Monday, January 25, 2010

Interim BC privacy commissioner appointed

The BC Government has appointed an interim Information and Privacy Commissioner to fill the role until the legislature resumes in the spring:

Interim privacy commissioner appointed - The Globe and Mail

... Instead, Paul Fraser, B.C.'s Conflict of Interest Commissioner, is taking over as acting commissioner.

Mr. Barisoff said Ms. Carlson's letter didn't make it to him on Friday because it was sent after business hours. However he downplayed the delay, saying the government needed time to find the right candidate.

“You have to have someone who can do the job and you can't simply take someone out of nowhere,” he said. “I don't think it's that long to wait for someone to do a good job… The world wasn't coming to an end in three business days.”

He added that Mr. Fraser is a good choice for the interim position, since he is already an independent officer of the legislature. The permanent commissioner won't be selected until the legislature resumes its next sitting in the spring....

Saturday, January 23, 2010

BC Privacy Commissioner's resignation leaves office in limbo

I posted earlier this week that David Loukidelis has resigned as Information and Privacy Commissioner for British Columbia to take on the post of Deputy Attorney General for the province. He resigned effective January 19, 2010. This has apparently left a significant gap, as there was no interim Commissioner appointed. Without a commissioner, the operations of the office have ground to a halt:

CBC News - British Columbia - Privacy official sounds 'urgent' alarm

Work at the office of B.C.'s Information and Privacy Commission in Victoria is reported to have ground to a halt after the commissioner resigned suddenly this week.

Privacy Commissioner David Loukidelis resigned unexpectedly Wednesday to take a job as deputy attorney general.

Commission executive director Mary Carlson circulated a letter labelled "extremely urgent" at the B.C. legislature Friday calling for a quick resolution of the situation.

The letter was addressed to the legislature Speaker Bill Barisoff and copied to Premier Gordon Campbell, Opposition Leader Carole James and senior legislative staff.

In the letter, Carlson said she sent an urgent request to Campbell Thursday.

"I wrote to the premier's office to raise this pressing concern," she wrote.

"Despite having attempted to learn if an acting commissioner has been appointed or, if not, when this will occur … this office has received no response."

Work was piling up quickly in the busy commission office, but her hands were tied, according to Carlson.

She said she had received legal advice that the office could not perform its job of reviewing requests for information and could not provide independent oversight for 3,000 public bodies until an appointment is made.

"It has been necessary to suspend the entire operations of the office," Carlson said.

The Office of the Information and Privacy Commissioner is independent from government and monitors and enforces British Columbia's Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act and Personal Information Protection Act.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

BC Commissioner to leave post, become Deputy AG

BC Information and Privacy Commissioner David Loukidelis is leaving the post to become Deputy Attorney General of BC. Here's the official release:


Jan. 20, 2010

Office of the Premier


VICTORIA – David Loukidelis has been appointed Deputy Attorney General. The appointment will be effective February 1, 2010.

Loukidelis will replace acting Deputy Attorney General, Jerry McHale, Q.C., who was appointed in October 2009 on an interim basis after Allan Seckel, Q.C., was appointed Deputy Minister to the Premier, Cabinet Secretary and Head of the British Columbia Public Service.

Loukidelis previously served as the Information and Privacy Commissioner for the Province of British Columbia since 1999. Loukidelis has become an internationally-recognized expert in access to information and privacy protection issues, and has written hundreds of access-to-information and privacy decisions under B.C.’s public and private sector access and privacy laws. In addition to serving as Information and Privacy Commissioner, he has served as Registrar of Lobbyists under the Lobbyists Registration Act.

Loukidelis received his law degree in 1984 from Osgoode Hall Law School and qualified as a lawyer in British Columbia in 1985. He served as a clerk to a Justice of the Supreme Court of Canada before moving on to the University of Oxford, where he received his bachelor of civil law in 1987. In 1980, he received a master of arts degree in English language and literature (medieval studies) from the University of Edinburgh.

An all-party committee of the legislature will select a new Information and Privacy Commissioner. An acting Information and Privacy Commissioner will be named in the near future.

From local media:

C-FAX 1070 - News


Jan 20, 2010



Monday, January 11, 2010

New privacy rules for Crown-run casinos in Saskatchewan

The Saskatchewan Privacy Commissioner has told government run casinos in the province to requiring the addresses of people who buy show tickets with cash. The amount of personal information collected by casinos is breathtaking, so I'm most surprised by the revelation that only now is Gaming Saskatchewan appointing a privacy officer.

The Canadian Press: New privacy rules for Crown-run casinos in Sask. after complaint investigation

(CP) REGINA — Two Crown-run casinos in Regina and Moose Jaw, Sask., are no longer demanding personal information from people who pay cash for tickets to live stage shows.

Gary Dickson, the province's information and privacy commissioner, says Saskatchewan Gaming has adopted new privacy rules to stop the practice.

He says his agency launched an investigation in 2008 after someone who tried to buy a ticket with cash was told they would still have to provide personal information, such as a home or email address.

Dickson says when his agency investigated, they were told that one of the reasons the information was collected was to notify ticket holders in case a performance was cancelled or delayed.

But he says their investigation found that didn't happen very often and it wasn't a credible reason to collect the information.

Dickson says Saskatchewan Gaming now has a senior official in charge of privacy issues, has developed new privacy policies, provided more training to staff and has developed signs and brochures telling customers that providing personal information is not mandatory.

EPIC reports that body scanners can store, send images

According to documents obtained by EPIC and made available to CNN, body scanners procured by the TSA are designed to be able to record and transmit images, whcih appears to contradict assurances given by the agency:

Body scanners can store, send images, group says -

Washington (CNN) -- A privacy group says the Transportation Security Administration is misleading the public with claims that full-body scanners at airports cannot store or send their graphic images.

The TSA specified in 2008 documents that the machines must have image storage and sending abilities, the Washington-based Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC) said.

In the documents, obtained by the privacy group and provided to CNN, the TSA specifies that the body scanners it purchases must have the ability to store and send images when in "test mode."

That requirement leaves open the possibility the machines -- which can see beneath people's clothing -- can be abused by TSA insiders and hacked by outsiders, said EPIC Executive Director Marc Rotenberg.

EPIC, a public-interest group focused on privacy and civil rights, obtained the technical specifications and vendor contracts through a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit.

The written requirements also appear to contradict numerous assurances the TSA has given the public about the machines' privacy protections....

I wasn't able to find the documents themselves on the EPIC website.

Thursday, January 07, 2010

Alberta Privacy Commissioner has some choice words about airport body scanning

The incomparable Frank Work, Information and Privacy Commissioner of Alberta, appears to have an opinion on body scanning technologies.

Privacy boss pans scans

New naked body security measures at airports don't fly, he says

The thin edge of the wedge -it's not the happiest of analogies when the subject is naked body scans and orifice-probing technology.

But that's the uncomfortable warning from Alberta Privacy Commissioner Frank Work, following a federal decision to install full-body security scanners at major Canadian airports, including Calgary and Edmonton.

Blasting the move as a serious blow to personal privacy and dignity, Work says he expects the obvious flaws in body-scanning security will result in more high-tech "toys" to fill the gaps.

"What will they do next, after the next incident? We're running out of toys and technological silver bullets," said Work, one day after the federal government announced the new airport security measures.

Work guards the privacy of Albertans, be it information or images.

If this was an Alberta rule or an airport decision, Work would surely step in and prevent the visual strip-search.

But being federal legislation, Work fears there is nothing he can do to block the airport scanners, which expose naked images of passengers to the eyes of prying security staff.

"The bottom line is it's a dignity issue, and either out of fear or because we don't want to stand in line too long, we've forsaken any notion of dignity -- it's like, all right, we'll assume the position," said Work.

He's awaiting a call from federal Transport Minister John Baird, but Work believes his hands are tied.

Work said that because human-monitored body scanners aren't perfect, showing only a surface view of the nude passenger, he believes it's a matter of time and/or tragedy before the next step is taken.

"The system is still prone to failure, so let's say the next guy packs his ass with however many grams of (plastic explosive) he can shove up there, and either successfully or unsuccessfully detonates it. What do they do next?" said Work.

"How do they trump full body scans? There actually is a device called the BOSS -- the Body Orifice Security Scanner -- where you sit in a plastic armchair and it can detect plastic or metal in body orifices. Is this next?"

The privacy boss knows his technology, and the chair he references is used in U.S. prisons, in lieu of the old rubber glove approach. That it could easily be installed in airport security areas is a squirmy thought.

Work believes it's just a matter of time.

"At what point do we say, 'Holy crap man, you're patting me down, you've got pictures of me naked, you've got me squatting on a chair, and you've taken my water bottle away'. I mean at what point is enough, enough?"

The federal government is installing 44 of the $250,000 body-scanners across Canada, as well as implementing a new system of visual observation, where security staff will monitor passenger behaviour.

The changes come in response to a Christmas Day attempt to blow up a jetliner over Michigan, when a Nigerian man failed to ignite explosives sewn into his underwear.

While the new body-scanners reportedly wouldn't have caught the underwear bomber -- the explosives were spread too thin -- U.S. demands for extra security have forced countries like Canada to follow suit.

Work says Canada obviously has little choice, if citizens want to travel internationally.

While the U.S. is forcing Canadian travellers to surrender their dignity, Work said the real danger is people starting to believe in safety, purchased through an invasion of privacy.

"The thing that troubles me most as the privacy commissioner, is we're getting more and more used to this stuff.

"Maybe we have to throw in the towel on the body scanners, but the next time the police or authorities come along wanting to blanket the city in cameras for safety reasons, we'll be that much more compliant."

Scary and funny: Undressing the naked truth about the future of airline travel

This is too funny, scary and prescient:

Undressing the naked truth about the future of airline travel

Cavity searches, complementary catheters, cryogenic suspension will be the norms

By Paula Simons, Edmonton Journal

January 7, 2010 2:07 AM

The Edmonton Journal

January 7, 2011

The federal government says Canadian air travellers will soon be asked to undergo full-body cavity searches.

The move comes after full-body scanners, of the same type installed in Canadian airports last year, failed to detect bomb-making materials that a group of alleged would-be bombers had secreted within their personal body cavities.

Transport Canada says passenger privacy will be fully protected, because all individuals being stripped-searched will wear paper bags over their heads, preventing security officers from seeing their faces.

"We feel this strikes the necessary balance between protecting passenger safety and avoiding unnecessary traveller embarrassment," said Transport Canada spokesman Winston Smith.

Health Canada will compensate travellers by including complementary prostate exams and PAP smears as part of the inspection process.

"We won't just be striking a blow in the war on terror," said Reductio Ad-Absurdum, a spokesman with the Prime Minister's office. "We'll also reduce the burden on our public health-care system by screening early for cervical and prostate cancer. We think Canadians will be open to the value-added benefits."

While a few civil libertarian academic-types raised concerns about the invasion of privacy, most of those commenting on The Journal's web-site were enthusiastic.

"Flying is a privilege, not a right," said one.

"If you don't have anything to hide, why would you object?"

"The world is a scary place," said another. "I don't mind having my government stick its nose into every nook and cranny."

The Edmonton Airport Authority is asking all local passengers to arrive at the airport at least five hours before flight time to allow enough time for the new inspections.


The Edmonton Journal

January 7, 2015

In a new policy initiative designed to flush out terrorist plots, Transport Canada has announced that airline passengers will no longer be allowed to use on-board washrooms while the plane is in flight.

"Letting people move freely through the cabin, allowing them access to a private space where they couldn't be monitored, well, it's just too big a risk," said Transport Canada spokesman Winston Smith.

Passengers will be required to stay in their seats, with their belts securely fastened, for the duration of the flight. For short-haul flights, passengers will be provided complementary adult diapers. Long-haul flyers will be issued personal catheters.

"We feel this strikes the necessary balance between protecting passenger safety and avoiding unnecessary traveller embarrassment," Smith said.

While civil libertarians and others soft on terrorism suggested the new policy was an affront to human dignity, public response was muted.

"This is public safety we're talking about here," said Edmonton passenger Saaphtee Pherst, 52.

"If you have a problem with it, then don't fly."

The Edmonton Airport Authority is asking long-haul passengers to arrive six hours ahead of their departure time to be fitted for catheters.



January 7, 2020

In a move designed to restore public confidence in air travel, Transport Canada has announced it is moving to align with a new American policy that requires that all airline passengers be placed in pre-flight cryogenic suspension.

"We believe that flash-freezing will maximize both passenger safety and passenger comfort," said federal spokesman Winston Smith. "Ever since we banned people from taking books, magazines, computers and food aboard planes, and made it illegal for them to get out of their seats, air travel has become unduly tedious. This way, we eliminate any terrorism and boredom, and allow passengers to arrive safe and well-rested, without jet lag. And since we'll be able rip out the seats and stack passengers like cordwood, we'll be able to make more efficient use of space and fuel."

Federal spokesman Reductio Ad-Absurdum said cryogenics was a proven technology with minimal health risks.

The Edmonton Airport Authority is asking all passengers to report to the airport 24 hours before their flight for freezing.


January 2, 2021


Air UnitedCanNorthWestDeltaKLMVirginJALEl-AlJet, the world's sole surviving airline, filed for creditor protection this week in the wake of a disastrous Christmas travel season. A climate of fear, combined with fears about climate change, meant no one flew anywhere.

"Flying was no longer exciting or convenient," said business analyst Noitall Pundit. "The Age of the Airplane is over."

Travel Alberta is now asking people to travel by low-carbon donkey instead, and to stay strictly within a 100-mile radius of home.

"Foreign travel is dangerous and overrated. So are foreigners," said spokeswoman Pollyanna Xenophobe. "Alberta is the promised land. Really, no one should ever want leave it again."

We need a debate on the privacy impact of body scanners

I was interviewed by the Halifax Chronicle Herald on the need for a thorough debate about the privacy impact of body scanners and to make sure that we are actually dealing with the problem. And if we're going to use the technology, we need to ensure that all steps are taken to mitigate the privacy impact.

Safety vs. privacy: - Nova Scotia News -

Safety vs. privacy: Legal expert warns tradeoff of agreeing to virtual strip search might not be worth it

By KELLY SHIERS Staff Reporter Thu. Jan 7 - 4:47 AM

A Halifax privacy expert says airline passengers willing to undergo virtual strip searches are trading privacy for security in an equation that may not result in increased safety in the air.

"Because this is almost unprecedented in its intrusiveness, that means we really need to have a debate about it," David Fraser said Wednesday.

"If you throw out people’s privacy, it doesn’t necessarily mean you’re going to end up with the best security.

"I think we need to have all the facts in front of us about how effective these things are, what sort of impact they’re having on privacy, and how (we can) increase the effectiveness of security while trying to mitigate the impact it can have on privacy."

RELATED» Privacy czar probes Ottawa’s plan for airport surveillance » Slovaks plant explosive in traveller’s luggage in failed security test» Airport security: Last line of defence

Mr. Fraser, a privacy lawyer with McInnes Cooper, said most of the people he has spoken with have reacted positively to the news that airports across the country, including in Halifax, will soon use scanners that see through clothes.

The machines show a three-dimensional outline of a naked body that allow screening officers to see whether someone is carrying dangerous items.

"When they balance their safety versus their privacy, they’re happy to give up their privacy in exchange for their safety," he said.

The scanners have been used at some airports outside Canada and were expected to be introduced in this country at some point.

But on Tuesday, the federal government announced it will buy 44 machines as part of an international response to a man’s attempt to blow up a jet approaching Detroit on Christmas Day. The man was wearing explosives sewn into his underwear.

The devices are only supposed to be used on passengers who have been singled out for secondary screening. Those passengers can choose to go through the machines or be frisked.

Mr. Fraser said he would prefer to be scanned rather than have the kind of intrusive pat-down that would be required in order to detect explosives sewn into underwear.

But he said he believes technology is only part of the answer to combating terrorism in the air.

"It’s convenient to throw technology at the problem and I think there may be an assumption this is going to make everybody safe, but I’m not sure this is necessarily the case," he said.

The devices have shortcomings, even if they are better than what is now in place, he said.

And technology, he said, may not be as effective as "strategic investments in humans" who are collecting, analyzing and using the massive amounts of data about possible threats and possible terrorists.

He said the public should ask questions about the use of the images and the safeguards that will be in place to protect them.

Under a plan approved by Canada’s privacy commissioner, an officer would view the image in a separate room and never see the passenger. The images are supposed to be erased automatically and no copies kept.

Other possible safeguards could include scanning screeners to ensure they’re not carrying cameras or cellphones capable of taking pictures of the images, Mr. Fraser said. And just as pat-downs are only done by members of the same sex, perhaps that rule should apply to viewing the naked images, he said.

Wednesday, January 06, 2010

TMI: The backfiring of the surveillance state?

This is an extremely interesting read: The backfiring of the surveillance state. Glenn Greenwald takes the position that intelligence and national security agencies in the US are so buried in data from surveillance and other sources that it has led to paralysis

Monday, January 04, 2010

Government plans update of privacy law this year

According to, Industry Minister Tony Clement plans to modernize Canada's privacy laws this year. No details, so we'll stay tuned. After March, of course.

See: Push for more wireless competition behind Globalive decision: Clement.

Thanks to Michael Geist for the link.

Sunday, January 03, 2010

Pantsbomber revives debate over body scanners as implementation is expanded

The thwarted Christmas Day bombing plot has certainly raised security levels in airports over the holidays. Individual passengers are being frisked before boarding, presumably to make sure they don't have any hidden compartments in their unmentionables (but inspectables). Carryons are being dramatically restricted to reduce screening times, as all such items have been hand inspected. Not at all surprisingly, this has brought body scanning technology to the fore.

In October of this year, the Federal Privacy Commissioner gave her conditional approval to the use of the technology. The conditions are that the images are not retained and the scanners are used only as a secondary screening tool. (See: A necessary image - The Globe and Mail.) However, all passengers to the US are now subject to secondary screening. The Globe article says that technology exists to blur faces and genitals, but I would think that genital blurring may might have obscured a cleverly hidden crotch bomb.

Also according to the Globe (Nigeria, Netherlands to introduce full-body imaging; Canada undecided - The Globe and Mail), both countries that were connected to the pantsbomber, Nigeria and the Netherlands, are introducing body scanning for all flights to the United States. So are UK airports (BAA to introduce full-body scanners at UK's Heathrow).

I travel a lot. Personally, I'd rather be virtually stripped in five seconds than physical patted down by a stranger over two or three minutes. But I'm not so shy. I would also think that the same technology that is currently used to detect explosives residue should be rolled out on a wider scale as well.

For a good overview of the technology and the debate, check out: Full-Body Scanners at Airports: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly Technomix Fast Company.

Also, CBS (via YouTube) does a pretty good job of covering the debate:

Saturday, January 02, 2010

Canadian Privacy Law Blog turns six years old

On January 2, 2004, the first post for the Canadian Privacy Law Blog went live (though it was called "PIPEDA and Canadian Privacy Law" at the time.

Looking back to 2004, I had become an avid reader of legal blogs that were already being put out there and wanted to join the conversation. Many were such fantastic resources for a practitioner who needed to keep on top of developments in the law. At the time, privacy law was the most rapidly developing and it seemed a natural fit.

When I first clicked "Publish Post", I really hoped that I'd be able to keep at it. My greatest fear was, aside from not making a positive contribution, was joining the thousands of others who had abandoned blogs after a brief flurry of activity. My expectations have been greatly surpassed. Blogger tells me this will be the 3052nd posting to the Canadian Privacy Law Blog.

I'd like to thank the many people who read this blog regularly and subscribe to the RSS feed. I hope that it has proven to be of value to lawyers and others who have an interest in what I feel is one of the most interesting areas of the law. The tempo of developments in privacy law has varied and so has my posting frequency, but I plan to keep at it.

I thought it may be interesting to look at the top ten most read posts of 2009. Two topics that got a lot of attention in 2009, lawful access and social networking, weren't really on the radar in 2004.

  1. European court rules that photo without consent is breach of privacy and human rights
  2. Police get warrantless access to Sympatico customer's data
  3. Privacy Commissioner to accept Fracebook's friend request
  4. Lawful access to ISP subscriber information reintroduced
  5. Cheating husband caught on Google Street View
  6. New decision on warrantless access to ISP customer data
  7. Mind your trash
  8. 10 Privacy Settings Every Facebook User Should Know
  9. Quebec movie theatre ordered to pay $10K in damages for bag search
  10. Commissioner taking Air Canada to court over customer access to info

There's a lot going on in the arena of privacy law and I hope this blog has been of assistance in keeping on top of it.

(Birthday cake graphic used under a creative commons license from K. Pierce.)

Canadian airlines look to goverment to solve privacy dilemma

The timing on this couldn't be worse, in the aftermath of the Christmas day "underwear bomber" and unprecedented scrutiny of airline passengers.

The National Airlines Council of Canada is looking to the federal government to develop a "permanent solution" to the dilemma they are facing. Airlines that overfly the United States are required to send passenger information to the US TSA, but the airlines contend this violates Canadian privacy laws.

There are a number of circumstances under Canadian privacy laws where organizations require the collection of personal information that's not strictly necessary for the provision of goods or services. PIPEDA permits collection, use and disclosure where it is "required by law", but this is not a Canadian legal requirement.

From the Canadian Press:

The Canadian Press: Canadian airlines plead with government to solve U.S. security dilemma

Canadian airlines plead with government to solve U.S. security dilemma

By Jim Bronskill (CP) – 13 hours ago

OTTAWA — Canada's major airlines say they will be forced either to break privacy laws or to ignore new American air security rules unless the federal government comes up with a response to U.S. demands for passenger information.

The National Airlines Council of Canada, which represents the four largest Canadian carriers, is pleading with the government to find "a permanent solution" to the dilemma posed by the U.S. Secure Flight program.

The program would collect the name, gender and birth date of the approximately five million Canadians who fly through American airspace each year en route to destinations such as the Caribbean, Mexico and South America, even if their planes don't touch the ground in the States.

The U.S. Transportation Security Administration (TSA) would then vet the names against security watch lists.

Passengers whose names appear on the list could face anything from extra security screening to being barred from a flight. There are also concerns the personal data could be used for purposes unrelated to aviation security.

Washington is still reeling from an apparent attempt by a Nigerian man to blow up a jetliner over Michigan by igniting explosives sewn into his clothes.

The near-disaster has put renewed pressure on the TSA to ensure the skies are safe.

Canadian airlines have already begun passing along the personal information for flights that land in the United States.

But the requirement to hand over information for international flights over U.S. airspace was put on hold last February pending discussions with the governments of Canada, Mexico and some Caribbean countries.

In a November letter to Bill Baker, deputy minister of Public Safety, the National Airlines Council says Canadian carriers "are not aware of any progress" on the discussions and are concerned the TSA might suddenly enact the overflight provisions.

The council says this would force Canadian airlines to breach either Secure Flight or the Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act, a federal privacy law that applies to Canadian companies.

An internal Public Safety document prepared last January agrees that sharing such information is "currently prohibited" under the privacy law.

Nicole Baer, a spokeswoman for the federal privacy commissioner, said it was too early to determine whether giving overflight data to the Americans would break Canadian privacy law.

The Public Safety document, obtained under the Access to Information Act, raises other concerns about Secure Flight.

"It is possible that Canadians overflying the United States could be denied boarding based on U.S. no-fly lists that were developed based on lower U.S. risk tolerance," says the January 2009 assessment.

"There are also no guarantees how the U.S. will use the information it obtains from carriers overflying its territory."

The United States has indicated it will waive the Secure Flight requirement to provide information for overflights if Canada creates an equivalent security screening system.

Last March, the airlines council told Public Safety Minister Peter Van Loan in a letter that application of U.S. Secure Flight rules in Canada "is a direct result of the failure to ensure" that Canada's no-fly list, known as Passenger Protect, is "an accepted part of a continental aviation security system."

The airlines council favours a homegrown system as long as carriers don't bear any new costs.

Canada has been working for years on a more comprehensive passenger screening system. The Public Safety Department had no immediate update on those plans.

Critics say extending the Secure Flight program to Canadian flights that merely pass over the U.S. would indeed be a threat to Canadian sovereignty.

The Ottawa-based International Civil Liberties Monitoring Group has argued that sprawling American watch lists could ensnare many Canadians - or activists, immigrants and refugees who want to fly to Canada from Latin America but must travel through American airspace to do so.

Washington says Secure Flight, which transfers the task of watch-list screening to the TSA from individual airlines, will reduce the number of false matches - a longstanding problem with common names - and clear up mistakes more quickly.

Copyright © 2010 The Canadian Press. All rights reserved