URGENT: Demand Canada’s federal government step up on digital rights, now.
Sign this petition calling on Canada to create a digital rights strategy – digitalrightsnow.ca
In addition to ongoing debates about smart cities and surveillance capitalism, numerous recent events demonstrate how dangerous it is for Canadians to continue without human rights protections that are designed for the digital age
In the past week alone:
- The City of Toronto approved the use of ShotSpotter policing technology, which uses microphones in public spaces to detect and triangulate gunshots — and raises numerous unanswered questions about privacy, data protection and civil liberties.
- We learned Cadillac Fairview Malls, which owns shopping centres in 6 provinces, are using covert facial recognition software on shoppers without consent.
- We learned Canadian Border Services is using ancestry DNA websites to aid in deporting migrants.
It is urgent that Canadians call on our government to respond to these increasingly concerning developments by including a digital rights strategy as part of the ongoing national data strategy consultation.
This digital rights strategy should include a discussion of necessary changes to Canada’s federal privacy legislation: the Privacy Act and PIPEDA. These federal pieces of legislation are critical because they impact citizens from coast to coast, as they are interpreted and passed down to provinces and cities. But they are outdated and ill-equipped to protect Canadians in the digital age.
This digital rights strategy should also include a discussion about data minimization: collecting personal data only when it is absolutely needed; deciding if some types of data should never be collected; keeping data only for as long as necessary; and limiting access to only those who truly need it.
Canadians have not signed up for surveillance capitalism as a social norm. Outdated models for data ownership, consent, privacy, and more are leaving us vulnerable. It is negligent to continue going forward into a digital economy without social consent regarding how technology impacts our lives.
WHAT YOU CAN DO
- Sign this petition calling on Canada’s federal government to include digital rights in their ongoing data strategy consultation.
- Send an email to the Ontario Information and Privacy Commissioner to express your concern about the recent ShotSpotter technology purchase approval at the City of Toronto. The Commissioner has been asked to review the technology before it is launched in Toronto, so this is our best chance to intervene.
Thank you to all the community leaders, activists, advocates, and organizations that have been doing work on these issues for years. Thank you to those that deputed against this technology at the Toronto Police Services meeting. Thank you to to Idil Abdillahi, Beverly Bain, Dionne Brand, OmiSoore Dryden, Sandy Hudson, Robyn Maynard, Abdi Osman, Christina Sharpe, Christopher Smith, Rinaldo Walcott, Desmond Cole, Samantha Burton and Lilian Radovac for their recent work to mobilize around the ShotSpotter vote at Toronto City Council.
SUBJECT: Critical privacy questions about ShotSpotter technology
Dear Privacy Commissioner Beamish,
On July 24 Toronto City Council approved spending to increase surveillance in the City — including the adoption of ShotSpotter, a technology made by an American company that uses networks of “acoustic sensors” to detect and triangulate gunshots.
I am writing to you to express my strong opposition to the adoption of ShotSpotter technology, and increased surveillance in Toronto overall. For a detailed account of concerns that have been raised about this policy, please see the letter from Black community activists, scholars and artists and the Canadian Civil Liberties Association letter.
As far as we know, ShotSpotter has not previously been deployed in Canada, which means it has not been examined in the context of Canadian federal, provincial, or municipal privacy law. On July 23, 2018 Toronto City Council passed the following motion (Item CC.14 – Motion 14) to engage your office on a review of ShotSpotter:
14 – Motion to Amend Item (Additional) moved by Councillor Ana Bailão (Carried)
That City Council request the City Manager, in collaboration with the Toronto Police Services Board, prior to awarding the contract to ShotSpotter, to consult with the office of the Ontario Information and Privacy Commissioner and if any concerns are identified and not resolved to the satisfaction of the Ontario Information and Privacy Commissioner that these matters be reported to the Executive Committee.
There are several critical unanswered questions about how ShotSpotter will impact residents’ privacy and civil liberties. I ask that you address these questions in your review, and recommend that Toronto not implement the technology in response to any concerns you identify.
These critical questions include:
- Might the use of ShotSpotter infringe on residents’ rights under the Human Rights Code?
- What are the risks and implications of audio being obtained without a warrant?
- Who will own data collected by ShotSpotter?
- Where will data collected by ShotSpotter be stored? How long will it be kept?
- Who will have access to ShotSpotter data? How might this be impacted by where the data is stored? How will they access it?
- Will independent audits of ShotSpotter technology, data, and practices be possible — particularly given it is a private company?
- Will the agreement with ShotSpotter limit the public’s ability to file successful access to information requests?
I also urge you to support the Canadian Civil Liberties Association in completing and submitting a legal risk analysis, as the organization offered to do for City Council.
Finally, I ask that you make your findings and recommendations publicly available, so that the residents of Toronto have full and transparent information about your conclusions.
Please don’t hesitate to contact me if you have any questions.