Privacy watchdogs slam Google: A pattern of neglect

(PIAC 28/April/2010) Canada’s Privacy Commissioner organized 10 countries to send an open letter to Google CEO Eric Schmidt and issue a stern warning to the search giant and other firms to comply with international privacy laws or face enforcement measures. … The group signed an open letter and held a press conference slamming Google Buzz privacy mishaps and threatened enforcement measures against online companies that disregarded privacy laws and norms,” reported April 21.
“(Jennifer) Stoddart acknowledges that Google did react quickly after the public outcry about Buzz. “Google has recognized it made an error … the issue right now is not the state of Google Buzz. The question is how could you release something without understanding the privacy impact?” Brian Jackson wrote. reported: “The privacy authorities publicly calling out Google are reacting appropriately to a pattern of neglect for privacy, says John Lawford, a lawyer with Ottawa-based Public Interest Advocacy Centre.”They are getting tired of dealing with Google or Facebook, having endless meetings with them, and then [seeing] companies do just what they want,” he says.”

Online tracking: Marketers are severely testing Canadian law

(PIAC 28/April/2010) Online tracking is putting “personal information” as defined by Canadian law severely to the test warns a PIAC brief to the Privacy Commissioner. Google’s definition of “sensitive personal information” is inferior to its definition under the Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act, the brief observes. The consumer group is especially concerned about protecting the privacy of children and teens and their online lives. PIAC wants age-graduated levels of consent.
The brief notes data aggregators claim “de-identification” protects privacy, but aggregated de-identified data can be reidentified. It also covers problems with security and behavioural-targeted advertising. Office of the Privacy Commissioner consultations on consumer tracking take place on April 29 in Toronto and in Montreal on May 19. PIAC’s March 15 comment was written by counsels John Lawford and Janet Lo.

Cloud computing: Protection depends on cloud location

(PIAC 28/April/2010) PIAC submitted comments to the Office of the Privacy Commissioner on the implications of cloud computing on April 15. The brief notes if a cloud computer is in Canada, consumers are protected by PIPEDA. But if the cloud is in the USA the Patriot Act rules. The brief also raises questions about “lawful access”, the rules for police surveillance.
Other sections of the report cover security and integrity of data, data retention, copyrights, function creep and compromised meaningful choice and consent. A cloud computing consultation is scheduled for June 21 in Calgary. PIAC’s comments to the Office of the Privacy Commissioner were written by counsels John Lawford and Janet Lo.

Clearer consumer rights, awareness, for online tracking

(PIAC 28/April/2010) “Online content providers should make it clearer when they track consumers’ online behaviour for marketing purposes, digital rights and marketing groups have told the privacy commissioner. The Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada is holding consultations on online tracking, profiling and targeting in April, May and June in Montreal, Toronto and Calgary. “According to submissions for the consultations obtained by The Wire Report through access-to-information, groups are expressing concerns about interest-based advertising (IBA), also known as behavioural marketing or targeting,” Karen Fournier wrote for the Wire Report on April 19.
“John Lawford, counsel with the Public Interest Advocacy Centre (PIAC), agreed, saying companies need to offer clearer consent for tracking,” Fournier reported.

Cartes de crédit et de débit – Un code sera lancé pour réduire les frais de transactions

(PIAC 28/April/2010) « Le ministre fédéral des Finances, Jim Flaherty, a annoncé hier qu’un code de conduite volontaire aura été mis en place d’ici un mois à l’intention de l’industrie des cartes de crédit et de débit. Le code vise à réduire les frais de transactions par cartes que les entreprises doivent verser aux émetteurs chaque fois qu’un client utilise sa carte » le Devoir a rapporté le 17 avril 2010.
« Chez Option consommateurs, l’accueil est enthousiaste. « Ce nouveau code prend en considération le droit de choisir des consommateurs », souligne Jean-François Vinet, analyste des services financiers à Option consommateurs. « Nous sommes satisfaits du rôle de surveillance des exploitants de réseaux et de cartes de paiements confié à l’Agence de la consommation en matière financière du Canada afin qu’ils se conforment au Code de conduite. Nous saluons par ailleurs la présence de la disposition visant à légiférer en la matière si le code n’était pas respecté ou ne suffisait pas à encadrer les pratiques de l’industrie » le Devoir a rapporté.

Class actions: Option consommateurs’ report in the works

(PIAC 28/April/2010) “Nearly three decades after class actions made their first appearance in the Canadian legal landscape, little light has been shed over the proportion of class members who make a claim, which hasn’t stopped some from speculating that the numbers are so low that they call into question the need for class proceedings,” Lawyers Weekly reported in its April 23 edition.
“’The legal profession could also do a better job to reach people,’ remarked Stephanie Poulin, the head of legal services with Option Consommateurs. While advances in technology provide innovative and potentially effective means of notice, be it through the Web, e-mail, and text messages to cell phones, the profession has generally been slow to react — and still resorts to publishing dull, illegible notices published in the back pages of the business or classified section in major newspapers,” Luis Millan wrote for Lawyers Weekly.
“’Publishing notices in newspapers in simply insufficient,’ said Poulin, who is in the midst of putting together a report addressed to the legal community to help them write claim forms in simple language. ‘Often the notices are indecipherable, replete with legalese, written by lawyers who write to the public as they write to each other. To the extent that we are seeking to mobilize a group of people to defend their rights, it is illusory to persist to use notices in newspapers located in the classified section. We’ve got to begin using marketing methods to communicate with class members,’” Lawyers Weekly reported.

Basic TV service needed for 900,000 Canadian households: Janigan

(PIAC 28/April/2010) “Industry Minister Tony Clement says he doesn’t want delays in the transition from analog to digital TV, despite loud warnings from networks and consumer advocates that Canada is far from ready for it. An estimated 900,000 Canadian households that rely on antennas don’t have televisions equipped to receive those new digital signals, due to begin in August 2011. About another 44,000 won’t have access to TV at all unless they invest in a satellite dish,” the Canadian Press reported on April 7.
CP’s Jennifer Ditchburn wrote: “Michael Janigan of the Public Interest Advocacy Centre (PIAC) calls Canada’s approach to the transition “leadership by amnesia.” He said the concern for consumers goes well beyond someone missing out on their favourite TV show. “It’s clear that television services are an important way that Canadians receive information, relate to each other and have a form of national cohesiveness,” said Janigan.”

PIAC salutes Ken Rubin, Canada’s information warrior

(PIAC 28/April/2010) Ken Rubin has a new web site featuring access to information tips; accounts of important cases; and a model freedom of information bill with suggestions on how to advance the public’s right-to-know. Rubin also released “Digging for Data Over the Years” a DVD reference publication ISBN number 978-0-9865464-0-2. The Public Interest Advocacy Centre regularly calls on Rubin to hunt down the documents that make a case. To order the DVD send $60 by cheque or money order payable to Ken Rubin c/o 212 Third Avenue Ottawa ON K1S 2K3. Rubin can be reached at

Aviation Safety News: Eyjafjallajökull, Body scanners, Air Travellers Security Charge

(PIAC 28/April/2010) The April 21 edition of Aviation Safety News reported on Eyjafjallajökull, CATSA’s increase the security fee – Air Travellers Security Charge, CATSA spending spree on body scanners, ash guidelines at 600 micrograms per cubic meter, the absence of traditional safety oversight in Transport Canada’s new regime, and more. Aviation Safety News is a project of Transport Action Canada (formerly Transport 2000) and the Public Interest Advocacy Centre. The Aviation Safety News readers’ group includes top aviation safety authorities, industry and civil service professionals.