New report highlights Canadians' vision for privacy

Wednesday, May 20, 2015
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Wednesday, May 20, 2015
By Sam Pinto Today OpenMedia released “Canada’s Privacy Plan,” a report recommending ways for Canada to create a positive environment for privacy in the country. The report and its recommendations were created with input from over 100,000 individuals, including over 10,000 Canadians taking part in an online crowdsourcing tool. The state of privacy in Canada is deteriorating. The passage of Bill C-51 poses a serious threat to Canadians’ privacy. However, this report demonstrates citizens’ desire to protect this right and showcases positive improvements that we can make to help safeguard our privacy. Protecting our privacy is integral for preserving our right to free expression. Individuals who participated in the crowdsourcing initiative were asked to rank six different privacy issues to determine those that are considered priorities. Based on their input, the report recommends policy resolutions to address the top three privacy concerns:


The aggregate results found the top priority of Canadians to be the requirement of government agencies to obtain a warrant before obtaining the personal information of citizens. 93.8% of participants stated that the only scenario in which government agencies or law enforcement should be able to access the personal information of citizens is when a judge grants them a warrant based on valid evidence. In order to ensure that this standard is being met, the report proposes a series of reforms that should be implemented, some of which include:
  • • End legal immunities granted to telecom providers for voluntary warrantless disclosure of personal information;
  • • Mandatory reporting of subscriber data requests;
  • • Require greater transparency from telecom companies for actions such as the number of subscriber data requests they receive, the number of such requests they approve, and their reasons for doing so
  • • Require a warrant to search cellphones and other digital devices
  • • End the use of drones to conduct warrantless surveillance


The mass surveillance currently conducted by agencies such as CSIS and the CSE is the second issue Canadians prioritized. Such activities, particularly the bulk collection of metadata, are seen as serious violations of our human rights and Charter protected freedoms, as it can be used to provide substantial details of one’s life. The report outlines the best way to curtail the mass collection of data:
  • • End all suspicion-less mass surveillance, including the bulk collection of metadata. Surveillance should only be conducted in a targeted manner, and only with a warrant;
  • • Require judicial authorization for surveillance, rather than just ministerial approval;
  • • No future expansion of surveillance without a verifiable need;
  • • Prevent government agencies from monitoring what Canadians say on social media


Increased transparency over government surveillance and collection of data is the third most important privacy concern amongst participants. The vast majority of those polled want to see increased reporting of activities and statistics from the CSE and CSIS, as well as the forming of a Parliamentary Committee to oversee and review existing surveillance mechanisms. The recommendations made by the report illustrate how to develop stronger oversight tools, including:
  • • Reinstate the Office of the CSE Inspector General;
  • • Create strong, independent control of the CSE;
  • • Establish a multi-party Parliamentary Committee tasked with the ongoing review of spy agency activities;
  • • Fully implement the Privacy Commissioner’s January 2014 ‘Checks and Controls recommendations;
  • • Ensure that oversight keeps pace with new spy agency capabilities and powers.
CJFE is proud to co-launch this report in partnership with OpenMedia, and supports the recommendations contained within. Read the full report (PDF).
Sam Pinto Is CJFE’s Outreach and Communications Assistant. Follow him on Twitter @SamPinto94.

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