Privacy czar urges 'open debate' on Bill C-51

OTTAWA -- The privacy watchdog is urging the Liberal government to engage in open debate on national-security legislation as Justin Trudeau's cabinet reviews the controversial anti-terrorism law known as Bill C-51.

See Full Article

Privacy commissioner Daniel Therrien expressed hope Thursday that the new government would follow through on its commitment to consult the public and specialists before revamping the bill, suggesting there was insufficient discussion on the Conservative legislation last spring.

"It would be very desirable to have a more complete and exhaustive debate on the issues before legislation is adopted," Therrien said after tabling his annual report.

"I certainly look forward to presenting my views on what amendments should be considered."

Therrien railed against C-51 last March, saying the bill's scope was "clearly excessive" and put personal information at risk.

The legislation gave the Canadian Security Intelligence Service the explicit power to disrupt terror plots, made it easier to limit the movements of a suspect, expanded no-fly list powers and cracked down on terrorist propaganda.

It also alarmed Therrien by removing many barriers to sharing security-related information. Therrien said the bill could make available all federally held data about someone of interest to as many as 17 government departments and agencies with responsibilities for national security.

In his annual report, Therrien said the bill and two other major pieces of security-related legislation ushered in by the former Conservative government amounted to a "sea change for privacy rights in Canada."

"Ensuring government powers under these new acts are exercised in a manner which respects privacy will be an ongoing focus of the (privacy commissioner's) office in the months and years to come."

Therrien also urged federal agencies to put more rigorous safeguards in place to protect sensitive personal information -- especially when that data is on an easy-to-lose memory stick.

The commissioner underscored a record-high number of federal government data breaches disclosed to his office.

While many institutions have made strides, there is still much room for improvement -- particularly with the use of portable storage devices, Therrien said.

Federal institutions reported 256 data breaches in 2014-2015, up from 228 the year before.

As in previous years, the leading cause of breaches was accidental disclosure, a risk Therrien says can often be lessened by following proper procedures.

Last year marked the first time institutions were required to report data breaches to the privacy commissioner. Previously, reporting was voluntary.

Portable storage devices are convenient because they can hold huge amounts of data and are generally small and highly portable, the commissioner noted. But that creates significant privacy and security risks, since the devices can easily be lost or stolen.

Therrien's office undertook a special audit following concerns over a number of such data breaches, including a 2012 incident in which a portable hard drive containing the personal information of almost 600,000 student loan recipients went astray.

The audit, which examined practices at 17 institutions, identified a number of concerns:

  • More than two-thirds of the agencies had not formally assessed the risks surrounding the use of all types of portable storage devices;
  • More than 90 per cent did not track all devices throughout their life cycle;
  • One-quarter did not enforce the use of encrypted storage devices.

The commissioner says the audited institutions have accepted all of his recommendations.



Advertisements

Latest Tech & Science News

  • Climate change scientists fight for funding to save High Arctic lab

    Tech & Science CBC News
    Some of Canada's leading climate change scientists are fighting to keep the country's northernmost research station in operation. The Polar Environment Atmospheric Research Laboratory (PEARL) in Eureka, Nunavut, tracks atmospheric data that no other research station can, given its High Arctic latitude, only 1,110 kilometres from the North Pole. Source
  • Right whale skeleton, DNA headed to Canada's largest museum

    Tech & Science CBC News
    Scientists at the Royal Ontario Museum in Toronto are hoping that some good can come from three dead North Atlantic right whales, towed to a beach on P.E.I. this summer. Final report on right whale deaths still weeks away, say AVC pathologistsRight whale necropsy underway on P.E.I. Source
  • Asteroid mining could support space economies, colonies

    Tech & Science CBC News
    A team of researchers are planning to send robotic spacecraft into outer space, land near asteroids hurtling through the abyss and mine them for water, metals and other elements that will make colonizing space that much easier. Source
  • Algae on river flowing into Lake Erie prompts warning

    Tech & Science CTV News
    TOLEDO, Ohio -- Health officials in Ohio are telling children, pregnant women and people with certain medical conditions not to swim in the river that flows through Toledo because of an algae outbreak. The Maumee River along the city's downtown waterfront has turned unsightly shades of green the past few days, leading local health officials to issue a recreational advisory Thursday. Source
  • #BugsR4Girls: How 8-year-old Sophia Spencer co-authored a scientific paper on bugs

    Tech & Science CBC News
    Sophia Spencer hated it when classmates taunted her for her love of insects, but seeing them kill her pet grasshoppers for fun was even worse. Her first-grade peers couldn't understand what she found so fascinating about bugs of all sorts or why she'd devoted spare time to catching them, reading about them and generally carrying on like a budding entomologist. Source
  • Tech firms and lawmakers celebrate new trans-Atlantic cable

    Tech & Science CTV News
    WILLIAMSBURG, Va. -- Lawmakers and tech industry leaders have announced the completion of a new high-speed data cable that stretches across the Atlantic Ocean. Representatives from Facebook and Microsoft joined with Virginia's governor and two senators in Williamsburg to celebrate the cable's completion on Friday morning. Source
  • Ont. girl who was teased for love of bugs gets name in science journal

    Tech & Science CTV News
    Sophia Spencer hated it when classmates taunted her for her love of insects, but seeing them kill her pet grasshoppers for fun was even worse. Her first-grade peers couldn't understand what she found so fascinating about bugs of all sorts or why she'd devote spare time to catching them, reading about them, and generally carrying on like a budding entomologist. Source
  • Help from above: Canadian satellite assists with hurricane recovery, other natural disasters

    Tech & Science CBC News
    When Hurricane Irma cut a path of destruction through the Caribbean this month, authorities on the ground found themselves in the dark, scrambling for information. High above the storm, satellites from several nations, including Canada, were called into action to track the hurricane's progress, measure the damage and provide vital information to plan rescue and recovery efforts. Source
  • Indonesia raises Bali volcano alert to highest level

    Tech & Science CTV News
    JAKARTA, Indonesia -- Indonesian authorities have raised the alert level for the Mount Agung volcano on the tourist island of Bali to the highest level, and more than 11,000 villagers have left their homes around the mountain, officials said Friday. Source
  • Plenty of rain and thriving plants made it a 'crazy great summer' for monarchs and other insects

    Tech & Science CBC News
    One of Canada's most cherished species seems to be making a comeback in Toronto gardens — at least for a few more days. Monarch butterfly watchers in Canada and in the United States say it's been a good year for the iconic orange-and-black pollinators, who leave for winter habitats in Mexico from Canada and the U.S. Source