Internet puts privacy on line

This article by Charles Mandel, For CanWest News Service includes:

But legislation lags when it comes to protecting Canadians from companies dealing in their information.

"The big thing is that none of the computer-related laws we have on the books ever truly envisioned the Internet age," says Tom Copeland, chairman of the Canadian Association of Internet Providers.

Copeland says legislation related to the Internet needs updating in every area, whether it's dealing with intellectual property or the sale of private data over the web.

Letter to the editor:

I'm replying to "Internet puts privacy on line" by Charles Mandel.

The major problem for Canadian Internet law isn't only that we are lagging behind advances in technology, but also that governments seem to be heading in the wrong direction. While we clearly need legal protection from the abuses by copyright holders of technical measures, the previous Liberal government believed we should be providing legal protection for those abuses.

The claim is that these measures are being used to protect copyright, a job these technologies are incapable of accomplishing. We can understand this from the comparison to "digital locks", where is should be obvious that it is impossible for a lock to protect against someone who has been given the key. When locked content and player technologies capable of opening the content are sold into peoples private homes, it is obvious that it will be possible for technically knowledgeable people to decode the content and share it if they wish.

What technical measures are really being used for is to obscure the circumvention of privacy, competition, contract and other laws. The specific uses of technical measures such as Digital Rights Management (DRM) is fundamentally incompatible with computer security: the goal of computer security is to protect the owners of the computers from third parties, while the purpose of DRM is to protect third parties from the owner of the computer.

Stewart Baker, recently appointed as the Department of Homeland Security's assistant secretary for policy, had this to say to the intermediaries abusing technical measures: "It's very important to remember that it's your intellectual property -- it's not your computer. And in the pursuit of protection of intellectual property, it's important not to defeat or undermine the security measures that people need to adopt in these days."

Hopefully the government will wake up soon and realize the harm they are causing by heading the wrong direction with public policy.