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The Trouble with the TPP, Day 11: Weak Privacy Standards

Michael Geist Law RSS Feed - Mon, 2016/01/18 - 10:54

The Trouble with the TPP continues this week with a series of posts on the TPP and privacy (prior posts include Day 1: US Blocks Balancing Provisions, Day 2: Locking in Digital Locks, Day 3: Copyright Term Extension, Day 4: Copyright Notice and Takedown Rules, Day 5: Rights Holders “Shall” vs. Users “May”, Day 6: Price of Entry, Day 7: Patent Term Extensions, Day 8: Locking in Biologics Protection, Day 9: Limits on Medical Devices and Pharma Data Collection, Day 10: Criminalization of Trade Secret Law). The inclusion of privacy within the TPP has been touted by governments as one of the benefits of the agreement, but the privacy provisions are so weak as to move global privacy backwards, weakening emerging international standards and locking countries into rules that restrict their ability to establish additional privacy safeguards.

While some have questioned the concerns associated with privacy and the TPP by arguing that it is it a trade agreement, not a privacy treaty, the reality is that the commercial importance of big data has never been greater. Indeed, it is odd to see some emphasize the importance of increased, harmonized intellectual property protections but simultaneously express satisfaction with bare minimum privacy protections that provide companies with a patchwork of rules and consumers without standardized protections. Personal information is a critical part of e-commerce and the need for public confidence in privacy protections alongside corporate certainty about their rights and obligations with the personal information they collect should be beyond debate.

For most TPP countries, the starting point for privacy protection is a national privacy law modeled on the OECD privacy principles. In fact, the majority of the TPP, including Canada, Mexico, Peru, Australia, New Zealand, Malaysia, Japan, and Singapore, have national privacy laws (Chile is developing a privacy law). Moreover, many of these countries have privacy or data protection commissioners with some form of enforcement powers as well as additional rules on issues such as mandatory disclosure of security breaches (overview of Latin America rules, Asia rules). The key exception is the United States, which does not have an omnibus privacy law nor a privacy commissioner, relying instead on FTC enforcement of privacy policies.

Rather than setting the TPP privacy bar at having a national privacy law based on the OECD principles, the agreement weakens the shift toward a minimum standard of privacy protection.  Article 14.8 looks promising with respect to privacy protection:

each Party shall adopt or maintain a legal framework that provides for the protection of the personal information of the users of electronic commerce. In the development of its legal framework for the protection of personal information, each Party should take into account principles and guidelines of relevant international bodies

Unfortunately, the provision is subject to a footnote that effectively eviscerates the requirement for a privacy legal framework:

For greater certainty, a Party may comply with the obligation in this paragraph by adopting or maintaining measures such as a comprehensive privacy, personal information or personal data protection laws, sector-specific laws covering privacy, or laws that provide for the enforcement of voluntary undertakings by enterprises relating to privacy.

The footnote effectively means that the TPP’s privacy requirements can be met without the need for any privacy law at all. Enforcing voluntary undertakings isn’t a privacy law, it’s an anti-fraud approach that requires companies to be truthful about their privacy promises. If the law does not feature specific requirements for the consent, use, and disclosure of personal information, it isn’t a privacy law. The TPP weakens global privacy protections by failing to establish a minimum privacy law standard and then makes matters worse by limiting the ability for member countries to establish some additional safeguards. More on those limitations throughout the coming week.

The post The Trouble with the TPP, Day 11: Weak Privacy Standards appeared first on Michael Geist.

in defense of fair dealing

Fair Duty by Meera Nair - Mon, 2016/01/18 - 09:18

A response to Heather Menzies and the Globe and Mail.

Last Thursday, the Globe and Mail published an op/ed penned by author Heather Menzies, chair of The Writers’ Union of Canada. Ms. Menzies claims that a provision of law, fair dealing, is responsible for a decline in the income and well-being of Canadian authors. While she is perfectly entitled to her opinion, her argument is based on a number of inaccuracies.

At the outset, it must be noted that the system of copyright, since its inception as statutory law in 1710, was never intended to operate as a grant of absolute control. Rights offered in the name of copyright were limited, for the vital reason that the goals of the system of copyright (creativity and innovation) rely on some degree of unauthorized uses of prior works. The mantra that more control brings about more creativity is no more than political theatre; the age of Shakespeare, the industrial revolution, and even the 20th century offer enough evidence that creativity has thrived in periods of lesser control. Nevertheless, fair dealing enthusiasts will agree that it is as important to respect the rights afforded to authors, as to respect the use provided to future authors via fair dealing.

Ms. Menzies writes: “Authors have always made copyright legislation work for them, even though it originated in a 16th-century move to restrict the right to copy texts to the Stationers’ Company, a booksellers’ cartel based in London, England, and had nothing to do with writers.” It is true that copyright’s entrance into law was at the behest of booksellers eager to protect their assets, not necessarily their authors. Yet some authors obliged with the trope of the starving author during negotiations. In the three hundred years since, with the same trope, the rights of control in the system of copyright were systematically expanded, while the rights of unauthorized use were inexorably whittled away. Given that, at the present time, copyright is more expansive in breadth and depth than it has ever been, if authors are still starving, perhaps copyright is neither the problem, nor the solution.

As to the role of collective licensing in the management of educational uses of copyrighted material throughout Canada, it is true that Access Copyright facilitated this effort in the past. As to why post-secondary institutions no longer wish to rely on Access Copyright’s services, Ms. Menzies omits to indicate that in 2010 Access Copyright sought a 1300% increase in fees, demanded absurdly intrusive reporting requirements from institutions, and took it upon itself to redefine the very nature of copyright. (A privilege that Parliament, and no other, enjoys.) Yet post-secondary institutions continue to spend millions of dollars in purchasing and licensing fees, and make these payments directly to copyright owners. As to where those funds go after that point, it is not for an institution to say.

Furthermore, even though “education” was added to the allowable purposes of fair dealing through the amendments which came into force in 2012, three Supreme Court decisions upholding fair dealing in teaching and learning, and research, were all based upon the earlier language of fair dealing. That detail is also omitted in Ms. Menzies’ account. Instead, she opts to equate the decline of authors’ incomes with the later expansion of fair dealing and invokes a PricewaterhouseCoopers study to present dire consequences for education in Canada in the years ahead.

That study, commissioned by Access Copyright, was based upon very narrow parameters. (I provide analysis in “With due respect to PricewaterhouseCoopers.”) The study focuses upon revenue streams within the educational publishing industry and finds that revenue has declined over recent years. This observation is correlated to heightened attention paid to fair dealing by educational institutions, arriving at the seeming causality that fair dealing is to blame. Whereas in reality, there are more options for obtaining quality content at lesser or no cost. Teachers may avail themselves of publicly available material from the internet, open-access content, and material expressly developed by other teachers and local communities. As with any market, when more options are available, former monopolies must see their market-share decline. And lurking in the background of recent trends was nothing less than the global economic mayhem that began in 2008, which ensured that, across all walks of life, individuals and institutions had less money to spend. Yet the study’s authors appear unaware, or unconcerned, about larger macroeconomic conditions.

Finally, Ms. Menzies invokes the realm of First Nations’ writings and the importance of protecting their writers. No argument there. Our pantheon of writers is worthy of praise and we all benefit when that roster swells. Yet Ms. Menzies will not acknowledge that of the writers we laud today, many enjoyed their public education before the mania to count the number of words a teacher or librarian might share with their charges became the educational norm. Those writers enjoyed a more open reading environment in their classrooms; times being what they were, it was not necessary to speak of “fair dealing.” But it was fair dealing.

It would be only fair to suggest that such openness contributed to the success of members of The Writers’ Union of Canada. That they should now begrudge future generations of writers that same benefit, is truly disappointing.


The Web Privacy Problem is a Transparency Problem: Introducing the OpenWPM measurement tool

Freedom to Tinker - Thu, 2016/01/14 - 19:30
In a previous blog post I explored the success of our study, The Web Never Forgets, in having a positive impact on web privacy. To ensure a lasting impact, we’ve been doing monthly, automated 1-million-site measurement of tracking and privacy. Soon we’ll be releasing these datasets and our findings. But in this post I’d like […]

Do privacy studies help? A Retrospective look at Canvas Fingerprinting

Freedom to Tinker - Tue, 2016/01/12 - 13:04
It seems like every month we hear of some new online privacy violation in the news, on topics such as fingerprinting or web tracking. Many of these news stories highlight academic research. What we don’t see is whether these studies and the subsequent news stories have any impact on privacy. Our 2014 canvas fingerprinting measurement […]
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