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My wish list for a few things we need in the privacy world

posted by:Kris Klein // 11:59 PM // October 23, 2007 // ID TRAIL MIX


Okay, okay… It’s still a few months away from the Holiday season and the New Year. Regardless, they’ve given me the pen for this spot and I’m making a list. I figure if I get my wish list in early this year, maybe I’ll get a few of the things I want!

So, here’s my wish list for a few things we need in the privacy world:

1. Laws that break through or work around the limitations imposed by our constitution (I mean, provincially regulated employees have no privacy protection in legislation unless their information is used as part of a commercial activity or unless they live in Alberta, B.C. or Quebec).

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Rewriting my Autobiography: Me, Myself, and (possibly) a Different ��I’

posted by:Cynthia Aoki // 11:59 PM // October 16, 2007 // ID TRAIL MIX


I’ve always wanted to write my own autobiography. Maybe it’s narcissistic, but I thought it would be a good chance for me to think back, reflect, introspect, and remember both the good and bad things that happened to me throughout my life. I could then maybe figure out what went right, and in some cases, what went horribly wrong. But I told myself that I would save this personal task until I was older and also until I had enough stories and experiences to share and write about. Otherwise, if I wrote my autobiography today, it would be a story about a girl named Cynthia, who went to school, who then decided to go to more school.

I then came across McAdams’ “Life Story Theory” of identity [1] and realized that I didn’t have to wait until I was old and experienced to write my autobiography. I was already in the midst of writing one and in fact, I had been writing and contributing to this autobiography my whole life. According to McAdams, the individual is the primary author of his or her autobiographical narratives and the individual’s memories link together the past, the present, and the future in order to provide a sense of identity and also to provide a sense of purpose for one’s thoughts and behaviours.

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Intimate Invasions: How Far Will Internet Users Push the Realm of Acceptability? or Have You Been Facebook Stalked Yet?

posted by:Kayleigh Platz // 11:59 PM // October 09, 2007 // ID TRAIL MIX


I recently, for the first time in my life, set up my own wireless router in order to connect my laptop, as well as my roommate’s, to the Internet. This was not a user-friendly experience, and my stress level was heightened by my need to safeguard my wireless signal from outside intruders. I was creating a code of identity for my actions through my computer network: I had to name my signal and trust that it will safeguard my IP address which is now, through my actions online, an extension of my self and identity.

By giving a name to my Internet network, I was sending a secure signal of my own personal identity out into cyberspace. This is a name that anyone in my physical world close enough to pick up on my Internet signal will be able to see. The Internet, as a social system, is a lot less anonymous than many people seem to still think; whether consciously or unconsciously, we are constantly sending out signals of our identity online. From postings on a blog to a wireless network name, our physical life-based identities seep out to the cyber world.

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Wikisurveillance: a genealogy of cooperative watching in the West

posted by:Michael Arntfield // 11:59 PM // October 02, 2007 // ID TRAIL MIX


As the duly elected Liberal government currently serving the Province of Ontario stands poised to infuse one of the largest revenue collection and fine levying agencies in the Western hemisphere—the Ontario Provincial Police—with $2 million (Can) to fund the operation of a state-of-the-art spy plane ostensibly required to identify “racers” or “stunt” drivers using the King’s Highways (Cockburn & Greenberg 2007), all while police in Britain continue to append audio-video recording equipment, or “Bobbie-Cams,” to the helmets of their patrol officers in the vein of Paul Verhoeven’s dystopic 1987 film Robocop (Satter 2007), one is prompted to take a look back at the corpus of police surveillance devices suborned by modernity, that have in aggregate given way for what might be called the golden age of voyeurism.

The mechanical metamorphosis from Althusser’s (1971) Ideological State Apparatus, into the more palpable “technical apparatus” (Ellul 1964: 101) of the police as we know them today, has been achieved in large part through a process of technological determinism, or the means by which human culture and history are simultaneously rendered and reified by our machines. In other words, the ubiquity of those police surveillance and reporting tools that have pervaded urban life for well over a century, has in turn propagated a mimetic response in occidental consumer culture whereby the general public is increasingly enamored by the “democratization of surveillance” (Staples 2000: 155) made possible by portable, affordable, and elegant devices that, through their egalitarian accessibility, make “coercion embedded, cooperative, and subtle, and therefore not experienced as coercion at all” (Ericson & Haggerty 1997: 7). As public and private interests ultimately converge through a phenomenon I call wikisurveillance, the denizens of this self-supervising panoptic state cooperatively pen the requiem for once valued tenets of privacy through the normalization, even fetishization, of corporate and private data mining, cell phone videography, security camera ubiquity, home “monitoring” systems, the proliferation of spy stores, and systemic Facebook cultism.

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A Canadian Privacy Heritage Minute: Surveillance, Discipline, and Nursing Education

posted by:James Wishart // 11:59 PM // September 25, 2007 // ID TRAIL MIX


In this particular historical moment of fetishized “security” and state-sponsored surveillance carried out “for our own good,” it is tempting for some of us to think that we are reaching some low point in the history of privacy, where new technologies already allow the deployment of an Orwellian omniscience by states and corporations. This may indeed be so, but some research I did some years ago on the history of nursing education (of all things) has inclined me (a privacy advocacy neophyte) to wonder if the drive for total surveillance is neither novel nor dependent upon new technologies. In the spirit of Heritage Canada’s iconic television spots, I offer my own “Privacy Heritage Minute,” with all the skeletal theoretical framework, carefully-selected facts and simplistic moral that such an approach implies.

Prior to the 1950s, most Canadian nurses (who were predominantly young, white, unmarried women) were trained through an apprenticeship system, learning their craft by working for three years unpaid on hospital wards. This training was extremely arduous and strictly regimented, and was overseen by a limited number of paid nurse overseers and by senior nurse apprentices. The vast bulk of nursing labour in hospitals was completed by students, who lived on the hospital campus and seldom left the site until their training was complete.

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The Wrong Kind of Privacy

posted by:Julie Shugarman // 11:59 PM // September 18, 2007 // ID TRAIL MIX


I recently received news that my friend Kelly was found dead in her single room occupancy [1] hotel in Vancouver, several days after she had died. [2]

I knew Kelly as a great force working to improve the lives of street level sex workers in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside (DTES). Feeling far away and alone in my grief, I googled her to see whether anything had been written about her death. To my surprise, I found a handful of references to her (full name included) as a participant in a free heroin trial program, and identifying her as a woman living out of a shopping cart in Canada’s poorest postal code. I was frustrated and angry that this one-dimensional sketch of Kelly, involving incredibly private details about her life, was so accessible. My first instinct was to wonder whether she had consented to having her name published in these articles. But then a different, and rather more pressing set of questions struck me.

Why, when so few people took notice of her daily existence and suffering, when she was allowed to die almost invisibly – was it possible for me to access information about her health, [3] her poverty and her homelessness on the World Wide Web? I couldn’t shake the idea that Kelly had too much of the wrong kind of privacy.

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For Better, For Worse, or Until I Decide to Spy on You

posted by:Dina Mashayekhi // 11:59 PM // September 11, 2007 // ID TRAIL MIX


Being recently married, I still haven’t quite adjusted to the idea that you can’t change certain traits in your spouse. For example, my other half tends to view cell phones as a leash, and he regularly “forgets” to call me when he’s going to be late, or going out after class or work. As a result, I end up panicking, thinking he has been in a terrible accident and is unconscious somewhere, and I promptly begin my routine of repeatedly calling his cellphone (which is usually off or at the bottom of his bag on silent mode). By the time he finally gets to the phone and sees 18 missed-calls from me, I’m usually anxiety ridden and he calls me laughing, telling me I’m crazy, and that he’s on his way home. This conversation is usually followed by certain expletives and ends with my threat that I’m going to implant him with a GPS tracking device.

Of course, when I raised this idea, I was completely joking. For the sake of fantasy, my ideal device would be a microchip and to my knowledge, the Verichip doesn’t operate as a GPS device for commercial use (yet). Such a use would also run contrary to my convictions as a privacy advocate, but at times, I feel as though my sanity is at stake. I decided to inquire further into the practical aspects of my GPS threat (after all, there’s no point in a threat without any substance), and to examine the idea of spousal surveillance in general. [i]

Continue reading "For Better, For Worse, or Until I Decide to Spy on You"

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Cash(less) on the Road

posted by:Byron Thom // 11:59 PM // September 04, 2007 // ID TRAIL MIX


Credit cards and databases/data-mining/data aggregation. How does the database nation get affected by a cashless society?

I recently had the opportunity to dwell upon the loss of anonymity as we continue the path to cashless-ness. It was on one of those west coast road trips that seem like the perfect way to cap off a summer.

Driving to South Bay

This August, a couple of friends and I drove down to the Bay Area of California from Vancouver to visit with friends working there. An interesting exercise we got caught up in was to see how difficult it would be to “stay off the radar”. Although we realized that giving out personal information itself is not dangerous, but rather simply provides a possibility for misuse, the recent discourse on domestic spying and the Patriot Act in the US got us to think deeper about sharing our spending habits with US businesses and the US government.

Like any good conspiracy theorist, travel begins by taking large wads of cash out from under the mattress - or a Canadian bank, if your mattress is rather thin. Minimizing our use of credit cards was the obvious step. This was also facilitated (others say caused) by the midsummer drop in the Canadian dollar and our desire not to be gouged by Visa’s exchange/conversion rate. [1]

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Existing and Emerging Privacy-based Limits In Litigation and Electronic Discovery

posted by:Alex Cameron // 11:59 PM // August 28, 2007 // ID TRAIL MIX


Privacy law is increasingly important in litigation in Canada. Contemporary litigants routinely file requests for access to their personal information under PIPEDA and its provincial counterparts. Such requests can give a party a partial head-start on litigation discovery, or aid a party in rooting out information held by an opponent or potential opponent.

That said, with some possible room for improvement (at least in the case of PIPEDA), [1] data protection law in Canada takes a relatively hands-off approach when it comes to legal proceedings. Parties in legal proceedings are generally required to disclose information in accordance with long-standing litigation rules and are largely exempted from restrictions that might otherwise be applicable under data protection laws in other contexts. Yet, this does not mean that privacy considerations are not relevant or applicable to discovery in legal proceedings. This short article identifies some existing and emerging privacy-based limits in litigation discovery at the intersection between privacy interests and the need for full disclosure in litigation.

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Blogging While Female, Online Inequality and the Law

posted by:Louisa Garib // 11:59 PM // August 21, 2007 // ID TRAIL MIX


“Those who worry about the perils women face behind closed doors in the real world will also find analogous perils facing women in cyberspace. Rape, sexual harassment, prying, eavesdropping, emotional injury, and accidents happen in cyberspace and as a consequence of interaction that commences in cyberspace.”

- Anita Allen, “Gender and Privacy” (2000) 52 Stan. L Rev. at 1184.

In 2006, the University of Maryland’s Clark School of Engineering released a study assessing the threat of attacks associated with the chat medium IRC (Internet Relay Chat). The authors observed that users with female identifiers were “far more likely” to receive malicious private messages and slightly more likely to receive files and links. [1] Users with ambiguous names were less likely to receive malicious private messages than female users, but more likely to receive them than male users. [2] The results of the study indicated that the attacks came from human chat-users who selected their targets, rather than automated scripts programmed to send attacks to everyone on the channel.

The findings of this study highlight the realities that many women face when they are online. From the early days of cyberspace, women who identify as female are frequently subject to hostility and harassment in gendered and sexually threatening terms. [3] These actions typically stem from anonymous users.

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PETS are Dead; Long Live PETs!

posted by:A Privacy Advocate // 11:59 PM // August 14, 2007 // ID TRAIL MIX


In this Google Era of unlimited information creation and availability, it is becoming an increasingly quixotic task to advocate for limits on collecting, use, disclosure and retention of personally-identifiable information ("PII"), or for meaningful direct roles for individuals to play regarding the disposition of their PII "out there" in the Netw0rked Cloud. Information has become the currency of the Modern Era, and there is no going back to practical obscurity. Regarding personal privacy, the basic choices seem to be engagement or abstinence, so overwhelming are the imperatives of the Information Age, so unstoppable the technologies that promise new services, conveniences and efficiencies. Privacy, as we knew it, is dying.

Privacy advocates are starting to play the role of reactive luddites: suspicious of motives, they criticize, they raise alarm bells; they oppose big IT projects like data-mining and profiling, electronic health records and national ID cards; and they incite others to join in their concerns and opposition. Privacy advocates tend to react to information privacy excesses by seeking stronger oversight and enforcement controls, and calling for better education and awareness. Some are more proactive, however, and seek to encourage the development and adoption of
privacy-enhancing technologies (PETs). If information and communication technologies (ICTs) are partly the cause of the information privacy problem, the thinking goes, then perhaps ICTs should also be part of the privacy solution.

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posted by:Jeremy Hessing-Lewis. // 11:59 PM // August 07, 2007 // ID TRAIL MIX


A short story on the ID Trail


Incorrect username or password. Please try again.

He tried again.


Incorrect username or password. Please try again.

He tried again.

Incorrect username or password. Your ID is now locked. Please proceed to the nearest SECURE ID Validation Center for formal authentication. The nearest location can be found using the GoogleFED Search Tool.

After sitting stunned for a couple moments, Ross began to appreciate the full gravity of the situation. His ID was frozen. Everything was frozen. He just couldn't remember his damn PIN and that was the end of it. No PIN. No renewal. No ID. No authentication. No anything.

Since the government had launched the Single Enhanced Certification Using Reviewed Examination [SECURE] initiative, he really hadn't thought too much about it. Aside from a couple of headlines describing massive budget overruns and the usual privacy geeks heralding the end of the world, the New Government had pushed everything through without much fanfare.

Continue reading "Authentic[N]ation"

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Haste Makes Waste: Attending to the Possible Consequences of Genetic Testing

posted by:Kenna Miskelly // 11:59 PM // July 31, 2007 // ID TRAIL MIX


Technological advances are making genetic testing and screening easier and more accessible. My concerns are that the ease and accessibility are masking the fact that these are not straightforward decisions that should be made quickly. Such decisions may include whether or not to terminate a pregnancy if your fetus has Down syndrome, whether to have prophylactic surgery if you test positive for breast cancer genes, whether to be tested for a late onset disease that may have no treatment or cure, and whether or not to submit to genome testing without knowing what the future will hold in terms of discrimination and possible privacy threats. The reasons for genetic testing have real world consequences that are often not spelled out before the testing takes place.

A recent article in the Globe and Mail discusses new recommendations that pregnant women over the age of 35, but under the age of 40, should no longer undergo routine amniocentesis. It has been standard practice that amniocentesis be available to women over the age of 35 because the probability of conceiving a child with a disability or genetic condition increases with maternal age. New non-invasive screening tests such as maternal blood tests and the nuchal translucency test (a detailed ultrasound taken at 11-13 weeks gestation that measures the fluid levels behind the fetus’s neck) can now indicate whether further testing is indicated or whether the risk of abnormalities is low. This development is very positive as amniocentesis is invasive and carries with it a risk of miscarriage.

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Collision Course? Privacy, Genetic Technologies and Fast-tracking Electronic Medical Information

posted by:Marsha Hanen // 11:59 PM // July 24, 2007 // ID TRAIL MIX


Andre Picard, writing in the Globe and Mail on June 14, made a poignant plea for speeding up the move to electronic health records for all Canadians. He says:

It’s not enough to create health records; it must be done right. That means including information on visits to physicians, hospital stays, prescription drugs, laboratory and radiology tests, immunization, allergies, family history and so on. It also means integrating all these records and making them compatible in every jurisdiction…

Picard points out that medical records should be accessible to all health professionals we consult, from the pharmacist close to home through the emergency room at the other end of the country. And then he adds, in parentheses: “With the requisite protection of privacy, of course.”

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"CITIZEN, PICK UP YOUR LITTER": CCTV evolves in Britain [1]

posted by:Meghan Murtha // 11:59 PM // July 17, 2007 // ID TRAIL MIX


Planning to litter, hang around looking intimidating, or just generally be a public nuisance in England? Careful where you do it.

This past spring, Britain, already host to more video surveillance cameras than any other country in the world [2], rolled out a new crime prevention measure: ��Talking CCTV’ (closed-circuit television). Government officials describe the new development as “enhanced CCTV cameras with speaker systems [that] allow workers in control rooms to speak directly to people on the street.” The ��Talking CCTV’ initiative is just one component of the British Home Office’s Respect Action Plan a domestic program designed to tackle anti-social behaviour and its causes. [3]

What this means in practice is that when staff, operating from an unseen central control room, observe an individual engaged in anti-social behaviour they can publicly challenge the person using the speakers. At the moment the one-sided conversation is relatively unscripted, although workers are expected to be polite. The first time a member of the public is spoken to about her behaviour, she hears a polite request. If she complies, she is thanked. If not, she can expect to hear a command . If she fails to correct her behaviour, the anti-social individual may find surveillance footage of her alleged infraction splashed across the evening news.

Continue reading ""CITIZEN, PICK UP YOUR LITTER": CCTV evolves in Britain [1]"

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