Europe: US is no Safe Harbour for our data

State surveillance programs spell serious consequences for business – could Canada be next? Last week the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU), the highest EU court, issued a judgment in Case C-362/14 that invalidated the Safe Harbour Decision that heretofore had allowed U.S. companies to transfer and store personal data of EU citizens in the US as long as they voluntarily agreed to respect certain principles. This decision will affect over 4700 companies who have EU customers and store and process EU user data in the US. The EU Data Protection Directive provides that the transfer of personal data of EU citizens to a non-EU country “may, in principle, take place only if that third country ensures an adequate level of protection of the data”. Thus, personal data was allowed to be transferred out of the EU if the European Commission finds that the destination country has implemented an adequate framework for data protection by reason of its domestic law or its international commitments. The EU Commission had decided in 2000 that under the ‘safe harbour’ scheme, which was a series of principles concerning the protection of personal data to which U.S. companies could voluntarily subscribe, an adequate level of protection existed for personal data transferred to the US. For US companies, the transfer could have occurred under the safe harbour principles, through contractual undertakings or by relying on other exceptions set out in the Directive. This became known as the Safe Harbour Decision. The Commission has made adequacy findings for other non-EU jurisdictions such as Canada. In this case, a Facebook user named Maximillian Schrems filed...

Twitter shakes up the big data supply chain

Some big news came out of Twitter late Friday night. The social media behemoth announced it will be cutting off “fire hose” access to its data and will no longer licence its stream of half a billion daily tweets to third party data resellers. Here on out Twitter will be using its own in-house data analytics team, a predictable shift considering the company’s 2014 acquisition of Gnip. The play revolves around the use of unfiltered, full stream Tweets and related metadata associated with the tweets, called “fire hose data”. The Gnip firehose product provides access to every tweet with a certain link or user mention allowing businesses to capture and analyze every activity and every publicly available tweet ever made through full real-time streams of public data from social networks. The announcement marks a shift in the supply chain of big data. Many companies use raw Twitter data for commercial purposes such as building products and analyzing business practices. Now Twitter will be in greater control of this ecosystem, by requiring these companies to deal directly with them. Prior to the change, mega data resellers such as DataSift, would provide data analytics services to thousands of businesses, who would then serve thousands more. Twitter will be terminating agreements with third party re-sellers of Twitter firehose data. In order to shift towards working directly with data customers, the company says it is transitioning towards having its data customers receive raw data for commercial use directly from Twitter. Twitter now has one less privacy issue to worry about. By consolidating and controlling its mega data, Twitter removes an additional risk of...

Who watches the watchers? Police body cams means we all do

Worry that the state is abusing its powers through surveillance of its citizens has been a ubiquitous and powerful theme in contemporary political discourse. Most recently it manifests around the Harper government’s Anti Terrorism Law Bill C-51 that would grant additional surveillance powers to the government over Canadian citizens. Older yet are ideas regarding a state’s use of force against citizens through the police. Roman poet Juvenal wrote quis costodiet ipsos custodies, or, who will guard the guards themselves? The question is indeed just as difficult to answer today as it was in the 2nd century. The past week’s media discussions about using police body cameras forces us to consider the privacy implications where everyone and anyone can “watch the watchers”. Over the past year hundreds of American law enforcement agencies have outfitted police officers with body-worn cameras. Most recent is Charleston, North Carolina, where a passerby filmed the killing of Walter Scott by a police officer who fired 8 shots at the man as he ran away. A number of cities worldwide use body worn cameras on police, both to protect the police and to prevent tragedies such as the one that occurred in North Carolina. Empirically, body worn cameras reduce complaints against the police. Such has been the case in the UK, where body-worn cameras are more common. The idea is being explored in Canadian media as well. The legal questions related to how the data from the cameras would be stored, managed, shared and destroyed is tricky. However, if government and law enforcement are going to use technology and metadata to improve oversight of criminal activity and...

Does genetic testing really need its own privacy law?

The latest news in privacy law is derived from what has become a unique, if not quirky gift. A do-it-yourself at home genetic testing kit that allows you to “get to know you”, your health and your ancestry. Several businesses currently offer the service - a personalized test kit providing information and tools for individuals to learn about and explore their DNA. After completing the kit and sending it back to the company’s labs with a saliva sample, you can view reports on over 100 health conditions and traits, discover inherited risk factors and how you might respond to certain types of medications. Through it you can learn all about your genetic heritage and any potential diseases or medical conditions for which you might be at higher risk such as cancer and heart disease. This is a lot of information, and probably more than you would ever want to share with your boss.   A Bill currently before the Canadian Senate aims to protect Canadians against the risk they may expose themselves to by taking a genetic test: being forced to disclose the results to employers, insurers and other interested parties. Bill S-201, named “An Act to Prohibit and Prevent Genetic Discrimination” (the “Genetic Non-Discrimination Act”) is sponsored by Senator James S. Cowan and seeks to legislate an explicit right to keep the results of a genetic test from others such as insurers or employers. On March 31, 2015 the Committee Report passed for consideration before the Senate Chamber.   The bill in its original form would amend the Canadian Human Rights Act and the Canada Labour Code. Section 2 of...

Launch of Equity Crowdfunding Quebec (Financement participatif en capital Québec)

Jillian Friedman, principal attorney at Friedman Law, is actively working to promote equity crowdfunding and is part of a team that recently launched a not-for-profit organisation called Equity Crowdfunding Quebec (Financement participatif en capital Québec). This organisation’s goal is to promote and support the development of equity crowdfunding in Quebec. To access the FPCQ press release click here. Who are we?Equity Crowdfunding Québec (“ECQ”) is a not-for-profit organization that aims to promote and support, at the provincial level, the development of equity crowdfunding. Our members comprise large corporations, start-ups, SMEs, stakeholders from the financial and entrepreneurial sectors, as well as citizens looking to gain insight into this new form of financing. Mission The Mission of ECQ, which was formed by a group of concerned local industry participants is to: Lobby the local Quebec Securities Regulator, L’Autorite de Marches Financiers, in order to ensure that equity crowdfunding is made accessible to the average citizen, business owner, and investor in the province of Quebec. Educate the general public and local business owners and investors on the opportunities stemming from this new financing model. Offer and share information with its members about how this new financial model is being implemented across the globe, and to promote discussion and comment regarding the effectiveness of these efforts in various jurisdictions. Provide recognition to Quebec’s equity crowdfunding industry and highlight the contributions of local portals, consultants, companies and individuals to the growth of equity crowdfunding in the province of Quebec. Our Vision ECQ strives to contribute to the sustainability of Quebec businesses through promoting alternate forms of financing and engaging the public in the success...