For over a year, there has been widespread speculation in Ottawa over who is behind a particular blog. In this respect, I’ve been retained by a prominent individual residing in the Ottawa area to deal with defamatory content on the blog and to discover the identity of the anonymous blogger (or bloggers) for court action and, ultimately, damages and costs. Click here to listen to my recent interview on point with Ottawa’s CFRA radio station. The matters discussed in the interview have received considerable national media attention including from the National Post, Maclean’s magazine, the Ottawa Citizen, the Winnipeg Free Press and the Ottawa Sun.
The sound of ringing telephones has caused migraines for millions ever since Alexander Graham Bell placed the first call to Mr. Watson in 1876. But thanks to some newly released technology, that’s about to change. Got a headache? There is, to borrow a phrase from a successful ad campaign, an app for that. Bellaire, Texas med-web company BetterQOL is rolling out iHeadache, an iPhone application that purports to “classify” and assist with diagnosing a user’s headache. iHeadache is one of many cutting edge applications available for use with smartphones. Don’t expect this trend to stop any time soon: thanks to programs like Apple’s iPhone Developer (only $99 for the standard edition), it’s becoming even easier for technology-savvy businesses to create their own apps.
Still not convinced? Consider this list of impressive apps for today’s traveler: Pocket Express, an app that acts as a mobile concierge; Stanza, an app that allows a user to load magazines and books to their smartphone; and GoodFood, which helps a user pick and locate a restaurant based on an array of dining preferences. It’s a good time to be a smartphone user, but perhaps even a better time to be an entrepreneur. Smartphones are increasingly offering businesses a direct window into the hearts, minds and, yes, wallets of potential customers.
But it’s not all good news, privacy advocates remind us. Many smartphone apps guzzle fuel like your Dad’s ’70 GTO, except they’re eating personal user information instead of gasoline. For example, your app may record your location, gender and birth year before it spits out the location of that perfect sale you’ve been looking for. A sizeable amount of personal information is in play, but, fortunately, Ontario’s Office of the Information and Privacy Commissioner (“IPC”) has been ahead of the curve with its call for “Privacy by Design“. Initially unveiled over 10 years ago, the concept of Privacy by Design combines privacy and security measures at the design specification stage of a project. Instead of waiting until privacy problems pop up to deal with them, Privacy by Design contemplates a proactive approach toward potential privacy issues. This methodology uses Privacy Enhancing Technology such as encryption to provide both maximum security and privacy protection. It is, as the IPC bills it, a “win-win” situation. Other examples of Privacy by Design include anonymous billing systems and depersonalization software.
It’s an exciting time to be a technologically-inclined entrepreneur, but the privacy consequences of smartphone apps cannot (and should not) be ignored. Any business that is considering creating or otherwise implementing an app should consider the privacy implications of doing so, preferably at the early stages of project development.
It is an interesting story because it illustrates the importance of having clear and understandable privacy policies that customers can understand. It is also an interesting story because it (once again) demonstrates the attention that the media place on privacy matters and the potentially explosive reaction that customers can have if they feel their privacy isn’t being respected.
Have you heard the saying “Just when you think you understand the situation, what you don’t understand is that the situation has changed”? If you think you understand The Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act (“PIPEDA”), get ready… changes may be just around the corner.
PIPEDA was introduced back in 2001. It requires the Canadian Government to review the law every five years. To this end, the House of Commons Standing Committee on Access to Information, Privacy and Ethics (the “House of Commons Committee”) conducted its review and held public hearings from November 2006 to February 2007, where it heard from over 60 witnesses and considered over 30 submissions from a wide range of interested organizations and individuals. I had the pleasure of appearing before the House of Commons Committee to present the Canadian Bar Association’s National Privacy & Access Law Section’s submission, which you can read here. The House of Commons Committee issued its report to Parliament in May 2007 (which outlined 25 recommended changes to the law), to which the Canadian Government subsequently issued its response in October 2007. As part of the Canadian Government’s response, further public consultation on key issues was requested. A link to the Office of the Privacy Commissioner’s reply to this request can be read here and the Canadian Bar Association’s response can be read here.
Changes to PIPEDA may include:
- a mandatory breach notification regime that would require organizations to promptly notify affected individuals and to report major data breaches to the Privacy Commissioner of Canada;
- amendments to account for the unique circumstances regarding consent in employer/employee relationships; and
- modifications to allow organizations to collect, use and disclose personal information as necessary for the conduct of business transactions, such as mergers and acquisitions.
The Industry Canada website targets 2009/10 for the implementation of changes resulting from this first PIPEDA review. Yet, there is no definitive time frame, so stay tuned. Changes may be just around the corner.
Headline after headline these days talk about the growing incidences of identity theft. But who really are these identity thieves? Do they work alone or for KAOS (Get Smart fans will understand this joke)? To answer this timely question, there is a recent post on the Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada’s blog entitled “Who are these identity thieves?“
The post cites an earlier survey by the Privacy Commissioner that shows that one Canadian out of six has been the victim of some form of identity theft and that more than 90% of Canadians report that they are concerned about identity theft. The Privacy Commissioner’s post also cites a report by Benoit Dupont, the Canada Research Chair in Security, Identity and Technology at l’Université de Montréal, and his colleague Guillaume Louis, which offers an illuminating profile of identity thieves. Here are some highlights:
- 1.7 million Canadians were affected by identity theft in 2008.
- More than 45% of cases of identity theft involve Internet use. However, the way “offenders” use the Internet is not as significant as we might think in terms of acquiring the victim’s personal information. On the contrary, it plays a greater role in actually committing fraud.
- “Women account for nearly 40% of offenders. We believe that this strong presence can be attributed to the absence of violence inherent to this sort of crime and the possibility of committing the crime without help from an accomplice.”
- “Identity thieves are relatively older than other offenders; the average age is 33 years.”
- “Offenders acted alone in the majority of cases (64.6%), which seems to contradict the theory of extensive involvement by organized crime in this type of offence.”
The Privacy Commissioner’s post also cites a 2008 report released by the McMaster eBusiness Research Centre that showed that victims spent more than 20 million hours and $150 million resolving problems associated with these crimes. If you’d like to read more about identity theft, please click on the “Identity theft” link under this blog’s Tags.