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Project Summaries

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Note: The projects presented at the Pathways to Privacy Symposium were conducted independently, and the summaries have been provided by the project leaders. Please note that the opinions expressed in the project summaries and presentations are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect those of the OPC or the funding organizations.

Opening Keynote

Valerie Steeves, Associate Professor, Department of Criminology, University of Ottawa
The “eGirls” Project
Project funded by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada

The advent of networked communications was hailed by critical scholars as an opportunity for girls to access the public sphere and advance gender equality. At the same time, girls were seen to be at risk of harassment and other forms of harm due to the blurring of private and public online spaces. Policymakers have responded by opening up young women’s online lives to increased scrutiny and surveillance in order to protect them from that harm; and focusing on individual girls’ behaviour without critically interrogating the broader social and commercial context in which girls operate. Our project seeks to identify the ways in which critical scholars and policymakers talk about girls and technology, and ask girls if these discourses reflect their lived experiences on social networking sites. Our early data indicates that girls experience social networking sites as highly gendered spaces in which they actively negotiate with media stereotypes. Privacy and publicity are intimately connected to this negotiation, as girls use levels of online visibility to manage their online performances for competing audiences with highly variable expectations of their behaviour.

Girls also negotiate with the commercialized nature of social networking sites and the kinds of identities that this commercialization enables; and they do so in interesting ways that reflect a highly nuanced and skillful manipulation of publicity. At the same time, girls acknowledge that they carry a high burden as girls with respect to managing for online relationships, and are held to a higher standard of behaviour than their male peers.

Panel 1: The Changing Landscape for Youth

Jane Tallim, Media Awareness Network
Young Canadians in a Wired World – Phase III
Project funded by the Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada

Media Awareness Network (MNet) launched in 2011-12 Phase III of its ongoing study Young Canadians in a Wired World (YCWW). This qualitative research stage is a critical component of the project – providing the foundation and direction for the development of the quantitative classroom-based research instruments.

Initiated in 2000, YCWW is the most comprehensive and wide-ranging study of children and teen’s Internet use in Canada. The research project, which tracks and investigates the behaviours, attitudes, and opinions of Canadian children and youth with respect to their use of the Internet, has been conducted in two phases, in 2000-2001 and 2004-2005. Through this research MNet has harvested a wealth of information and insights about the privacy implications of young Canadians’ online activities and behaviours. The research has highlighted the importance of education as a key response in helping young people make smart and informed online decisions.

MNet has initiated Phase III of YCWW through the following activities: conducting a literature review of current research; striking an advisory committee comprising key academic researchers and project partners; developing discussion guides and supporting materials for the teacher interviews and parent and youth focus groups; working with the University of Ottawa to obtain approval from their ethics review board; conducting ten one-hour interviews with Canadian teachers; and compiling and coding the teacher interview data and producing a preliminary analysis. MNet received 2011-12 funding from the OPC’s Contributions Program to complete the qualitative research stage.

Sara Grimes, University of Toronto
Deconstructing the Cyberchild: Children’s Online Play at the Intersection of Policy, Technology and Cultural Industries
Project funded by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada

Deconstructing the Cyberchild aimed to uncover some of the ways in which children’s play, leisure and social interaction is enabled, regulated and enacted within emerging online forums. The project involved a thorough comparative case study analysis of six commercial game-themed virtual worlds (MMOGs) targeted to children under the age of 13 years, which included an examination of accompanying “terms of use” (TOU) (or “terms of service” (TOS)) contracts and privacy policies.

The findings suggest that TOS and privacy policies provide insight into the design and management of children’s play spaces, as these documents articulate a particular set of socially and politically embedded “rules of play,” through which the worlds’ owners attempt to define players’ privacy in ways that work to obscure underlying data collection practices and regulatory requirements. A key example of this can be found in the common practice of positioning corporate compliance to privacy regulation requirements as a value-added “safety” mechanism. Highlighting the ways in which these documents function as much as ‘position statements’ on regulatory issues and debates as they serve as quasi-legal contracts, the study demonstrates that, when considered alongside other elements of the design, contents and marketing, critical analysis of such TOS and privacy policies raises a number of important policy implications, as well as new questions about how to best advance and protect children’s privacy rights online.

The findings and conclusions are supported by a previous study conducted on comparable documents found in children’s online games, as well as emerging data coming out of the investigator’s current research on networked creativity games and tools targeted to children of the same age range (6 to 12 years).

John Lawford, Counsel, Public Interest Advocacy Centre
All in the Data Family? Databases, Children and Profiling
Project funded by Industry Canada

This paper reviews the privacy risks posed to children when commercial entities begin targeting children through their personal information on the Internet. Children’s websites overwhelmingly expose their private information without their informed consent or that of a parent or guardian, under the guise of joining or enjoying websites that are designed to be online playgrounds.

The paper is informed by a qualitative research study performed with young volunteers aged 11-17 in a controlled computer laboratory environment in Toronto, Canada, in which they were allowed to engage in any Internet activity. This behaviour was monitored and tracked (in accordance with full disclosure and proper research ethics). Participants were also engaged by a moderator in a discussion of online privacy in relation to their computer use.

This paper concludes that the current legislative privacy framework in Canada and the important effect of limited privacy laws in the United States (from where most websites are either based or draw their privacy standards) is inadequate to protect children’s online privacy to a standard that is appropriate. As a result, this report recommends that Canadian privacy law, and chiefly the Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act (PIPEDA) be amended to add specific rules in relation to the protection of children’s privacy.

Panel 2: Reaching Diverse Populations

Linda Girard, Director General, Association sur l’Accès et la Protection de l’Information (AAPI)
Internet Portal on Privacy Protection and A Teaching and Learning Kit for Teachers and Students
Projects funded by the Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada

In the “Internet Portal on Privacy Protection” project, the AAPI developed a personal privacy toolbox designed for “lay people” (i.e. young people, parents, seniors) to raise their awareness and provide them with practical information about privacy. It then developed an interactive Web portal on which it posted information material tailored to the project’s target clientele. In this way, the AAPI’s personal toolbox was able to reach people who are generally not well informed about privacy and personal information protection issues. The “Personal Toolbox” Web portal provides completely free access to various tools by presenting and indexing them in different ways.

In the “Teaching and Learning Kit” project, the APPI’s objective was to increase awareness among high school students by providing an educational kit to help teachers discuss issues concerning online privacy and personal information protection with their students. The educational kit contains print and audiovisual tools on developing sound practices for posting pictures and the use and disclosure of personal information.

James Roots, Executive Director, Canadian Association for the Deaf
Understanding Your Privacy Rights: The PIPEDA in Signs
Project funded by the Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada

Over the past three years, the Canadian Association of the Deaf has been the fortunate recipient of two grants from the Office of the Privacy Commission of Canada.

The first of these was for a project called “Deaf Perspectives on Identity Theft and Privacy”. Its goals were to educate and inform services and agencies as to the communication and information barriers they impose upon people who are Deaf or hard of hearing, and to educate and inform Deaf Canadians about identity theft, privacy rights and threats, and Internet frauds and scams.

The second project, “Understanding Your Privacy Rights: The PIPEDA in Signs”, involved creating “simple language” versions of two key publications of the OPC (the “Guide For Individuals” and the “Guide For Businesses and Organizations”), and filming them in American Sign Language (ASL) and Langue des Sourds du Quebec (LSQ).

Claire Harvey, Head of Media Relations, Options consommateurs
Awareness Workshop on Identity Theft and Seniors — Prevention is Better Than a Cure
Project funded by the Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada

Option consommateurs put together a workshop and information kit on identity theft aimed at seniors. The workshop taught participants about what identity theft is (a crime that happens without their knowledge when someone fraudulently obtains their personal information) and made them aware that many people are victims of identity theft. The information provided to participants came from the Canadian Anti-Fraud Call Centre (which receives reports of identity theft), Quebec’s Sécurité publique (which conducted a survey) and the Ontario Research Network for Electronic Commerce (ORNEC).

Participants learned how to prevent identity theft. They were taught that by refusing to give their personal information when it is not appropriate, asserting their rights and adopting safe behaviour they can prevent identity theft and even reduce the number of these types of crimes.

Lastly, participants were shown how to periodically check whether they have been victims of identity theft—a measure that can minimize damage—and what to do if they are victims. With this advice, participants are better equipped to protect themselves and deal with situations that could otherwise have serious consequences.

Afternoon Keynote

Dr. Lesley Jacobs, Director, York Centre for Public Policy and Law, York University
Privacy Rights Mobilization among Marginal Groups in Canada: Fulfilling the Mandate of PIPEDA
Project funded by the Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada

This research project is designed to further our understanding of how individuals from certain marginal groups in Canada understand their right to privacy, the legislative protections that the Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada (OPC) is mandated to fulfill, and how these understandings affect privacy rights mobilization. The context for this research is provided by the increasing regulatory engagement of the Office of the Privacy Commissioner with invasions of privacy in the private sector involving new digital technology, new information technology, and the evolving digital economy in Canada.

The results of this research project have been divided into four chapters. The first three chapters are all authored by Professor Lesley Jacobs. The first chapter develops the broad theoretical framework that underpins it, that is to say, the concept of legal consciousness and rights mobilization, and relates it to the legislative mandate of the OPC. The second chapter reports research results pertaining to Canadian youth and privacy issues that arise in their engagement with social networking such as Facebook. The third chapter reports research results pertaining to recent immigrants and their experiences with privacy concerns in electronic financial transactions. The fourth chapter, authored by Professors Barbara Crow and Kim Sawchuk, focuses on Senior Citizens in Canada and their experiences with invasions of privacy involving cell phones and other forms of communication devices.

Panel 3: Cultural Perspectives on Privacy

Dr. Jens Weber, Professor, Department of Computer Science and Adjunct Professor, School of Health Information Science, University of Victoria
First Nations Privacy and Electronic Health Record Systems
Project funded by the Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada

This project involved an examination of First Nations privacy concerns in the context of electronic health record (EHR) initiatives. First Nations approaches to privacy are distinguished by their emphasis on community and group interests. In contrast, both the common law of privacy and international data protection regimes are built on the notion of individual rights. The potentially incommensurability of these two approaches to privacy have significant ramifications for First Nations; while EHRs are a useful tool for supporting holistic approaches to health, the privacy risks inherent in these systems have raised concerns among First Nations stakeholders.

This project provided an analysis of the difficulties inherent in this domain. First, we conducted a literature search on communal approaches to privacy. Two reports were written from this survey: (1) a report concentrating on sociological aspects of communal privacy, and (2) a report detailing the differences between First Nations approaches and those found in common and statutory law. The latter provided more detail on the potential issues arising when attempting to reconcile these systems. In particular, we noted potential for clashes between individual and collective interests. After holding a symposium on First Nations privacy and EHR systems with First Nations stakeholders, we drafted a third report that used techniques from social requirements engineering to construct agent-oriented models. These models were then used to elicit some key concerns and difficulties. We pointed out important future work to be performed. We hope the results will be of use for a variety of stakeholders, including researchers, public sector agencies and First Nations.

Tonia Mori, Director General, CHOQ-FM
Awareness Campaign in Francophone Minority Communities on the Protection of Personal Information and Privacy
Project funded by the Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada

The provincial privacy awareness campaign, “On vous observe, voyez-y!” which took place March 10–26, 2010, is a preventive, informative and interactive popular education and social marketing initiative to increase public awareness about privacy rights and obligations. The campaign is aimed at a broad audience: Franco-Ontarians, including young people, newcomers, parents, students and organizations that provide services to this clientele.

Through the development of various awareness and communication tools, such as radio vignettes, the Internet, posters, postcards, viral videos and more, CHOQ-FM 105.1 and launched an Ontario-wide multi-platform campaign in MICRO member community radio stations, Francophone newspapers, television, Francophone schools and online.

The campaign kicked off at 5 p.m. on Wednesday, March 10, 2010, and the promoter was honoured to welcome the following special guests: Ms. Madeleine Meilleur, Minister of Community and Social Services and Minister Responsible for Francophone Affairs; Ms. Chantal Bernier, Assistant Privacy Commissioner of Canada; and Mr. Jacques Saint Laurent, President of the Commission d’accès à l’information du Québec. The event wrapped up with a special broadcast of a round table discussion live from Toronto City Hall.

Mirjana Mandaric, Master of Arts Immigration and Settlement Studies, Ryerson University, Ryerson University
Biometrics: Constructing “Ideal” Subjects and “Aliens” at the Canada-U.S. Border
Project funded by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada

Employing critical social research in combination with critical discourse analysis, this research project examines the use of biometrics technology in the citizenship and immigration context with particular emphasis on its application at the Canada-U.S. border. The central argument of this paper is that through the use of biometrics technology at the Canada-U.S crossing, the border has become a social filter that separates welcome from unwelcome migrants depending on strategic objectives to include and exclude population groups, which makes them part of a social and economic strategy in the post-September 11 securitized environment.

Moreover, through the use of biometrics technology at the Canada-U.S. border, the notion of citizenship is being reconstructed whereby racialized migrants and vulnerable populations will be tremendously affected: most notably, poor migrants from the South as well as refugees and asylum seekers from elsewhere. Given the literature used in this research study, there is a strong indication that in citizenship and immigration contexts, biometrics technology represents an extremely invasive form of social control and oppression.

Furthermore, combining biometrics with other data collection and information sharing technologies can be used to assemble a new picture of the individual, which is irreversible, because the technology appears as neutral and objective. Also, the data can be further shared, bought and/or sold, which will bear wider implications for the individuals whose identities have been altered and/or reconfigured. Altogether this raises a number of privacy and human rights issues that have to be carefully examined and addressed.

Panel 4: Frontiers of Surveillance and Identification among Different Populations

Dr. Ian Kerr, Canada Research Chair in Ethics, Law & Technology at the University of Ottawa Faculty of Law
Building Better Humans: Health, Enhancements and Human Rights
Project funded by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada

Recent advances in enhancement medicine allow us to transcend biological limitations through the implantation of microchips, digital body parts and artificial organs. However, surprisingly little thought has been given to the ethical and legal aspects of their design and use.

Ian Kerr examines current ethical and regulatory approaches that govern medical devices and argues that the existing paradigm of mass-market consumer goods is not particularly well suited for the health sector. His primary concern is that individuals are increasingly called upon to sign complex contractual documents that diminish privacy and autonomy not only as users of mass market consumer goods but, now, as medical patients. Drawing on lessons learned in the field of privacy and information technology law, he suggests that special considerations are required in the healthcare context to ensure that patient autonomy and privacy are adequately protected in an era where our bodies are becoming inextricably tethered by devices and software owned by health care providers in partnership with industry.

Dr. David Lyon, Queen's Research Chair in Surveillance Studies
The New Transparency Project: Surveillance and Social Sorting
Project funded by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada

The New Transparency makes visible the identities of individuals, workings of institutions and flows of information in ways never before seen. Surveillance, the social process underlying the New Transparency, is rapidly becoming the dominant organizing practice of our late modern world. Given growing computer-dependence and reliance on personal data collection and processing by a variety of institutions, and heightened public concern about security, surveillance is now experienced as an everyday reality. The history, key characteristics and consequences of the New Transparency will be examined by asking three vitally important questions:

  • What factors contribute to the general expansion of surveillance as a technology of governance in late modern societies?
  • What are the underlying principles, technological infrastructures and institutional frameworks that support surveillance practice?
  • What are the social consequences of such surveillance both for institutions and for ordinary people?

Cynthia Fraser, Consultant on International Technology Safety, National Network to End Domestic Violence
The Safety Net Project and the Impacts of Surveillance and Identification on Victims of Abuse

Technology helps victims and their children successfully flee violent batterers, stalkers and rapists. Survivors map roads to new lives on the web by reaching out to shelters and hotlines, researching restraining orders and address confidentiality programs, and finding housing, employment opportunities, new schools and online support. But what millions don't realize is the dangerous and potentially lethal sides of various technologies in the hands of abusers and perpetrators, who will use the personal information they find through these technologies to invade the privacy of their victims.

The Safety Net Project works with communities and agencies to address how ongoing and emerging technology issues impact the privacy, safety and accessibility rights of victims of domestic violence, sexual violence and stalking. It also educates victims, their advocates and the general public on ways to use technology strategically to help find safety and escape domestic violence, dating violence, sexual violence, stalking and abuse. Finally, the Project trains law enforcement and justice systems, social services, coordinated community response teams and others how to hold perpetrators accountable for misusing technology.

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