Facebook, not everyone does. In an interview with TechCrunch founder Michael Arrington at the recent Crunchie Awards,  Zuckerberg claimed that social norms have changed and people are no longer as concerned with privacy as they once were.

Is this true? And if he feels this way, why has Zuckerberg made his own profile so secure? After the changes were made on December 9, Zuckerberg’s profile was briefly open to everyone. Whether this was on purpose or a result of a lack of understanding of the new default settings remains unclear. On December 11, he wrote on his fan page:

For those wondering, I set most of my content on my personal Facebook page to be open so people could see it. I set some of my content to be more private, but I didn’t see a need to limit visibility of pics with my friends, family or my teddy bear :)

Despite the lack of  “need to limit visibilty of pics”, Zuckerberg quickly changed his settings and his profile remains secure, with only his Wall and Info visible.

So does online privacy matter? Or is it true that are people are becoming less and less concerned? Some bloggers have claimed Zuckerberg is “more right than wrong”, while others have disagreed and raised questions about the motives behind the statements.

Some Facebook users do still care about privacy and were not impressed with the new defaults. On January 27, the Office of the Privacy Commissioner (OPC) launched a new investigation in to Facebook in response to a complaint filed by an individual who claimed “the new default settings would have made his information more readily available than the settings he had previously put in place.”

Facebook had agreed to implement changes to address the concerns raised in the July 2009 report. According to the statement released by the OPC, however

Since then…changes to the site’s privacy information, settings and tools have sparked criticism from users who feel that personal information posted to the site is, in some instances, even more exposed now than before.

Perhaps social norms have not changed as much as Zuckerberg thinks.

What about you? Are you on Facebook? (The LRC is.) How secure are your privacy settings? Did you accept the new default settings? Is it important to keep this information private, or is it unreasonable to expect privacy online?

For more discussion on online privacy, including the implications of reduced privacy, check out this video (transcript) of Cory Doctrow, an author, journalist and technology activist, speaking at the American Library Association’s Office for Intellectual Freedom 2008 Conference.


Here’s the story, of a lovely lady…..who was ‘cuffed at the Olympic Torch Relay

January 28th, 2010 1 comment

Well, it’s almost time for the Olympics, and with that comes all kinds of interesting happenings. As is always the case with big, national events, though, everyone has an opinion. Fortunately for us, we live in a democracy…and one in which numerous rights are protected by a Charter of Rights and Freedoms, no less. So that means we can express all those opinions…right? Well, yes…but…

As is so often the case with legal issues, there is an “it depends” factor. Just as poor Carol and Mike Brady (of the Brady Bunch) had to balance all the opinions and actions of a gaggle of children, so, too, must our society balance competing interests, rights, and laws. If Greg, Marcia, Peter, Jan, Bobby, and Cindy had been permitted to do and say as they pleased, whenever they pleased, the household would have quickly fallen apart.

In the past few months, the Olympic Torch Relay has been winding its way across the country. People line the streets in support; they yell and cheer. People line the streets in protest; they yell and hold up banners. At more than one leg of the Relay, some demonstrators were questioned, some detained, some even charged with an offence. At one leg in particular, a woman who was walking down a sidewalk, yelling (obscenity-free) protest slogans was, stopped, questioned and, when she refused to provide ID, handcuffed. This story raises some questions. Were some (or all) of these demonstrators’ rights being infringed? In our attempts to keep our household from falling apart, are we striking the correct balance?

Read more…


Legislating Sexualities in Alberta

January 25th, 2010 Comments off

Updated: Note the new location, FAB 220

The Political Science Graduate Association and the Faculty of Arts at the University of Alberta are presenting the panel Legislating Sexualities in Alberta.  It will be held from 12-2pm on Friday, February 5, 2010 in FAB 220, University of Alberta North Campus. More information can be found on the facebook page:

This panel will bring together a number of interested and informed actors to discuss the implications of the Alberta government’s actions and attitudes pertaining to sexual minorities. The motivations, repercussions and significance of the Adult Interdependent Relationships Act (AIRA), Bill 44, the de-listing of gender reassignment surgery, and the eventual declaration of pride in Edmonton will be considered.


Lucas Crawford (English & Film Studies)                          Dr. André P. Grace (Education)
Dr. Lois Harder (Political Science)                                     Dr. Cressida Heyes (Philosophy)
Rachel Notley (MLA for Edmonton-Strathcona)                 Michael Phair (Education)

Like it or not, the law has major consequences and affects on our identities and relationships. I’m looking forward to hearing this panel discuss what these consequences and affects are for sexual minorities in Alberta.

Bill 44 amended the Human Rights, Citizenship and Multiculturalism Act (HRCMA), in part by changing its name to the Alberta Human Rights Act (AHRA), and generated controversy because of its enshrinement of parental rights and its use of the Human Rights Commission to enforce them.  For a deeper understanding of the bill and its ramifications, read this post by Linda McKay Panos.

I hope there is some discussion of citizen engagement in response to the bill and how social media fueled and facilitated the debate. A letter writing campaign was launched and rallies were held in opposition, Facebook groups were started on both sides of the debate and there was much discussion on Twitter – to the point where the hashtag #bill44 trended (was one of the most mentioned terms or hashtags on the site) during the final debate of the bill.

What gained less attention was the reason the legislation was being reviewed. In the 1998 the ruling on the Vriend case, the Supreme Court of Canada read sexual orientation in to the AHRA (then the HRCMA). Due to the common law tradition, the law itself changed as soon as the ruling was handed down. Legislatures usually amend the written law to reflect such changes soon after such a ruling, but in this case, Alberta’s legislature took ten years to respond. I’m curious about the length of time governments have to change written legislation after an SCC decision.

The de-listing of gender reassignment surgery (GRS, also known as Sexual Reassignment Surgery, SRS) for transgendered Albertans raises questions about who we deem worthy of medical treatment and how marginalized minority groups are treated in Alberta. It also raises questions about how people are defined under the law. Our society is heavily invested in the idea of a gender binary and our laws and bureaucratic processes reflect that. Transgendered people in Alberta, and in most places, must identify themselves as male or female on government documents (India legally recognizes the hijra as a third gender, but even this is problematic, in part because it groups all non-conforming gender expression in to an ‘other’ category). Not conforming with one’s legally designated gender can have many legal consequences (US websites) going beyond discrimination.

Ontario was forced to re-list GRS after the Ontario Human Rights Commission found gender identity disorder was a disability protected by human rights legislation. This raises questions of how we classify difference; it would be better to see trans people protected in terms of identity than in terms of disability. Complaints have been filed in Alberta claiming the de-listing of GRS is in violation of the AHRA.  I am hopeful the precedent set in Ontario will be followed, these challenges will be won and funding for GRS will be reinstated.

I’m also very interested in learning more about the Adult Interdependent Relationships Act. Though it can be argued this legislation was created to prevent same-sex couples from marrying, it is progressive in terms of its recognition of legal rights for people in alternative households. Although it does not provide all of the legal benefits of marriage, it is a law that acknowledges people have ways of supporting each other and living together outside of the nuclear family structure. The AIRA is a fairly new law and some of its language is ambiguous. I’d like to know what kind of cases, if any, have come before the courts to test this law.

Though it’s been over 40 years since Trudeau declared the state has no place in the bedrooms of the nation, the law continues to affect our relationships and our identities. I’m looking forward to learning more about how it does so and what the consequences – intended and not – are.

Legislating Sexualities in Alberta will be held from 12-2pm on Friday, February 5, 2010 at the University of Alberta in Dentistry/Pharmacy 2104, University of Alberta North Campus.

If you can’t wait to think about how the law effects and interacts with our identities, relationships and life chances, check out this lecture from Dean Spade entitled Trans Politics Beyond Law and Order. Spade recently spoke at UofA as part of iSMSS’s Inside/OUT Speakers Series and was recorded by CJSR‘s GayWire.  Dean Spade is an Assistant Professor of Law at the University of Seattle Faculty of Law and founder of the Sylvia Rivera Law Project, which “works to guarantee that all people are free to self-determine gender identity and expression, regardless of income or race, and without facing harassment, discrimination or violence.”


Canada changes Facebook

September 10th, 2009 Comments off

Canada has made international legal history with a recent decision by the Canadian Commissioner for Privacy.  Jennifer Stoddart investigated a complaint filed with the Commission by the Canadian Internet Policy and Public Interest Clinic,  (CIPPIC) which outlined 12 privacy problem areas on Facebook.  Facebook Inc co-operated fully with her investigation and the result is an adjudication released on August 27, 2009.   (

Her case summary lists four areas in need of remediation: default privacy settings; disclosure of users’ personal information to 3rd party application developers; collection and use of personal information for advertising purposes; and the collection and use of non-users’ personal information. A major area of concern was the indefinite retention of information, even after accounts were closed. The Commissioner and Facebook have agreed that the company will have one year to address and fix these problems, and that the solutions will apply to the entire international Facebook community of over 200 million users and not just in Canada.

Michael Geist, a Professor with the Faculty of Law at the University of Ottawa, and one of Canada’s foremost experts on privacy law calls the settlement “remarkable” and a “major success for Canadian Privacy.  On his website, he recommends reading the Commissioner’s letter to CIPPIC for the best summary of the Commissioner’s findings.

The letter is at

UPDATE: Michel Giest has written further about the case in his column at