Does the government have the right to breach your online privacy?

How safe are we from digital privacy breaches in Canada? iStock.
How safe are we from digital privacy breaches in Canada? iStock.

You may have less online privacy than you think.

Apple issued a message to their customers last week explaining why they refuse to go along with a demand from the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

The FBI demanded that Apple create software that would do away with some important security features and could possibly unlock any iPhone.

The company stated that it had no issue in complying with court and search orders but that they did not want to create software that unlocks the phone as this could lead to digital privacy breaches for its consumers.

This begs the question: how safe are we from digital privacy breaches in Canada?

In 2013, Canada’s privacy commissioner stated that Canadian laws didn’t do enough to protect consumer privacy, especially due to technological advances. The commissioner recommended increasing enforcement mechanisms to force companies to comply with privacy legislation, especially concerning digital information.

In 2014, the federal government’s answer to this issue was Bill S-4, otherwise known as the Digital Privacy Act, which the government introduced as “protection for Canadians when they surf the web and shop online.” The bill passed into law on June 18, 2015.

There are two sides to this bill and consumers may not like the other side, which allows organizations to release information without the knowledge or consent of a person in certain cases that involve suspected breaches of law.

As per University of Ottawa law professor Michael Geist these regulations would expose Canadians to “widespread warrantless disclosure,” meaning that organizations may be able to release an individual’s digital data without needing to get their permission or even a court order. This includes releasing information to the government.

Previously, law enforcement organizations often had to get a court order in order to access a person’s private digital information. Due to the passing of the bill, that may be a thing of the past.

However, it’s not just government agencies that may now be allowed to breach a person’s digital privacy without a court order because private corporations now could potentially also gain easy entry to private user information.

Critics of the bill say that would leave consumers open to “copyright trolling,” meaning Internet users could be sued by entertainment companies who feel their copyrights have been violated.

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