Friday, December 19, 2008

Another PATRIOT Act Ruling

On Dcember 15, a US federal appeals court (2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals) ruled that recipients of National Security Letters should not be gagged (metaphorically) unless disclosure adversely affects “an authorized investigation to protect against international terrorism or clandestine intelligence activities.” This upholds a lower court ruling from September 2007. Seems like a good thing to me.

Here's a link to more info:


Thursday, December 11, 2008

Canada backpedals on sharing personal database with U.S.

This article goes back a couple of weeks. I missed it completely but it was just brought to my attention. It's an interesting intersection of issues: the housing of personal information of Canadians in the United States and the question of border security. There's a variety of different URLs for the article; here's one:


Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Privacy Commissioner of Canada ruling from August

I'm a little late in getting around to reporting on this (my plate is surprisingly full these days) and it has been blogged elsewhere but I thought I should say a few words about this ruling.

On August 7, 2008, the Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada released a report of findings relating to the change of email provider for customers. The complaints alleged that did not get customer consent to disclose personal into the new US provider and did not provide adequate notice. The complainant also said that the level of protection for personal information is not comparable to that which is available in Canada. The response of the Office was that all three complaints were unfounded.

Having read through the document, I follow the arguments presented by the Privacy Commissioner. The actions of seem to follow what Canadian law requires. However, it could be said that there are deficiencies with Canadian law; for instance, it may be legal to transfer the accounts as though some customers may not like the transfer. Implementing blocking legislation would change the law in order to satisfy the customers.

I think the Commissioner did give short shrift to the implications of the USA PATRIOT Act. With the transfer of email accounts to the US-based provider, personal information of Canadian customers of is susceptible to seizure under the Act and the customers would know nothing of us. There is legislation similar to the PATRIOT Act in Canada but that's our issue to deal with. That being said, even with the implications of the PATRIOT Act, it's still legal for to transfer the email function to the US supplier.

I could go on but I will stop there. Please have a look at the document. It can be found at


Thursday, July 3, 2008

Google must divulge YouTube log

Just saw this on the BBC News page, posted today:

There's a few scary lines in here: "Google must divulge the viewing habits of every user who has ever watched any video on YouTube, a US court has ruled" and "While the legal battle between the two firms is being contested in the US, it is thought the ruling will apply to YouTube users and their viewing habits everywhere" (italics added for effect). I'm sure that there will be more reports on this in the days to come as well; maybe it won't be as drastic as first described. I would suspect that the judgement will be appealed.


Friday, June 13, 2008

More on the proposed Canadian copyright changess

It's been about a day since the bill (C-61) to amend the Copyright Act came out. The debate is well under way, as expected. If you want to check it out yourself, here are some useful links:

The bill itself is at

and at

Michael Geist has a couple of new entries on the bill on his site: Lots of comments here too.

The press release on the subject from the Canadian Library Association is at


Thursday, June 12, 2008

A little more on the proposed Copyright Act

I came across a few items published yesterday that give some hints as to what is going to be in bill that will amend the Copyright Act:

A National Post article:

A piece from the Globe and Mail Report on Business:

All of these were first noted on Michael Geist's great blog at Check his site out for more info later.


Bill to amend the Copyright Act in Canada

Some big news for those interested in copyright:

As I type (9:00 am, June 12, 2008), an announcement is being made by The Honourable Jim Prentice, Minister of Industry, and the Honourable Josée Verner, Minister of Canadian Heritage, Status of Women and Official Languages, and Minister for La Francophonie regarding a bill to amend the Copyright Act. This is big news in that changes to the Copyright Act have been long talked about and, at least according to the rumor mill, previous amendments have been almost introduced but pulled back at the last minute (I think this has happen twice in the last several years). I have no details on this set of proposed changes yet but these should emerge soon.

There's information on the announcement at this ridiculously long URL:!OpenDocument


The USA PATRIOT Act and this blog

One topic that will likely get a fair amount of discussion on this new blog will be the infamous USA PATRIOT Act. As the creators of Environymity are coming from a Canadian university environment, we hope to present some interesting perspectives on the PATRIOT Act and other actions coming from US legislation.

A few basics about the PATRIOT Act: The USA Patriot Act (more formally known as the Uniting and Strengthening America by Providing Appropriate Tools Required to Intercept and Obstruct Terrorism Act (USA Patriot Act) of 2001 (Public Law 107-56, 115 STAT.272, H.R. 3162)) has been in force since October 24, 2001. A wide-ranging piece of legislation that amends other laws, its most reported features is Section 215, which allows authorities such as the FBI and prosecutors to more easily get a court order or use national security letters to access personal records of any sort without disclosure; those from whom records have been seized are not permitted to inform anyone but their legal counsel that this has occurred. Here's some more information about Section 215 from the ACLU:

Environymity is hosted on Blogger. Blogger is owned by Google. Google is an American-based company. As an American-based company, any information stored by Google is susceptible to seizure under the PATRIOT Act. Agents of the US federal government could grab any and all information connected to this blog and we would almost certainly never know about it. Now, this may not be that much of a concern in terms of Environymity; as a blog, all the information about the creators and posters that has been given to Blogger is publicaly accessible, even without PATRIOT Act authority (however, we would still have no idea that the data had been taken). But what about other situations, where personal information is stored on US-based servers (or on servers of susiduaries of US companies; these, too, fall under the PATRIOT Act) and is supposedly private...

So, something to think about...