Tell your candidates to take a stand for a free and open Internet

INDEPENDENT MEDIA by David Christopher

David Christopher
David Christopher

“It’s the economy, stupid!” That well-known political aphorism was first coined over 20 years ago by James Carville, a senior advisor to Bill Clinton.

The saying may be decades old, but it’s still applicable to our current federal election. “Who can save the economy?” blares a Maclean’s headline. “The economy is the most critical ballot-box issue facing Canadian voters,” intones the Globe and Mail, organizer of the recent leaders’ debate on – you guessed it – the economy.

Voters seem to agree. Users of CBC’s popular Vote Compass tool prioritized “the economy” far above other issues.Yet very little attention is being paid to the critical role our digital infrastructure plays in growing our wider economy. Ten years of failed government policies have left Canadians with a national digital deficit and a stark digital divide. And Canadians are paying the price; 44% of our lowest income households have no Internet access and over 30% don’t have a mobile phone.

Our sky-high Internet and wireless prices are a serious annoyance for middle-and high-income Canadians, but for low-income Canadians, they make Internet access literally unaffordable, sidelining millions of people from our digital future.

This government’s track record has left Canada falling behind. Their eagerly awaited Digital Canada 150 strategy, which was supposed to present a strong vision for the Internet, was a serious letdown. The strategy delayed the rollout of even 5 Mbps broadband across Canada for another four years, pushing the target to 2019, instead of 2015. Even by 2019, the government has only promised 98% coverage, leaving 700,000 Canadians behind.

It’s clear Canadians are feeling frustrated. OpenMedia community member Nic De Groot summed it up perfectly, “Canada: providing third world Internet service at first world price since the Internet began. It is tradition.”

It’s no wonder leading innovators and entrepreneurs are speaking out and calling for real action to fix our broken telecom market. These business people are at the leading edge of Canada’s digital economy and know first-hand the economic costs of government failures. Compounding these concerns is the government’s irresponsible approach to online privacy. Scandals about the activities of Canada’s spy agency (CSE) have undermined international confidence in our digital security. And the recent passage of Bill C-51 has many Canadian business leaders – including the heads of Slack, Hootsuite, and Shopify – warning how the legislation will “change Canada’s business climate for the worse.”

We need ambition. We need investment. We need privacy safeguards. And we need Canadians’ priorities to be taken seriously. That’s why OpenMedia recently launched a crowdsourced pro-Internet action plan – see https://ourdigitalfuture.ca/platform – that aims to ensure, quite simply, that every Canadian has affordable access to world-class, surveillance-free Internet.

The election is on October 19 and it’s never been more important for Canadians to speak up and demand politicians listen when it comes to our digital economy. Please visit ourdigitalfuture.ca/candidates and use our tool to message your local candidates and tell them to take a stand for a free and open Internet.

This election will shape our digital future for the coming decades. We don’t have a moment to lose.

David Christopher is communications manager for OpenMedia, a community-based group that works to safeguard the possibilities of the open Internet. OpenMedia.org

Vote for Canada’s digital future

Vote for Canada’s digital future
PIn the 2015 election, join OpenMedia’s pledge drive
and help shape positive change

 

INDEPENDENT MEDIA by Laura Tribe

portrait of Laura Tribe

• This election, Canadians can’t afford to be caught up in the soundbites, quibbles and petty pandering our politicians are increasingly levelling at each other – Trudeau’s hair? Mulcair’s smile? Harper’s suit?

There’s a much bigger issue up for debate: what do we want our country to look like five or 10 years from now?

This election, Canadians need to focus on what really matters: what the next leader of this country is going to do to build a Canada that represents all Canadians and help us return to our place as a leader in communications and technological innovation.

We live in the digital information age, but our policies, practices and infrastructure are not keeping up. Yes, many of us are more connected than ever, but it is at the expense of both our finances and our privacy rights.

Our digital economy is under threat. Over 150 businesses have said the undermining of digital security and privacy will negatively impact their ability to do business in Canada. Many others have called for action to fix our broken telecom market. Do we really want to drive our local businesses out of town by failing to provide the digital infrastructure, security and privacy safeguards they require to operate in a global market?

Sadly, that will be the reality if we carry on with the current government’s failed policies. To take one example, the government has been promising for years to lower cell phone prices. They even launched a flashy website on the taxpayer’s dime to trumpet this policy.

But the end result was failure: the government’s official Wall Report recently concluded we’re still moving in the wrong direction. With cell phone costs increasing at over three times the rate of inflation, Canadians are still paying among the highest prices in the industrialized world.

Elections can be petty, tedious and exhausting. But they can also be exciting. This is our chance to discuss the big issues – the changes we want to see in Canada. We don’t have to be caught up in the petty minutiae of politics. Instead, we can take a step back and dream about what we really want our future to look like and see which politicians are really listening.

Put simply, this election represents our best chance to shape Canada’s digital future. It’s our chance to lower cell phone prices, repeal Bill C-51, reject Internet censorship and deliver affordable world-class Internet service for all Canadians.

This election, take some time to think about what you want your Canada to look like.

OpenMedia is currently hosting a pledge drive to encourage Canadians to vote for Canada’s Digital Future this election. We have listened to hundreds of thousands of Canadians and turned your crowdsourced recommendations into positive action plans to safeguard our privacy, encourage affordable access to Internet services and protect our free expression.

But beyond these policies and detailed recommendations, I’d like to encourage you to take some time to step aside from the partisan politics and the Canada we live in now and imagine the digital future you envision for Canada. And also imagine how we can make this happen.

This election, I’m going to be voting for Canada’s Digital Future. Will you join me?

You can learn more and add your voice at OurDigitalFuture.ca

Laura Tribe is Digital Rights Specialist for OpenMedia, a community-based organization that safeguards the possibilities of the open Internet. OpenMedia.org

Erasing internet links

Process should be fair, transparent and independent

INDEPENDENT MEDIA by David Christopher

Author David Christopher• You don’t have to look far these days to discover new threats to the free and open Internet we all rely on. Recently, OpenMedia has helped fight off a costly new ‘Link Tax,’ mobilized supporters against a reckless spying law and ran high-impact bus ads against the Trans-Pacific Partnership’s Internet censorship plan.

Over the past year, however, a new threat has arisen from an unusual source. In May 2014, the European Court of Justice (ECJ) ruled that Mario Costeja González had the right to have links to a 1998 Spanish newspaper article about him removed from search engines. This type of right has become known as the “right to be forgotten.”

This ruling set a precedent that, in the EU, means any citizen can now request to have links to articles about them removed from search engines. This may sound like a fairly non-threatening development, but it’s one that could drastically change how people share, communicate and access information online.

Let’s look a little closer at why this European approach is so problematic.

Firstly, the “right to be forgotten’ in and of itself is not a bad thing. It simply amounts to the right to withdraw consent, which is at the core of most data protection regimes. For example, I have the right to withdraw my consent for Facebook to display my profile image. However, when it comes to removing links to information that is publicly available about me, things get a lot more complex. What if I were a politician or businessman seeking to cover up unsavoury stories about my past? Should I really be allowed to censor the Internet by forcing Google to remove any links to my previous nefarious activities?

Secondly, the European approach places all the onus on intermediaries like Google and Facebook to censor content by removing links. This is putting the cart before the horse; interfering in the technology that makes the web work is not the answer. Let’s say a website publishes an article falsely accusing you of being a thief. In such a case, the onus should be on the website to remove it, not on search engines that merely link to it.

Thirdly, the European model allows for no independent judicial involvement. Getting links censored is as simple as filling out a webform on Google’s website. Again, this means web companies getting involved in monitoring and interfering in the free flow of information online.

To get an idea of the potential dangers, we need look no further than Russia where the authoritarian government has just passed its own version of the “right to be forgotten.” Under Russia’s new law, links can be removed simply for linking to “unverified information.” The law even allows politicians and oligarchs to request the removal of vast swathes of negative information about their activities.

There should be a transparent, independent, judicial process that individuals can avail themselves of when they wish to have content about them removed from the Internet and the onus to remove such content should be placed on the host, not on intermediaries like Google or Facebook.

Do you think companies, politicians and others should be able censor web content without a judicial process? Let us know in the comments! And learn more about our growing international campaign to Save The Link at https://savethelink.org/?src=blg

David Christopher is Communications Manager with OpenMedia, a community-based organization that safeguards the possibilities of the open Internet. OpenMedia.org

Push needed for wireless reform

INDEPENDENT MEDIA

by David Christopher

Author David Christopher
David Christopher

• Canadians pay some of the highest prices for cell phone service in the industrialized world.

Confirmation of this recently arrived in the form of the 2015 Wall Report, an official price comparison analysis jointly commissioned by the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) and Industry Canada.

The report was bad news all-round for long suffering Canadian telecom users. Key findings include:

1. Wireless prices are increasing across the board, with the cost of a standard 1GB monthly cell phone plan increasing by 7%, over three times the rate of inflation, which is 2.3%.

2. New entrants, like Wind Mobile, are offering rates up to 50% cheaper than the Big Three incumbents (Bell, Rogers, Telus). Sadly, however, the Big Three is still blocking Canadians from accessing these more affordable alternatives.

3. For moderate-to-high usage plans, average Canadian prices remain amongst the most expensive of the countries surveyed, placing Canada at the back of the pack.

4. Broadband prices, especially for speeds over 15 Mbps, “are at the high end of the group of surveyed countries” with a standard 16-40 Mbps service costing a whopping 64% more in Canada than in the UK.

Canada is going backwards when it comes to getting a grip on spiralling telecom prices. These sky-high prices are not only unacceptable, but top business leaders have warned they are holding back our entire economy.

From Stephen Harper on down, the government has staked its reputation on reducing cell phone prices. Although Industry Minister James Moore has taken some positive steps forward, they have clearly been nowhere near enough to ensure Canadians finally get the lower prices and greater choice they deserve.

In previous years, the government went out of its way to herald the Wall Report, issuing press releases and cherry-picking statistics in an attempt to paint the numbers in the best possible light.

This year, the report was so unequivocally bad it looks like the government did its best to bury the news. Not a single release was issued and the government’s communications strategy consisted entirely of a single tweet from the CRTC.

Of course, our OpenMedia team swung into action when the report was released, issuing a hard-hitting media release and reaching out to key journalists to alert them to the news. Incredibly, we heard from a number of top telecom journalists that the first they’d heard of the report was from our release, meaning the government failed to take even the most basic steps to publicize a report that, after all, costs a substantial amount of taxpayer dollars to produce.

Thankfully, the government was unable to completely bury the story – the report received solid coverage on CBC News and other outlets – and Canadians are now aware of just how badly the government’s policies have failed.

It’s clear the government’s piecemeal approach to wireless reform is simply not working. We need a much more ambitious approach to dismantle Big Telecom’s monopoly and create a level playing field for desperately needed independent providers.

With an election just around the corner, now is a great time for everyone to speak out and call for change.

Growing numbers of Canadians have had enough of paying ridiculous rates for a basic everyday service and are speaking out at unblockcanada.ca

David Christopher is Communications Manager for OpenMedia OpenMedia.org

Internet future on the line

INDEPENDENT MEDIA by Meghan Sali

The Internet has revolutionized the way we interact with the world around us. It enables us to transcend our physical restrictions and travel the world and we can access and ingest research, art, culture and knowledge that, in the past, would have been stored in libraries and other physical archives, inaccessible to many.

MeghanDue to its interconnected nature, the Internet also allows us to contextualize all of these bits of knowledge in relation to each other; it is the only human invention with the capacity to store unfathomable volumes of data and the ability to call up any individual piece and look at it next to another in a fraction of a second.

But lobbyists for old media conglomerates have a plan to restrict where we travel online, by censoring links across the Internet. The new regulations envisioned by their scheme would restrict our right to link to content and services of our choosing. If these new censorship powers are put into place, it will fundamentally change the way we use the Web.

We’re barrelling toward a key moment. The results of the series of votes on copyright policy initiated at the end of May by legislators in the European Parliament have the potential to usher in new link censorship schemes that will affect Internet users not just in Europe, but right across the globe.

Julia Reda MEP was assigned by the EU Parliament to produce a report on the issue of copyright reform for the modern age and she has put forward a positive roadmap to foster a more connected future. Sadly, other MEPs with backing from old media lobbyists have proposed amendments that contain dangerous link censorship powers.

Reda’s report will soon be voted on by the entire Parliament and we’ll have a chance to defeat these backwards proposals and send a message to those advancing them: hands off our Internet!

Reda’s proposal basically calls for the EU to support the right to link, noting that linking is a “fundamental building block of the Internet.” Yet extreme amendments from pro-censorship MEPs have turned Reda’s initiative on its head by mandating that websites monitor user activity, filter content and even verify and “moderate” free expression. What’s worse, these proposals envision new restrictions on our right to link as a way for old media publishers to protect their outdated business model.

With these link censorship rules in place, websites, blogs and online services would need to spy on their readers, unilaterally assess the legality of expression and censor content, all at the behest of some of today’s legacy media giants. This runs completely counter to free expression and access to knowledge.

And because the Internet we know and love is interconnected – an ecosystem – the actions taken in one corner of the net can’t help but affect what happens elsewhere. You might not live in Europe, but some of your favourite websites and services do. And when those services are affected by these backwards proposals, you will be too.

That’s why it’s so important that digital rights activists stand up for the principles that govern the Internet as a whole and not just when the debate is happening in their backyard.

With the revolutionary technology we have on offer, the whole Internet is your backyard. And unless you want that to change, we’re going to have to speak out now to Save the Link. Find out more at www.savethelink.net

Meghan Sali is OpenMedia’s lead campaigner on free expression issues.OpenMedia.org

 

Feds ready to ram through Bill C-51

Independent Media

by David Christopher

Author David Christopher

Over 200,000 Canadians have united to Reject Fear and Stop Bill C-51, but will the government listen?

It’s rare in Canadian politics to see intense public interest in government legislative proposals, let alone to see Canadians take to the streets in the tens of thousands to protest a piece of legislation by name.

Yet that’s exactly what has happened in the case of Bill C-51, which critics, including the Globe and Mail’s editorial team, say will undermine basic democratic values and lead to the creation of a “secret police force” in Canada.

In the space of a few short months since Bill C-51 was announced, hundreds of thousands of people have taken action to stop it: signing petitions, writing letters to local newspapers, phoning and writing their Member of Parliament and hitting the streets in nationwide demonstrations in over 70 communities across Canada.

It’s not hard to see why so many people are concerned. Canada’s top privacy and security experts warn this legislation will undermine democratic rights Canadians have enjoyed for generations. For example, according to professors Craig Forcese and Kent Roach, who have conducted a detailed legal analysis of the legislation, Bill C-51 will:

1) Undermine Canadians’ privacy by allowing widespread information disclosures among government agencies and by giving the Canadian Security and Intelligence Service (CSIS) access to personal information held by up to 17 government departments. Even Stephen Harper has admitted these kind of dragnet surveillance measures are ineffective.

2) Chill free speech online by criminalizing what is loosely defined as the promotion of “terrorism offences in general,” showing “reckless disregard” for whether a particular post may encourage a violent act. As Forcese and Roach point out in their testimony to the Senate Standing Committee on National Security and Defence, “The new speech crime in our view violates freedom of expression because it reaches well beyond the sort of speech that threatens actual violence.”

3) Dramatically expand the powers of CSIS, without any commensurate increase in oversight or review measures. The legislation even allows CSIS to obtain a warrant permitting them to break the law and contravene the Charter Rights of Canadians. Under C-51, such warrants would be granted in a secret hearing, with no representation from the target of such measures and with no right of appeal.

So it’s no surprise that Canadians are worried. What is unprecedented, however, is the sheer number of Canadians taking part in the campaign to stop the bill. My organization, OpenMedia, has been campaigning on privacy issues for years, but in all our time, we’ve never seen a public outpouring quite like this.

Our joint efforts are clearly having an impact: public opinion has swung dramatically against Bill C-51 since it was announced and support has plummeted, with a recent Forum Research poll finding that 56 percent of Canadians now oppose Bill C-51, with just 33 percent in favour. The business community, civic society groups and principled conservatives have all spoken out.

Sadly, there’s no sign that the government is listening. At the time of writing [end of April], the government seems determined to use its majority to ram the legislation through the Commons in the coming weeks.

Even more worrying is that this reckless, dangerous and ineffective legislation will further undermine Canadians’ privacy rights – rights that have already been seriously damaged by the government’s Bill C-13 passed late last year and by the government’s failure to address the mass surveillance activities of its CSE intelligence agency.

This government has left Canadians with a stark privacy deficit and we will all need to work together to address it. We need a coordinated plan to roll back mass surveillance and restore our traditional privacy and democratic rights.

You can learn more about how we plan to do so by joining the Protect our Privacy coalition at OurPrivacy.ca

David Christopher is communications manager with OpenMedia, a community-based organization that works to safeguard the possibilities of the open Internet. OpenMedia.org

Copyright trolls could be on their way

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INDEPENDENT MEDIA

by Meghan Sali and Steve Anderson

portrait of Meghan Sali
Meghan Sali

• Canada’s system of copyright enforcement is internationally recognized as a next-generation approach – striking a balance between the rights of artists and creators and those of Internet users. Our system is designed to protect people from false claims of infringement and needless takedowns of legitimate online speech.

We have cause to be proud of this made-in-Canada solution that was won after a lengthy consultation and which only came fully into force this past January. The system is known as “notice-and-notice” and obliges an Internet Service Provider (ISP) to deliver notices alleging copyright infringement to its customers.

Compared with the US’ system, the advantages of the Canadian approach are clear. In the US’ “notice-and-takedown” system, content is removed by the host when a notice is received and, in most cases, before any decision is made by any court.

Unfortunately, when copyright law is misused, it can have such chilling effects on free speech that it acts as a form of censorship. Under copyright regimes that allow for takedown provisions, examples of this are increasing.The law is already being abused by big US media firms, which are sending huge volumes of notices to Canadians through their ISPs. In many cases, these notices contain information that misrepresents Canadian law, such as demanding settlements or threatening disconnection from the Internet – all on the basis of alleged infringement associated with an IP address, not a person.

Canadians have been calling on Industry Minister James Moore to fix the rules and implement a template system for notices to standardize the process. Minister Moore should also ensure Canadians receive accurate information about the possible legal ramifications of the notice, in the context of our domestic laws.

Steve Anderson
Steve Anderson

But what does all this have to do with Canada’s Digital Privacy Act, Bill S-4? This Bill aims to amend Canada’s privacy laws and implement much needed regulations around security breach disclosure requirements.

On the whole, the Bill has been welcomed by experts, except for one glaring flaw: the Bill expands the voluntary warrantless disclosures of personal information – not to law enforcement agencies, but rather to other private companies, and without the consent or even the knowledge of the person whose private information is being shared.

Under S-4, these voluntary disclosures are allowed where there is an investigation into a contract breach or alleged legal violation. While this may appear reasonable, it is a massively broad scope. Consider the dozens of contracts an individual signs every year without even reading them –especially the Terms of Service agreements.

Most grievously, S-4 would render the Canadian notice-and-notice system impotent, as ISPs would be empowered, with legal immunity, to disclose personal information about their customers to copyright trolls, without the customer’s knowledge or consent.

The new system is already being exploited by US media firms; any extension of powers for ISPs to voluntarily make warrantless disclosures of private information would expose Canadians to great risk and undermine our domestic, democratic process.

Canadians are calling for James Moore to take action on this at https://openmedia.org/shakedown

Meghan Sali is Campaigns Coordinator for Free Expression with OpenMedia.org. Steve Anderson is the executive director. 

How small towns are driving Canada’s digital future

INDEPENDENT MEDIA

portrait of Cynthia Khoo
Cynthia Khoo

by Cynthia Khoo and Steve Anderson

“If you want it done right, you have to do it yourself” and when it comes to Internet access, communities across Canada are doing just that. Through municipal broadband networks operated by local governments, public utilities, cooperatives, non-profits and public-private partnerships, Canadian cities and towns are galvanizing Canada’s otherwise lacklustre digital policy, as compared to the US.

For example, in January, President Obama delivered a landmark speech supporting municipal broadband in Cedar Falls, Iowa, known for its ultra-fast 1 Gbps (1000 Mbps) network. The U.S. Federal Communications Commission then redefined “broadband” to mean minimum 25 Mbps, a forward-looking national standard demonstrating awareness of citizens’ digital-era needs. Meanwhile, New York State is investing $500 million to provide 100 Mbps Internet by 2019.

Canada’s last national volley in digital strategy was Digital Canada 150, which had the less ambitious aim of connecting 98% of Canadians with 5 Mbps Internet by 2017.

Steve Anderson
Steve Anderson

Yes, the federal government’s aspirations for Canada’s digital future max out at one-fifth the US’ legal minimum. Canada’s bottom-third OECD ranking for Internet speeds (Ookla Net Index, 2015) only adds to the dismay.

However, pioneering Canadian municipalities have sensed which way the data is blowing and launched themselves leeward:

Olds, Alberta created O-Net, a municipal Internet utility that revitalized Olds’ economy and revolutionized education at Olds College, offering 1 Gbps Internet that is symmetrical – upload and download speed – and unlimited (no data caps).

Stratford, Ontario’s municipal data utility serves seven rural communities. Rhyzome Networks established Stratford’s reputation as a technological innovation hub, inspired the University of Waterloo Stratford Campus and invigorated rural medical care.

QNet in Coquitlam, BC leases excess fibre capacity, resulting in local residents accessing unlimited 10 Mbps Internet for just $20/month.

Fredericton and Moncton, New Brunswick boast free citywide, municipal wifi.

Megabit for megabit, these cities and communities are punching above their weight, demonstrating how municipal broadband is rooted in sound policy and can spark significant benefits.

The first rewards to ensue are increased cost-effectiveness, efficiency, economies of scale, revenue and savings, with other municipal departments being able to use the enhanced connection to improve their own services. QNet, for instance, has saved Coquitlam approximately $360,000 annually.

Municipal broadband also stimulates the local economy by attracting and retaining small businesses and creating employment, such as 700 new jobs in Stratford. Furthermore, generated value remains within the community instead of flowing out toward distant offices.

Fundamentally, community networks promote universal access, particularly in low-income or rural areas that private providers underserve. Municipalities taking up the slack recognize that Internet access is an essential service and should not be left to private enterprise alone.

We know that private providers lack accountability to citizens: Telus blocked its own union’s website during a 2005 strike and Bell Mobility charged northern subscribers fees for a fictional 911 service. With municipal broadband, addressing public interest concerns is the very point and accountability is built in.

There are challenges, of course. Opponents argue that municipal broadband burdens taxpayers, constitutes unfair competition, disrupts market efficiency and imposes complex systems and technological responsiveness that municipalities cannot handle. However, incumbent carriers – historically heavily subsidized – sorely need such competition and municipalities hold demonstrable track records managing roads, sewage and other critical services with complex infrastructure, none of which are privatized in view of the public interest.

As a form of local activism, it may be no coincidence that small cities and rural towns are leading this charge. Municipal broadband has become a meaningful site of civic engagement uniting sundry parties. As O-Net’s Nathan Kusiek told CKFM, “[W]e’ve had interest from communities probably on a weekly basis asking us how we’ve done this…”

Perhaps Industry Canada could give them a call as well.

Cynthia Khoo is digital policy and research fellow with OpenMedia, a community based organization that safeguards the open Internet. Steve Anderson is the executive director of OpenMedia. A version of this piece was published in the March edition of The Monitor, the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives’ (CCPA) monthly magazine.

Pro-privacy legislation a priority

David Christopher
David Christopher

INDEPENDENT MEDIA by David Christopher

Six months ago, we argued that Canadians faced a stark privacy deficit – a perfect storm of spy agency surveillance, privacy-undermining legislation and lax privacy safeguards at government departments, sparking concern from citizens right across the political spectrum.

Sadly, the situation has further deteriorated. The government’s surveillance Bill C-13 became law. The Supreme Court ruled that police don’t require a warrant to search the cell phones of people they arrest. The private tax information of hundreds of Canadians was leaked to the CBC. And the government is building a powerful new system to collect and analyze what Canadians are saying on Facebook.

These developments have prompted debate about what it will take to truly safeguard Canadians’ privacy in a digital age. Our organization has spent the past few months crowdsourcing ideas from Canadians and it’s clear a great deal can be done to tackle our privacy deficit:

1. Stronger warrant requirements: Government authorities have long been expected to obtain a search warrant to access citizens’ sensitive, personal information. Recent developments have undermined this safeguard, including lower warrant thresholds in Bill C-13, the Supreme Court’s recent cell phone privacy ruling and the government’s Bill C-44, which makes Canadians living overseas vulnerable to surveillance.

Steve Anderson
Steve Anderson

Future privacy legislation should require a warrant for government authorities to monitor the personal information of Canadians at home or overseas. This common sense step would significantly strengthen privacy protection for all Canadians.

2. End the mass collection of metadata: Thanks to Edward Snowden, we’ve learned the “Five Eyes” spy alliance, of which Canada’s CSEC is a key part, collects deeply revealing communications metadata on a mass scale. To safeguard privacy, we need legislation to prevent agencies like CSEC obtaining Canadians’ metadata without a warrant or court order. (https://openmedia.ca/csecandyou)

3. Oversight and review of spy agencies: The Snowden revelations have also focused attention on the lack of effective oversight to hold spy agencies accountable to Parliament. Liberal MP Joyce Murray and Conservative Senator Hugh Segal have each proposed stronger powers of oversight and review over CSEC’s activities. These steps would bring Canada into line with its global counterparts and should form part of any future pro-privacy legislation.

4. Tightening voluntary disclosure rules: There has been a lot of concern about telecom providers ‘voluntarily’ disclosing personal information about their customers to governments and other entities. In a landmark win for privacy, the Supreme Court ruled last June that government agents need a warrant to obtain this information. However, the government’s Bill S-4 could see Canadians’ personal information disclosed without any oversight, to third parties, including US copyright trolls. This loophole must be closed.

5. Accountability for privacy breaches: Privacy breaches at government departments have become worryingly commonplace, affecting over 725,000 Canadians, including high-profile figures like Margaret Atwood and Jean Chretien. New safeguards should require government agents at all levels to document all activities, decisions and processes that could impact the privacy of Canadians.

These proposals should form the core ingredients of any future legislation that purports to safeguard the digital privacy of Canadians. This is a practical agenda, but given the power of entrenched security bureaucracies, it will require significant political will to implement.

That said, it’s an election year and decision-makers in all parties have a clear incentive to take a pro-privacy stance. Voters should be wary of politicians who “talk the talk” on privacy without committing to the concrete steps detailed above.

We’ll continue to work alongside the large, non-partisan Protect our Privacy Coalition to ensure Canadians have the strong privacy safeguards they deserve.

Learn more at http://ourprivacy.ca

Steve Anderson is the executive director of OpenMedia.ca, a community-based organization that safeguards the possibilities of the open Internet. David Christopher is the communications manager at OpenMedia.ca. A version of this piece originally appeared in the CCPA Monitor. www.policyalternatives.ca/monitor/index.php

2015 a pivotal year for Internet freedom

INDEPENDENT MEDIA by David Christopher

We're sorry the content you requested cannot be viewed in your area.
From Our Digital Future: a crowdsourced agenda for free expression (https://openmedia.org/digitalfuture).

• One of the most challenging things about working for an Internet freedom organization like OpenMedia is 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.

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 have 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.

We’re also rallying supporters across the US, Canada and the globe in the ongoing US net neutrality debate about whether to force websites into an Internet slow lane if they cannot afford to pay expensive new fees. Canadians are sure to be affected by the outcome of this debate – you may not live in the US, but many of your favourite websites do and the ruling could set a worrying precedent for the CRTC, which is considering similar issues up here.

Safeguarding Canadians’ privacy

2014 was the year when the extent of Canada’s privacy deficit became clear. A combination of reckless spy agency surveillance, anti-privacy legislation and lax privacy safeguards at government departments has brought home the size of the task ahead if we’re to safeguard our digital privacy.

Given this government’s terrible track record, things were going to keep getting worse unless we pushed back. So we recently reached out to Canadians to ask what their priorities are when it comes to privacy. We’ll be pulling their feedback together into a set of crowdsourced pro-privacy recommendations that we’ll publish early this year. And with a massive Privacy Coalition behind us, we can make clear exactly where Canadians stand.

Free expression

2015 is also shaping up to be a crucial year for freedom of expression. Talks on the secretive Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) are intensifying, with US President Obama pushing for a deal as soon as possible. The TPP has sparked huge concern from free expression advocates – we know from leaked drafts that it contains an extreme Internet censorship plan that’s been described as a wishlist for Hollywood lobbyists. It could result in entire families getting kicked off the Internet, merely for being accused of copyright infringement. It gets worse: Internet providers could even be forced to remove entire websites from the Internet.

We’re pushing back with a Free Expression plan crowdsourced from over 300,000 people across the world that calls for sensible, balanced rules to promote sharing and collaboration online. (https://openmedia.org/digitalfuture)

It’s going be quite a year

All in all, the stakes for Internet freedom in 2015 could not be higher. Unless we push back, the Internet we know could become far more expensive, censored and policed. At the end of the day, it boils down to what kind of web we want. Do we want an Internet that works for everyday citizens or one dominated by powerful bureaucracies, be they spy agencies, giant telecom conglomerates or powerful Hollywood lobbyists?

If we want a free and open Internet that works for all of us, we’re going to have to fight for it. You can learn more about our work to safeguard digital rights in 2015 at www.openmedia.ca

David Christopher is the communications manager of OpenMedia.ca, a community-based organization that safeguards the possibilities of the open Internet. www.openmedia.ca