The digital age has brought about significant benefits in our everyday lives. We can settle disputes by searching for an answer on our smartphones; get inspiration for some interior decoration through Instagram; and who can resist a midnight McDonalds delivery with Uber Eats? The thought that the modern toothbrush was not invented until 1938, makes today look like something out of a science fiction novel and makes our day to day lives considerably easier. However, the damaging effects of technological advancements have been largely ignored until recent years. The widespread availability of technology and online platforms reveals a darker side of humanity and allows people to use technology for nefarious purposes, rather than the positive ones we would like to believe it was created for.

Twitter is a great source for recent news and social commentary; however, in 2017, a Maryland man was arrested for sending a reporter a Twitter message containing a flashing strobe-light image in an attempt to trigger the reporter’s epilepsy.[1] Instagram is a great platform to share your experiences with friends and gain inspiration for design; however, earlier this year, a man in Perth Australia became the first individual charged under a new revenge porn legislation after posting intimate images of his ex-girlfriend on Instagram.[2] In 2015, Canada passed a similar Bill C-13, which created the new offence of non-consensual distribution of intimate images. Facebook is a great way to stay connected with classmates and colleagues; however, earlier this year its live stream service aired the New Zealand Christchurch mosque attack.[3] Technological advances are creating a more cohesive, well-connected, and more convenient world, but the same technology has the potential to be used to cause significant harm to others.

A question arises: who is responsible for monitoring and controlling the content that is posted and how this technology is used? Should private companies be policing what users are posting or should the government be stepping in to place a greater burden on organizations? Prime Minister Trudeau believes that Canadians should have more control over their own data and the government should be taking steps to place a greater onus on organizations to combat adverse uses of the technological advances.

On May 16, 2019, Prime Minister Trudeau spoke in Paris, France, regarding the Christchurch attach in New Zealand. He committed to creating a “digital charter” that will restore the faith of citizens while holding online platforms accountable. Trudeau said that he is looking “to working alongside internet companies, but indeed, if they do not choose to act, we will be forced to continue to act in ways that protect Canadians…”.

This commitment is consistent with Canada’s regulatory shift to holding organizations responsible for the way their customers’ data is being gathered, stored, and used (see our blog about the new and improve PIPEDA[4] and the Privacy Commissioner’s investigation into Facebook[5]). However, it is unclear what the “digital charter” will look like and even less so the effect that it will have on organizations. Organizations are required to treat their user’s data more responsibly and with more transparency. Privacy policy must be drafted with clear and unambiguous wording and the way data will be used by the organization must be contemplated before it is collected. In short, organizations are required to be more data conscious than they have been in previous years.

Prime Minister Trudeau’s commitment demonstrates the inextricable link between technology and privacy. Organizations must keep up with the slow moving government changes and shift their organizational strategies to reflect the importance placed on the way they handle users’ data. Organizations will also be called on to take on a greater societal obligation to protect citizens and their data. If organizations do not want to commit to such a standard, the government seems committed to forcing them to do so through judicial means.

 

[1] https://www.cnn.com/2017/03/17/us/twitter-journalist-strobe-epilepsy/index.html

[2] https://www.watoday.com.au/national/western-australia/first-perth-man-charged-under-new-revenge-porn-laws-for-posting-ex-s-photos-on-instagram-20190506-p51kez.html

[3] https://www.scmp.com/news/asia/australasia/article/3002436/new-zealand-shooting-more-200-users-watched-live-stream-video

[4] https://www.sbalawyers.ca/The-New-and-Improved-PIPEDA

[5] https://www.sbalawyers.ca/An-Era-of-Conscious-Data-Use—And-Facebook-s-Lack-Thereof

Stas Bodrov

Once the target of an unsuccessful phishing scam, Stas is a key part of SBA’s cyber liability and privacy group providing services ranging from assessments and prevention to crisis response.

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