Madam Speaker, it is indeed a pleasure to rise to discuss Bill C-27, an act to enact the consumer privacy protection act, the personal information and data protection tribunal act and the artificial intelligence and data act. There is a lot happening in Bill C-27. I have a lot of concerns about this bill, and that is why I will be voting against Bill C-27. It would not do the things we need to do to protect the privacy of Canadians.
I would first flag, in looking at this legislation, that the first act it would create is the consumer privacy protection act. Why is it not the Canadians' privacy protection act? Why are we talking about consumers and giving more ability to corporations to collect the privacy data of Canadians? That, to me, is very disconcerting and one of the things I want to talk about during my presentation.
The Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act, PIPEDA, was the very first piece of legislation we had back in 2000, so it has been 22 years since we have updated legislation related to the issue of the privacy protection of data that has been shared online. Of course, technology has evolved significantly over the last 20 years. If we look at PIPEDA, it all rolls back to 34 years ago when the Supreme Court of Canada said, “that privacy is...the heart of liberty in a modern state”.
It said “privacy is...the heart of liberty”, and that completely falls back on the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Concerning fundamental freedoms, subsection 2(b) of the charter says, “freedom of thought, belief, opinion and expression, including freedom of the press and other media of communication” while subsection 2(d) refers to, “freedom of association.”
We know very well that people's privacy has to be protected on anything they do online, what they do through mobile apps, what they do in their email communications and the collection of that data by service providers because, ultimately, anything we do online goes through a service provider on the Internet, and we have to ensure that our charter freedoms are protected to ensure our liberty.
We already know that under freedom of association, a lot of people who gather in Facebook groups and other fora on the Internet have already been violated by the Emergencies Act. We know that during the “freedom convoy” in the city, the government was harvesting data and that data was then shared by some means. With GiveSendGo, the data was mined off of it, shared on Google Maps and distributed across the country. People's individual financial information, the ultimate piece of privacy that should be protected, went across this country and the government failed to intervene.
Bill C-27 falls short on what needs to happen to protect privacy, recognizing how people are using the Internet and modern technologies, especially with mobile apps and everything that is happening on our phones. However, the protection of individuals is worth it and the privacy rights are worthy of constitutional protection, which Bill C-27 fails to recognize. We do not have a definition of privacy rights or a guarantee of privacy rights in Bill C-27, and that is why it fails.
I am the shadow minister of national defence, but earlier this year I served for a number of months as the shadow minister of ethics and digital information. I can say that, during my time serving on the ethics committee, it dealt with a number of issues. One of them, of course, was the use of Clearview AI, the facial recognition software that the RCMP and other police agencies use across this country. The ethics committee dug in deep and provided a report.
The Liberals let the RCMP make use of this technology under their tenure and did not say anything until it became public. Clearview AI, an American company, was scraping images off of Facebook and other social media such as Instagram to populate its database.
That information was then used, using artificial intelligence, to profile and identify people using mass surveillance techniques. We found through testimony that, not only was this done illegally, and the Privacy Commissioner ruled that Clearview AI had broken the law and that the RCMP had used it illegally, but also it was racially discriminatory as well, and it was a huge problem that people of colour and women were unfairly treated by this AI.
Bill C-27 would not regulate the use of facial recognition technology such as Clearview AI. Right now, we know the RCMP disagrees with the ruling of the Privacy Commissioner, so the question is whether CSIS, the Department of National Defence or the Communications Security Establishment are making use of similar types of technology. I will get into some of the recommendations from that report if I have time later on, but we did call as a committee, and it was adopted by the majority of members on our committee, for a federal moratorium on the use of facial recognition technology. We called for new laws, guardrails and safeguards to be built into legislation through PIPEDA and through the Privacy Act.
Bill C-27 would not provide that protection to Canadians. It would not ban or install a moratorium on the use of FRT, so that is absent.
Also, we asked that all companies be prohibited from scraping the images of Canadians off the Internet, whether it be through Facebook, Instagram, TikTok or whatever the app might be. We know that this causes potential harm to Canadians, yet Bill C-27 fails again to recognize this harm. The Liberals failed to incorporate recommendations coming from a standing committee of the House into this legislation.
One of the other things we heard about was that Tim Hortons was caught mass tracking Canadians who were using their app. If anyone who had the Tim Hortons app went to a Tim Hortons location and bought a coffee and a donut, that app was then used to track the behaviours of consumers of Tim Hortons as they were travelling for the next 30 minutes.
Again, this shows how the sharing of personal information and the mass data violation with the tracking of individual Canadians violated their privacy rights. Although Tim Hortons assures us they are not doing it now, we are not sure what happened with that data. Was it shared or sold to other corporations? Again, Bill C-27 would give companies, under clause 55 of the bill, a litany of exceptions to consent to sharing that personal information they collected through the use of their app. That would violate our privacy rights.
Although the Liberals have built in here words about consent and the ability for individuals to write in with consent or get removed, when it comes to terms and conditions, most Canadians, when they download an app and check the box to say “yes”, they have not read those terms and conditions. They do not know that some of these apps, as Tim Hortons was doing, were actually undermining their own privacy rights as they apply to the use of mobility data information, and because those terms and conditions are long, legalistic and cumbersome, people refuse to actually take the time to read it. Just because someone checks the box to say “Yes, I consent to using this app”, does not give those companies the right to violate the privacy of those individuals' outside of the commercial transaction that takes place between them and, in this situation, Tim Hortons.
The exemptions that are allowed under the bill for corporations need to be changed in the bill. There is no we can support it as Conservatives because they would be huge violation of privacy and of mobility, which are all things that are provided under our charter rights.
Under the government, we also saw the Liberal Minister of Health stand up and defend the Public Health Agency of Canada, which was caught red-handed having companies such as TELUS track the movement of Canadians via their cellphones. It said that it de-identified all the data it collected, but it wanted to know how Canadians were moving around the country underneath the auspices of the COVID pandemic and how transmission was occurring. That was a violation of privacy.
At committee, we made a bunch of recommendations, which the government has failed to implement in Bill C-27. Bill C-27 gives companies, such as TELUS and other mobile service providers, the ability to track the movement of Canadians across this country. It may want to call it “meta data” or say it has been de-identified, but we also know from testimony at committee that it can re-identify the meta data that has been turned over to the government. We have to make sure that it is done in the public interest and under the auspices of national security, public health and national defence. If that type of data is being collected, then there has to be a way to dump that data and ensure it disappears forever.
One of the other studies we undertook was of the Pegasus software system, which is very insidious. It is being used for national security. A similar type of technology is being used right now by the RCMP, CSIS and others. It has the ability to turn people's cellphones into video cameras and listening devices. It is a very cryptic, insidious spyware, or malware, that people can get on their phones by accidentally clicking on a piece of information, like opening up an email, and it will download. Then they can listen to the individuals in that place.
They do not have to bug people's houses anymore. They do not have to use high-grade technology to listen to the interests of individuals because it gives them the ability to turn cameras on to watch what they are doing, and turn microphones on to hear what they are discussing without them ever knowing it.
We want to make sure charter rights are protected. There are times we have to use this in the collection of data. There was definitely the admission by members of the RCMP that they have used it over a dozen times. They have their own system, not Pegasus, but one similar to it. We know that to use that type of technology, to protect the rights of Canadians, there should be a warrant issued to ensure there is judicial oversight, even if it is being used by the Department of National Defence and CSE, we have to make sure it is not being used against Canadians and only deals with those national threats they refer to as threats that are foreign entities. That is something that Bill C-27 fails to recognize.
I should say this as well. We heard at committee that this type of technology is being used against politicians, that there is foreign interference out there. As we have come to learn on different occasions, there are countries out there and other agencies that are interested in what we are saying as politicians, not just here in the House, but the private conversations we have in caucus, among colleagues, when we get together at committees, at pre–committee meetings, and the discussions we have in our offices. Our phones have become listening devices, so we have to be aware of that.
One of the things we have always talked about is what the gold level standard is to protect individuals, the citizens of our country, and to ensure their privacy rights are paramount in all the discussions we have. At the same time, we know there are going to be advances in technology, and the need at times to have police agencies, the Department of National Defence and the military use technology that could violate the rights of some people, but always with that judicial oversight that is provided underneath the charter. That gold standard is the European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation. We see that the gold standard goes well above and beyond what Bill C-27 is trying to do.
Bill C-27 falls way short. We heard at committee that with the data collection taking place on apps, online surveillance measures have to provide the right for data to be forgotten, or the right to data disposal or erasure, another terminology that is used. It is about making sure that data collected, even if it is for the public good or even if it is metadata, is disposed of at the end of the day.
It should not be that I consent to have my data removed from a database by checking something off or having to write in an app being used to buy coffee at the neighbourhood store, for example. It should be that it is our right to be forgotten and that after a certain time frame, data is erased forever from the database where it is being held and is not used again for commercial purposes, nor used, sold or traded among commercial entities.
The gold standard that the European Union has is not included in Bill C-27. Again, that is why we have so many concerns.
When we look at clause 55, which has already been mentioned by a number of my colleagues, it has a boatload of exemptions built in for corporations to get around the removal of privacy data. These exemptions allow them to write in, make changes and share data. We have to make sure the onus is not on Canadians to get their privacy information back or to get their privacy information removed. The onus should be on corporations to prove why they need it. The onus also has to be on the government. This is about transparency and accountability. There needs to be a realization that Canadians deserve an explanation as to why some of their data may be used, even if it is de-identified, and why it would be used for the buildup of public policy or to deal with issues like a pandemic.
Just to move forward a bit, I note that given some of things we saw at committee when we were looking at facial recognition technology, the power of artificial intelligence and the growing power of AI, we made a number of recommendations. They included that whenever the government looks at using artificial intelligence or FRT for military, defence or public safety, it needs to be referred to the National Security and Intelligence Committee of Parliamentarians for study, review and recommendation, and it needs to be reported publicly. There also needs to be a public artificial intelligence registry for the algorithmic tools being used. However, we do not see that registry for artificial intelligence companies in Bill C-27.
I have already talked about the right to be forgotten and said there needs to be a set period of time. I have talked about the prohibition on the practice of capturing images of Canadians from public platforms such as Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. We also need to make sure there is a federal moratorium on using FRT until we have proven it is needed by police agencies, the justice system has proven that it works and we are sure it is not racializing Canadians in its use. Ultimately, the Privacy Commissioner and judicial authorization have to override that.
As Daniel Therrien, the Privacy Commissioner, said about the RCMP:
[It] did not take measures to verify the legality of Clearview’s collection of personal information, and lacked any system to ensure that new technologies were deployed lawfully. Ultimately, we determined the RCMP’s use of Clearview to be unlawful, since it relied on the illegal collection and use of facial images by its business partner.
Its business partner was Clearview AI.
There is an ongoing need to ensure that charter rights and international human rights are brought together in a collaborative way in how we all form our opinions on Bill C-27. I hope the bill is taken back and redrafted, and if not, I hope there is an opportunity to make massive amendments to it so that it actually takes into consideration the privacy rights of all Canadians.