The formerly classified documents are tantalizing and the story behind Assange and his WikiLeaks website is fascinating. But amidst the media chatter about the damage inflicted by WikiLeaks itself, the circumstances surrounding the initial release of secret documents from the U.S. government to WikiLeaks should provide a wake up call for other governments and corporations here at home.
Does your office have a copy machine? If so, then this post is worth reading. CBC news has just released the results of an investigation that exposes the security risks associated with modern copy machines, specifically, the ease at which information scanned into certain copiers can be tapped. Just think about the information that gets scanned into your office copier. Personal information. Confidential corporate information such as client data. Even intellectual property. It’s a scary thought if you haven’t done your due diligence, especially considering that privacy laws can apply to certain data undoubtedly scanned into your copy machine. Check out CBC’s online story here or TV segment here. And if you’d like to learn more, you may also want to read my post from earlier this year which provided a link to a similar CBS news story.
PriceWaterhouseCoopers (PWC) has just released its Global State of Information Security Survey, which says that corporate spending on data security will increase sharply in the coming years. ComputerWeekly.com reports that more than half of respondents to the PWC survey say that their companies plan to spend more on technological defences against security breaches, an increase of 14% from last year. The survey also reveals that the impact of security breaches is growing. According to ComputerWeekly.com ”the number of companies reporting financial losses from data breaches increased 6% in the past year to 20%, up from only 8% in 2008. Intellectual property theft has increased to effect 15% of companies reporting data breaches, up from just 5% in 2008. An increase in the number of sophisticated attacks aimed at stealing information from specific companies is also driving increased security spending according to the Financial Times.”
The PWC survey demonstrates that spending is shifting to monitoring of company networks, at a time when more employees are bringing their own PDA’s and computers into the workplace. But as PWC states, businesses should be making employees the first line of defence against data leaks.
The PWC survey and commentary serves as a reminder of the need to focus resources for data security (and privacy law compliance) strategically. This means investing in technological safeguards but it should mean investing in privacy training for your staff. It’s an important point because so many of the privacy breaches these days result from mistakes, or human error, by one’s own employees. I’d suggest that you compare your organization’s line item for network monitoring with your line item (if it exists) for privacy training. Are your privacy risk mitigation efforts as strategic as they could be?
The CBC National News is reporting in this video news clip that the children’s retail store Please Mum has alerted its online customers about a privacy breach to its online customer database that occurred in early June. Despite the fact that the long-awaited amendments to PIPEDA (which will require organizations to notify affected customers when certain privacy breaches occur) have not yet become law, Please Mum has taken the initiative to alert its customers.
In the absence of specific legal requirements, the decision to notify customers when privacy breaches occur is not an easy task. Far from it. Factors that businesses should consider include assessing what personal information was compromised, the cause and extent of the privacy breach, the number of affected individuals and the anticipated harm that could result from the privacy breach.
Over a year ago, I commented on the privacy issues related to taking a laptop, cellphone or iPod across the U.S. border. As reported here by Computerworld, a federal court has ruled in Michigan that the U.S. government has the right to “seize and transport a computer to a secondary inspection facility”, as long as there is a reasonable suspicion. Given the proliferation of tech devices in today’s workplace, you may want to consider if your business has the necessary policies and practices in place to protect data that’s probably leaving your doors today, and possibly going over the border via laptops and other mobile devices.
The federal government introduced legislation today to amend PIPEDA and re-introduce the Anti-Spam Bill. I’ve previously posted here regarding the anticipated changes to PIPEDA and here about the Anti-Spam Bill.
From today’s news release:
The Honourable Tony Clement, Minister of Industry, and the Honourable Denis Lebel, Minister of State (Economic Development Agency of Canada for the Regions of Quebec), today announced two steps that the Government of Canada is taking to enhance the safety and security of the online marketplace. Together, the tabling of amendments to the legislation protecting the personal information of Canadians (Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act, or PIPEDA) and the reintroduction of anti-spam legislation in the House of Commons (the proposed Fighting Internet and Wireless Spam Act, or FISA) are important steps towards positioning Canada as a leader in the digital economy.
Here’s the full Industry Canada news release.
(Hat tip to David Fraser’s Canadian Privacy Law Blog )
CBS News has an excellent investigative report here (on YouTube) about the security risks associated with copy machines. Members of the Privacy Forum will already know about this issue because we’ve previously highlighted it and relevant risk mitigation steps in the Canadian privacy law context. However, if you’re not aware of the issue then this report is a “must-see”.
Continuing a series of blog posts that I’m calling “A Conversation with…“, I’m really pleased to post the following conversation with the Information and Privacy Commissioner of Saskatchewan, Gary Dickson, Q.C.
Gary Dickson was appointed as Saskatchewan’s first full-time Information and Privacy Commissioner back in 2003, and he was re-appointed in 2009 for a further five-year term. That’s great news because Gary Dickson has been outstanding in his role as Commissioner. On a personal note, I’ve been thrilled to watch his many successes as Commissioner. I’ve known Gary for many years. In fact, it was he who suggested that I get involved with the Canadian Bar Association at a time when some of us were trying to form what is now the CBA’s National Privacy and Access Law Section.
Thanks to Commissioner Dickson for agreeing to take part in this online Q & A conversation. CFL fans may find some humour in the last Q & A below. Go Bombers! If you’d like to learn more about Commissioner Dickson or the Office of the Saskatchewan Information and Privacy Commissioner (“IPC”), I’d encourage you to visit the IPC’s website.
Q. You were previously an Alberta MLA. In that capacity, you were involved in privacy law development as the critic for the Freedom of Information and the Protection of Privacy portfolio, and also on several important privacy law committees and panels. What’s it like to now be involved with privacy as the Information and Privacy Commissioner of Saskatchewan?
A. The experience is exciting, stimulating, and almost always challenging. I am very fortunate that our office has a committed team of excellent staff who are focused on ensuring that Saskatchewan residents enjoy the full benefit of our provincial access and privacy laws. I’m very lucky to continue to be involved with such a fascinating area but from a very different perspective than that of a lawmaker. It has been very useful to have had that experience in the development of access and privacy legislation before I assumed the new Commissioner role in Saskatchewan. I hope that I am more aware and more sympathetic to the challenges and issues that arise with any access and privacy law for front line workers. It has certainly motivated me to promote wherever possible making such laws simpler and more accessible to the people who must administer them and for those who are the ‘data subjects’. I have also enjoyed the opportunity to modestly influence the way that our access and privacy laws are viewed and understood. My experience in Saskatchewan has been that those who work in public bodies or health trustee organizations genuinely want to do the ‘right thing’ in terms of transparency and privacy protection but are often unsure on where the line is drawn and are unfamiliar with best practices that have evolved over the last 26 years in Canada. As a result, a major focus for my initial five years in Saskatchewan has been on raising awareness and creating tools to assist those workers meet their statutory responsibilities.
Q. While Alberta, Quebec, British Columbia and Ontario (for personal health information only) have provincial privacy laws that are “substantially similar” to PIPEDA, Saskatchewan does not. Is it time for that to change?
A. I have for the last six years encouraged the former provincial government and now the current government to carefully consider the advantages of adopting a PIPA type law based on the B.C. and Alberta experience. As it stands, our fundraising foundations and NGOs, including those that deal with significant amounts of sensitive, prejudicial personal information are effectively unregulated. We often hear complaints from employees working in private businesses (not federal works, undertakings, etc.) who are extremely disappointed and upset when we tell them that they do not have the same privacy protection guaranteed to all public sector employees in Saskatchewan. I must acknowledge that the federal Privacy Commissioner has recently undertaken a pilot project in Saskatchewan to raise awareness of PIPEDA but this exercise also has highlighted how big the knowledge deficit is in the small and medium sized business sector. I remain of the view that Saskatchewan individuals, businesses and charitable NGOs should all benefit from a simple private sector privacy law. This could be designed to complement and harmonize with our public sector FOIP and Local Authority FOIP Acts and our Health Information Protection Act. It would allow for a more seamless kind of privacy protection that would be simpler for those organizations and for residents. I notice that the impetus for PIPA in BC and Alberta was really business organizations such as Chambers of Commerce realizing that PIPEDA is in some respects cumbersome and deficient for the SME sector. Business organizations in Saskatchewan do not appear to have adopted that view.
Q. The Saskatchewan Gaming Corporation has been recognized as a positive privacy story. What has it done, and what role has your office had in this development?
A. This is a good example of how an Information and Privacy Commission office can perhaps achieve more through consultation than by emphasizing the enforcement role. We started out a year ago with a complaint that the Casino Box Office in Regina required anyone purchasing a ticket for a show to provide name and contact information even if purchasing the ticket with cash. When we followed up with the Saskatchewan Gaming Corporation that operates the casinos in Regina and Moose Jaw, we found no senior identified FOIP Coordinator or Privacy Officer, no appropriate policies and procedures and no comprehensive training program for staff. Instead of focusing solely on the collection of personal information by the Box Office, we spent the better part of the year working with the Corporation in fundamentally reorganizing to meet its FOIP responsibilities as a ‘government institution’. With the assistance of a Portfolio Officer from our OIPC, the Corporation made a senior Vice President the new Privacy Officer and FOIP Coordinator. Comprehensive policies were put in place and a new FOIP training program rolled out. In the casino, the Box Office now only collects personal information if the ticket purchaser volunteered that information but it is no longer mandatory. In addition, prominent signage now advises customers of the Corporation’s information collection practices. There is also new literature readily available to customers. I think that as a result of our collaboration the Corporation and its leadership now view our office as a useful resource and as an office genuinely committed to operating on the basis of cooperation and collaboration.
Q. You’ve published a best practices guide for mobile device security. It’s getting easier to collect and store personal information, but are we keeping up with our privacy responsibilities in the meantime?
A. I’m afraid that privacy risks are not always top-of-mind for organizations embarking on new IT programs, systems, etc. Although we have developed a Privacy Impact Assessment tool available on our website, there is no statutory requirement that a PIA be done by a public body or health trustee before proceeding with new technology. What is perhaps even more troubling is that we see problems with old technology. Our office brought out a FAX advisory after we found a number of health information trustees didn’t appreciate that when the modern multi-use copier machine is sold as surplus equipment it likely will contain memory of the documents it has processed and perhaps substantial amount of personal health information. Look at the number of cases that have come to Information and Privacy Commissioners across the country that involved theft of unencrypted laptops. So, the short answer is that many organizations are not keeping up with their privacy responsibilities. The education and compliance challenge continues apace.
Q. Your office opened more than double the amount of case files in 2009 than it did in 2008. Is this number going up because of inadequate privacy practices, because the public is becoming more aware of its privacy rights, or both?
A. Good question. I think the answer is some of both. I believe there is significantly higher privacy awareness with the organizations that my office oversees and also greater public awareness. The difficult question is how accurately we can assess what is going with all approximate 3000 organizations that we oversee given that we are largely in a reactive role. In any given year if we are dealing with 200 organizations are these just the few ‘bad apples’ or is this indicative of widespread non-compliance. We simply don’t have the resources to be able to accurately assess and catalogue privacy compliance province wide. At the end of the day however, whatever the reason for the large increase in case files there is an indication that a lot more work is yet to be done to move to a more pervasive privacy protective culture.
Q. Looking forward, what kind of privacy developments should we watch for in 2010?
A. One of the interesting ‘growth’ areas will be the electronic health record. Our office just issued our first Investigation Report (H2010-001) dealing with our electronic health record now in development. This involved a pharmacist who entered the Pharmaceutical Information Program database on nine different occasions to view medication profiles for three individuals who were not patients/customers of that pharmacist of the pharmacy he worked for. We identified a number of problems in terms of HIPA compliance with the pharmacy, the regional health authority and the Ministry of Health. We also issued more than 20 recommendations for remedial action. Since the electronic health record is still some distance from completion, I anticipate that there may be more of this type of complaints touching on some element or another of the E.H.R. In fact, at the end of my Investigation Report, I included a Postscript which incorporated a number of broader considerations that this particular case highlighted.
We will be carefully monitoring changes to our health information regulations that enable regional health authorities to disclose certain personal health information of patients to hospital foundations without prior consent of those patients.
Finally, we are witnessing a number of new information and data-sharing initiatives with Executive Government and we expect to be busy considering these initiatives in the next few years.
Q. And, finally, how many points do you think the Winnipeg Blue Bombers will beat the Saskatchewan Roughriders this year in the Labour Day Classic game?
A. I love the fact that all of those Bomber fans come to Regina and generously spend their dollars in our hotels and restaurants and I always feel badly for their long drive back to Winnipeg. Sorry Brian but I don’t see that the return trip to Winnipeg is likely to be any more joyous in 2010!!
Imagine this scenario… The police show up at your office and demand access to records relating to one of your customers. You want to help the police (as you should), but are concerned about violating your customer’s privacy rights. What should you do?
Well, the first thing you should do is ask the police for written documentation relating to their request. You should also immediately contact a lawyer with appropriate expertise because this type of scenario can be a legal minefield. For example, are you actually dealing with the police or some bold scam artist? Do the police have the legal authority to demand the requested information? Should they have a warrant?
Presuming that you end up providing the records to the police, you’ll need to ensure that you’re not providing too much information. If the records of your customer are co-mingled with another individual, you’ll need to consider whether you can legally provide the police with access to the other person’s information. Are you then barred from telling the customer that the police were at your office? What sort of internal records should you keep to document that the police accessed your files? How long do you need to keep those internal records?
It’s never fun to say “no” to the police. They are, after all, typically armed. But hopefully the police will make it easy for you to satisfy yourself, and your lawyer, that working cooperatively with them won’t violate your customer’s privacy and unnecessarily exposing your business to liability.
Dr. Cavoukian leads a dynamic team of professionals at the IPC who are at the forefront of addressing today’s privacy challenges. Her depth of understanding of privacy issues combined with her passion for privacy has made for a powerful and learned force in Canada’s privacy world.
Thanks to Dr. Cavoukian for agreeing to take part in this online Q & A conversation. If you’d like to learn more about Dr. Cavoukian, the IPC, or the issues raised in this conversation, I’d encourage you to visit the IPC’s website.
Q. In one of my previous blog posts, Jennifer Stoddart explained how she got involved in the world of privacy. How about you?
A. I have always had an interest in human rights, but my direct introduction to the privacy world came as a result of my work as the Chief of Research for the Attorney General of Ontario. As part of the role I completed a program evaluation of the Public Complaints Commission headed by (now Justice) Sidney B. Linden. He was aware of my work with the Canadian Civil Liberties Association, among other things, and when Justice Linden was appointed as the first Information and Privacy Commissioner of Ontario in 1987, he asked me to join him as the Director of Investigations. I haven’t looked back since!
Q. One of your significant achievements has been your development and advocacy of “Privacy by Design”. Can you explain the concept behind Privacy by Design?
A. The privacy landscape of the early ‘90s had become increasingly challenging – the volume of personal information collected was growing, as were the risks posed by increasingly sophisticated and interconnected technologies. It became clear to me that relying solely on compliance with regulation and legislation would no longer be sufficient to safeguard the protection of personal information. Instead, organizations would need to operate in an environment of default privacy protection. Those which could do so, I recognized, would gain a competitive advantage.
This is the context in which I developed Privacy by Design (PbD), my philosophy of embedding privacy into the design of three broad application areas: information technology; business practices; and physical design/infrastructure. Instead of treating privacy as an afterthought – “bolting” it on after the fact – I argued that privacy should be regarded as a design feature and built right into the system, from the outset. PbD shatters the zero-sum paradigm which trades off privacy against security and functionality. It is positive-sum, or doubly-enabling “win-win” in nature, demonstrating that it is possible to protect privacy without compromising other legitimate requirements, such as security or functionality.
You can find our “7 Foundational Principles” of PbD at www.privacybydesign.ca. To summarize, PbD seeks to establish privacy as the default by embedding it in system design. It is proactive in nature – already in place when data is first collected, it describes a comprehensive “cradle to grave” approach to information management. In being proactive, it seeks to prevent data breaches from occurring, rather than prescribing remedial actions. Importantly, it demonstrates respect for user privacy by ensuring that its component parts and operations are transparent and subject to independent verification.
Q. Who should be aware of, and consider following, the principles of Privacy by Design?
A. Broad spectrums of people within most organizations should be aware of Privacy by Design – certainly anyone with influence over how personal information is managed.
Personal information is an asset, the value of which is protected and enhanced by a suite of security practices and business processes. Regardless of industry sector, whether the organization is large or small, public or private, whether it is retained in house or out-sourced, executive leadership and managers responsible for the management of personal information need to carefully consider how to build privacy protections directly into their operations.
I have a new title for those who commit themselves and their organizations to the principles of Privacy by Design – I am appointing them as PbD Ambassadors. Those who wish to learn more can visit our Privacy by Design website, which houses all of the PbD resources developed by my Office over the years. While there, I hope people will take the time to share their own PbD experiences or questions with our growing PbD community on the Global Forum. You can now also follow PbD on Twitter @embedprivacy.
I remind people that Privacy by Design was not developed for use in an ivory tower. I always intended it to result in real and positive changes in our everyday lives.
Q. So can you give us an example of the “win-win” approach of Privacy by Design in action?
A. An example that really brought Privacy by Design to life is the work being undertaken by our mass transit system – the Toronto Transit Commission (TTC), in testing and deploying encryption-based video surveillance technology.
In the autumn of 2007, the Toronto Transit Commission (TTC) announced plans to expand its video surveillance program on both surface vehicles and within the subway system. In response to a formal complaint, I launched an investigation. I found that the TTC’s expansion of its video surveillance system did not contravene any applicable laws. However, I strongly urged the TTC to adopt privacy-enhancing video surveillance technology that was being developed at the University of Toronto by Karl Martin and Professor Kostas Plataniotis.
Using innovative object-based encryption, the technology completely obscures the images of individuals who appear as the subjects of video surveillance. However, unlike current permanent masking techniques, the technology enables the images to be decrypted at a later time, only by authorized staff, when an incident occurs that demands further investigation for safety or security purposes.
This new technology, in its essence, lays to rest the outdated zero-sum paradigm, where one party wins and one party loses. It ushers in a new era in “positive-sum” thinking where both parties may “win” and neither party must, by necessity, lose. Positive-sum privacy-enhancing technologies (I call them PETs Plus) ultimately enable the co-existence of privacy and security, side by side, without forfeiting one for the other, “win-win,” not “win-lose.”
For the full report, see Privacy and Video Surveillance in Mass Transit Systems: A Special Investigation Report.
Q. One of the first virtual strip search scanners was recently installed at Toronto’s Lester B. Pearson International Airport. What are your thoughts about the privacy implications of these scanners?
A. I feel it’s important that we understand exactly what this technology does. The public should know what types of images are being produced of them, and what happens with those images. That’s why I chose to personally experience the Whole Body Imaging (WBI) system in both Toronto and Washington D.C. – to assess first-hand how passengers are treated.
From a privacy perspective, my WBI experience highlighted several important points. The scanned images displayed are not actual pictures and do not contain any unique personal identifiers (there is no way for someone to identify the image as my own). The screening site where the scanner images are viewed is located in a windowless, secure room located a significant distance away from the open scanning area. The personnel viewing the images are not able to visually connect images with the actual passengers being scanned. Also, the machines are not able to record, copy or store any images. Finally, the personnel who review the scanned images are not allowed to have cameras, cell phones or any other recording devices in the secure viewing room.
I have always believed that privacy needs to be built directly into technology – privacy by default. Improved airport security need not come at the expense of privacy – both may be achieved together, in a positive-sum manner.
Q. Business professionals consult this blog (at least, I like to think they do!). Based on your experience as Ontario’s Information and Privacy Commissioner, can you identify an area where businesses fall short in the realm of privacy and provide tips to help address the problem?
A. It is a sad fact that many privacy breaches occur largely because of poor information management practices by organizations, and the volume of the information at risk grows with the ever increasing collection of personal information.
As Commissioner, half of the Health Orders that I have issued under Ontario’s Personal Health Information Protection Act (PHIPA) were the result of personal health records being abandoned or disposed of in an unsecure manner. Identity theft is one of the fastest growing forms of consumer fraud in North America, costing Canadians millions of dollars a day and billions of dollars a year.
That is why it is crucial for all organizations, large, medium or small, to engage in the practice of “secure destruction.” The goal of secure destruction is to have records containing any personal information permanently destroyed or erased in an irreversible manner which ensures that the record cannot be reconstructed in any way.
For the effective secure destruction of records, organizations need to ensure that they match the destruction method to the media. For paper records this means using cross-cut shredders which do not allow for records to be reconstructed. For electronic media such as DVD’s or USB keys, the media should be physically destroyed.
Further, if an organization is hiring an external agent to destroy records, they need to be selective. Look for a provider that is accredited by an industrial trade association or is willing to commit to upholding its principles, including undergoing independent audits. Always check references, and insist on a signed contract spelling out the terms of the relationship, to ensure end-to-end lifecycle protection. Remember, you can outsource the service, but you can never outsource accountability.
For more information, please see Fact Sheet #10, Secure Destruction of Personal Information .
Q. Looking forward, what kind of privacy developments should we watch for in 2010?
A. The privacy landscape is continually changing and posing new challenges – particularly in this age of information technology where personal information about individuals is increasingly collected and stored indefinitely.
In addition to daily developments on the “Cloud” and Web 2.0, one of the areas we are focusing on in 2010 is the Smart Grid – the modernization of the current electrical grid with a view to more efficient energy usage and delivery. This will involve the increased collection, use and disclosure of end users’ personal information. I have identified privacy as the real “sleeper issue” in this area, which causes me great concern. The Smart Grid is still in a nascent stage, not only here in Ontario and across North America, but around the world. So now is the time to bake in privacy right from the outset. With that in mind, we are proactively working with local energy distributors, and government officials, to ensure that privacy is top of mind as we move toward the Smart Grid. It is the ideal time to proactively build in privacy – by design.