ExperimentsInformation & LawLab NotesNotesReflections

Abandoning the concept (and illustration) of “information collection” for that of “production”

In its original 1990 version, the theory of interpersonal information processes refers to collection as one of information’s logical phases. The term collection is borrowed from protection of personal information law, which itself borrowed it from the lexicon of public and private bureaucracies. However, the word collection (action to pick a pre-existing object) masks the presence of a production of new informational artifacts. The result is that several implications are veiled, particularly those related to the intellectual property of the new information objects and to their pragmatic dimension.

The question then is: should collection really be considered as a logical phase of information? Or is it the chosen term that is inadequate? (more…)

"Beyond Privacy" ProjectExperimentsInformation & LawLab NotesNotes

My New Major Research Project

Since January 2013, I started a new research project. A big project that will monopolize most of my energy in the coming years. And on the developments of which I will report on this site.

Its title is Beyond “Privacy”: General Theory of Interpersonal Information Processes.

This project’s aims it to equip actors, practitioners and researchers with tools for identifying and resolving issues and legal issues, social and ethical issues raised by the interpersonal information applications and systems that are increasingly present in our lives.

At this stage, I’m still setting up the project whose objectives are summarized below.

See you soon.

 

Objectives

1. to test the concepts and propositions of the original version (1990) of the legal theory of interpersonal information processes, including:

  • the intra-theoretical consistency of its concepts, definitions and propositions;
  • its trans-theoretical consistency with the Portrait of Interpersonal Information Processes visual modelling;
  • the empirical applicability of its statements to the analysis of interpersonal information handlings;
  • the empirical adequacy of its statements to reveal the legal, social and ethical implications of interpersonal information handlings;
  • its inter-theoretical correspondence with other models and approaches used by practitioners for analyzing information systems;
  • its inter-theoretical correspondence with other theories dealing with the same objects that have been developed in law, philosophy, anthropology, linguistics, computer science, information management, IT & Society Studies.

2. to verify the realization of the predictions of the 1990 theory about the coevolution of law and process interpersonal information;

3. to produce from the results of the two previous objectives:

  • a new trans-disciplinary version of the theory of interpersonal information processes, and
  • a corresponding update the Portrait of Interpersonal Information Processes visual modelling;

4. to develop additional analytical tools or manuals that could help researchers, practitioners and stakeholders to make use of the theory and the visual modeling.

DebatesField RemarksInformation & LawLab NotesLiving between the linesNotesObservations

“Lawful access” bill: journalists discovering being targeted

Débats - DebatesA sudden tug of war between the Charest government and journalists caused a shock wave the echoes of which have rippled through throughout the Canadian journalistic profession. A jolt that could help realize how the “lawful access” bill introduced this Monday, Feb. 13 also concerns journalists and media organizations.

A threat

Last week, the Charest government announced that the Director of Criminal and Penal Prosecutions and the Sureté du Québec (provincial police force) would investigate on leaks to media related to the Ian Davidson case, a retired Montreal police officer suspected of attempting to sell lists of police informants to organized crime. Neither the Minister of Public Safety Robert Dutil, nor Premier Jean Charest have agreed to guarantee that journalists would not be investigated or wiretap. (more…)

DebatesInformation & LawLiving between the linesNotesObservations

Winning against the “lawful access” bills: Two strategic intuitions

Débats - DebatesAre there actions we could start today in a decisive campaign against the adoption of so called “lawful access” bills by Canada? I came to answer “yes” while listening to a presentation by Antoine Beaupré, system administrator at Koumbit. It was during a public meeting entitled ” ‘Illegal access’ and the attack of internet freedoms”, on February 3, 2012, in Montreal.

Let’s remind us that the “lawful access” bills that already died three times because of dissolution of Parliament have not been tabled again yet. However, it is expected that the Harper government will go ahead. The latest versions of the legislation gave the police new powers to access data held by Internet services providers (ISPs). They allowed the mandatory disclosure of customer information without judicial oversight, as well as real-time monitoring across ISPs’ networks. All measures deemed unnecessary and dangerous, not only by civil libertarians, but by many police forces also. A detailed legal analysis was published recently by the British Columbia Civil Liberties Association.

The meeting was organized by Koumbit an IT workers coop that offers several services including web hosting: thus, it has already had its share of searches for information and of servers. Like many other businesses it that field, Koumbit fears the effects of the “lawful access” initiatives on the civil liberties of its customers and of all the citizens who use the Internet from anywhere in the world. Indeed, the opening presentation of Antoine Beaupré dealt with less the legal aspects of the bills as of their technical and political dimensions. (more…)

Field RemarksInformation & LawLab NotesLiving between the linesNotesObservations

Digital identities and assets in case of death or incapacity – A first summary

The text that follows both summarizes (but discussion is only just beginning) and complete previously published notes on the subject beginning with this one. This text is derived from my notes in preparation for the interview I gave to the La Sphère on the Première Chaine of Radio-Canada, February 4, 2012.

The personal story

As I became a grandfather in May, I thought it was a good time to review my will and mandate in case of incapacity. Except that I discovered that I had to ask my representatives or executors to handle lots of online accounts and digital documents. The large majority of my documents are to be found in digital forms: letters, records, invoices, contracts, tax documents, bank and accounting books, photos. These files are embedded in computers, hard drives, servers, USB keys, DVDs, data cards, media player protected by user names, passwords, and encryption keys.

Pierrot Péladeau en entrevue - in interview

As many of you, several dimensions of my life are carried on: (more…)

Field RemarksInformation & LawLab NotesLiving between the linesNotesObservations

What “easier to read” means? In regard to new Google “privacy” policies

Débats - Debates

Google wrote me seven emails, one of each of services I am registered in to tell me: “We’re getting rid of over 60 different privacy policies across Google and replacing them with one that’s a lot shorter and easier to read.

That declaration brings me to three observations from following how the story unfolds this week:

First, the initial difficulty for the media, civil society actors, industry and members of Congress to determine whether or not this announcement corresponded or not to some changes in how  Google uses for our information and our user profiles, and if so which ones exactly.

Secondly, the difficulty to understand “easy to read” configurations: for example, the announcement tells me that I can choose, or not, to get personalized Google search results according to my interests as revealed by my uses of Google +, Gmail and YouTube: I have look in vain the configuration page, I never found the management panel for these configurations commands (anyone found them?). And even for those commands available, the description of their actual effects is often not that obvious, even to me for which studying such things are part of day job.

Indeed, thirdly, if Electronic Frontier Foundation is right, this is how I should manage this personalization:

“For individuals who would like to continue using Google products, but want to create some type of silo between Google search, YouTube, and other products, there is an option to set up multiple Google accounts. Users can set up two or more accounts as long as they have different Gmail addresses; however, individuals using this strategy to protect their privacy should be careful not to commingle-consider using separate browsers for each of your Google accounts. To be extra careful, users might want to use the Data Liberation tool to grab a copy of all of their data from a particular Google product, delete the data from the original account, and then upload that data onto the new account. For example, an individual might set up a secondary Google account for browsing and sharing YouTube videos. She could then download all of her existing YouTube videos to her computer, delete them from her primary Google profile, and then use a separate browser to upload them to a new secondary Google account. Unfortunately, this is a somewhat laborious process. To help users who wish to keep separate accounts, Google should make the process simpler and easier.” (Source)

In short, may be “easy to read,” but not to understand, and even less to help empower the users.

But I would not blame only Google in particular. The whole industry has made little development in how to present reliable, verifiable, readily understandable pictures of what actually happens with one’s personal information to begin with. Policies writing and configuration design are still organization centered and dominated by jurists and engineers. In Canada, almost half of adult population has low literacy levels and certainly as much does not understand much about information processing. These are the users who should be the communication targets. And that means much more than simply providing “easy to read” wording…

 

Field RemarksInformation & LawLab NotesLiving between the linesNotesObservations

The Chambre des notaires corrects its position on the management of digital identities and assets

ObservationsEarlier this week, I reported that Antonin Fortin, Director of Communications and Assistant to the President of the Chambre des notaires du Québec (CNQ, notaries’ professional corporation), wrote about management of digital identities and assets in case of death or incapacity:

We are talking about a complex, relatively new and evolving phenomenon. In addition, the CNQ cannot substitute itself to the legislator and “create” law in this matter. To our knowledge, there is no guide to meet your expectations.

(My translation)

Having been invited to an interview on the subject on La Sphère radio show on Radio-Canada’s Première Chaine on Saturday, February 4, I wanted to get confirmation that this response did represent the official position of the corporation.

On the phone, Mr. Fortin told me that he read again my emails and then realized that he had not properly understood what was their subject-matter. He said that the official position of the Chambre des notaire would rather be that it asked Mr. Salvas Bertrand, a notary who works mainly in training and is interested in this subject, to study the issue and quickly formulate recommendations. These could possibly take the form of advices, guides and training contents.

Specifically, Antonin Fortin said he had forwarded my emails and my proposals to Mr. Salvas.

That is reassuring. Indeed, is the mission of a professional corporation not precisely to protect the public?

Field RemarksInformation & LawLab NotesLiving between the linesNotesObservations

The Chambre des notaires abdicates management of digital identities and assets

Observations

Last week I reported that my notary declared that she was unable to help me manage the components of my digital of identities and assets in case of death (will) or inability (mandate).

I also described calling the legal information service of the Chambre des notaires du Québec (notaries’ professional corporation). The answering notary found my questions quite relevant and about pressing issues. However, she told me that the corporation had no available guide, checklist, standard clauses for will or mandate in case of incapacity, nor specific training to its members about these issues.

After publishing this article, I wrote to Jean Lambert, president of the Chambre des notaires (CNQ). I briefly described my situation and actions I took before asking the following questions:

Are there any guides, checklists, model provisions or tips on these topics?

If not, what are you waiting for to help us to live and die peacefully in this twenty-first century?

Response from the Chambre des notaires

In the absence of Mr. Lambert, it was Mr. Antonin Fortin, director of Communications and assistant to the president who responded: (more…)

Field RemarksInformation & LawLab NotesLiving between the linesNotesObservationsReflections

Self-managing our digital identity, digital assets and intellectual property in case of death or incapacity

ObservationsNow a grandfather, I had to revise my will and mandate in case of incapacity. Except that this time, I found out that I must ask my potential agents and testamentary executors to deal with the ubiquity of digital media. That does complicate their task.

Only a few years ago, one could easily find the documents of an incapacitated or deceased person. It was enough to systematically round the various places where the person lived and worked. The nature of the documents generally jumped in the eyes: contracts, invoices, private correspondence, books, recordings, professional documents, etc. In the absence of specific instructions, one could apply certain customs: such as delivering private correspondence items to their authors, distribution of content libraries, records shelves, photo albums or collections to interested close ones; retention of fiscal documents for some six years before destroying them.

Digitalization of assets

As more and more people around me, I hold less and less documents on paper or other macroscopic media. Already, most of my documents are to be found in digital forms: private correspondence, files, invoices, contracts, tax documents, banking and accounting, books, music, photos, work documentation, etc. (more…)

CommunicationsDebatesInformation & LawLab NotesLiving between the linesNotesReflections

Autonomy, Surveillance and Democracy: A Few Ideas for the Twenty-First Century

Text derived from my presentation

to the Citizen Forum on surveillance of communications

organized by the Quebec caucus of the New Democratic Party

Montreal, Notman House, Thursday, November 3, 2011

Regardless of the fate of the bill named “Lawful Access”, the information society will continue to develop. Then again, an information society is necessarily a surveillance society. Hence the question: what role the parliaments, governments and civil society should play to not only preserve freedoms and democracy, but to enhance them?

Here I propose – in quick rough strokes due to the short time available – some ideas for reference in regard to challenges the twenty-first century presents to us.

Social Life and Surveillance

Idea # 1: Surveillance is an integral component of all social life.

This is true of all human societies, likewise of many animal societies, and even vegetal ones.

Idea # 2: Surveillance takes many forms with very different, even opposite consequences.

I am a grandfather. Obviously I watched my children and grandchild. However, the forms that such surveillance takes can lead children to more and more autonomy, or, conversely, to dependence and submission.

That is why, idea # 3: The concepts proposed by author Ivan Illich of autonomy versus heteronomy, conviviality and counterproductivity are useful to this discussion.

These concepts can be applied, for example, to a convivial urban neighborhood that combines the functions of housing, labor, commerce and recreation. Such an area appears safe because its residents, workers, passersby and idle bystanders spontaneously and freely offer themselves mutual, continuous, autonomous surveillance.

Conversely, an unconvivial single function neighborhood that is deserted during the night or day appears to generate insecurity. No expensive police, guards or electronic surveillance will succeed to produce real security. And such surveillance is likely to increase heteronomous forms of power over individuals and community.

Hence, idea # 4: It is important to consider the complex interrelationships between environmental, physical, social and technical structures and conditions, on the one hand, and the forms of surveillance that these structures permit or not as well as their effects, on the other hand.

Assessment Criteria

And therefore, idea # 5: Respect for freedom is a necessary, but totally insufficient assessment criteria (thus ineffective alone).

In addition, idea # 6 (stated earlier): The information society is necessarily a society where surveillance is becoming widespread, increasing in power and scope, and is being democratized.

Let us illustrate this with a surveillance activity which, unlike the “Lawful Access” bill on the State’s power over private communications, is conducted by private actors on public communications, namely: the high-frequency stock transactions which constitute some 60% of the volume of North American exchanges. This surveillance involves the use of computers that, each microsecond, monitor and analyze all transactions around the planet. This surveillance allows the same computer to purchase securities at one instant and resale them a few seconds later at a profit. The speeds of surveillance, analysis and decision making are so great that human operators can only control possible failure occurrences. Such as those that caused the Flash Crash of May 6, 2010 when these automatic systems suddenly made the Dow Jones Index to plunge several hundred points within a few minutes.

Such capabilities are becoming more democratic. Let’s remember that today a lower end smartphone is already more powerful than these big central computer that, in the sixties, most thought only States could afford. That the customers of data mining software, indispensable to produce results from digital surveillance, are roughly divided into four areas: academic (teaching and research), business (marketing, R & D), police and military intelligence, and we call civil society (various organizations and individuals). That information items on the behavior of individuals and organizations have never been produced in such large numbers or have never been more accessible (just take all the wealth of personal information items disseminated via social media).

Some surveillance activities can easily be described as harmful, such as surveillance of the private communications of citizens or of their legitimate political activities. Other surveillance activities can easily be described as beneficial, such as those about who funds political parties and about who does what lobbying with which decision makers.

However, idea # 7: The majority of the surveillance activities that will emerge will not be so easily assessed: understanding their nature and their effects will require deliberations.

So idea # 8: Drawing on a proposition from economists Samuel Bowles and Herbert Gintis, we could state that: all surveillance should be subjected to the application of the principles of freedom, but that any surveillance involving some exercise of social power should also be subjected to the principles of democracy.

These principles are to be applied, no matter the public or private nature of the actions being monitored; or the state, commercial or civilian identity of those conducting the surveillance.

Logically, the same principles should also apply to the decision making on environmental, physical, social and technical structures and conditions that determine the forms surveillance may or may not take. Indeed, various social movements express the same demand, whether about shale gas extraction or high finance business: one’s obligation to subject to the action of another called for one’s right to know and right to have one’s say.

As a Preliminary Conclusion

Idea # 9: Such radical democratization calls for deep legal, parliamentary and political transformations from the local to the international levels.

Such changes could indeed be facilitated by possible information societies’ developments.

However, idea # 10: The exact forms that these changes should take remains yet to be defined.

Here, our situation is similar to those of different protests movements (such as Occupy Wall Street) that clearly identifies how current practices are unacceptable without being able to define what should be the alternatives. However, it is as equally urgent to conceive concrete solutions. Let us illustrate with two cases.

Electronic payment

The first case is about privatization of a decision of a public nature. It is the introduction in North America of smart banking cards that raise issues of individual and societal surveillance. Electronic payment is a “radical monopoly” to use another concept from Ivan Illich: if citizens retain the choice of the financial institution that will provide the banking card, there is only one electronic payment system that is imposed on all financial institutions and to all their customers on a given territory.

However, the choice of a new microprocessor based payment system is not trivial. This is because there are dozens of concepts for implementing this technology that are quite different in terms of individual surveillance. Some concepts can make electronic payments as anonymous as the use of paper money. For example, the financial institution knows by the end of the day that it should debit the account of such customer to such total amount, but remains unable to connect this with the various suppliers where the customer has spent money. At the other end of the spectrum, there are concepts that provide the financial institution with a wealth of information about who has purchased what from whom precisely at what time and how much. The choice between one type of concept and another has little to do with technical or budgetary constraints. It is in practice a political decision on the level of surveillance that financial institutions may or may not carry on the activities of their clients. But it is not elected parliaments that decide. Rather, parliaments have left the decision to private clubs of financial institutions (in Canada, to the Canadian Payments Association).

But it’s not just the surveillance of individual clients that is at issue. The generalization of electronic payments offers financial institutions a breathtaking real-time view of economic activities and situations of entire societies. This truly represents a strategic advantage in times of economic turmoil. Especially when compared to the situation of governments, media and civil society who discuss measures that will have some impact only several months into the future on the basis of statistics reflecting situations often four months old in the past. Why only financial institutions could have as up to date data?

In one individual surveillance as in societal surveillance, the democratic principle should apply – in addition to that of freedom – with respect to decisions about social powers of such magnitude. Should parliaments recover the power to legislate publically on these matters? Or should we try to democratize the work of clubs such as the Canadian Association of payment? Or follow a different model of democratic decision making?

Passports

The second case is about internationalization of a public decision. This is about passports used to monitor border crossings of citizens, and often their movements within these boundaries. Design standards of electronic and biometric components of passports are taken in international forums, such as the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), by senior public servants of the Member States surrounded by lobbyists of the airline and surveillance technologies industries. National parliaments often only have the choice to endorse or not the standards already established elsewhere.

Again, we must find a way to preserve the principle of democracy against such technocratic fait accompli through international bodies. Should parliaments or governments publicly pre-debate options to be offered in international forums? Should we engage a democratization of discussions in international forums to allow a real voice to citizens to be affected by decisions? Or a combination of both? Or another model?

These are the types of changes, needing to be outlined, that I propose to explore with you during the following discussion.

CommunicationsInformation & LawLab NotesNotes

Lecture on the right to accessible information

INVITATION
Lecture
by Catherine Roy
Director General of the Centre de recherche et d’expérimentation sur l’inclusion numérique (Centre for research and experimentation in digital inclusion)
on

le droit à l’accessibilité des informations

(right of access to documents in media readable by everyone)
in the wake of the judgment in Donna Jodhan v. Attorney General of Canada

Lecture in French

A founding member of the HTML for all Working Group of the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) and as well as of W3Québec (an organization promoting open standards and best practices for the web and multimedia), Ms. Roy will address in particular the respective roles of legislation and of technical standards in the evolution of law, here in regard to the accessibility of information.

Monday, April 11, 2011 from 18:00 pm to 19:30 pm, Room A-1720, UQAM (Hubert-Aquin building on 400 Sainte-Catherine East street, metro Berri-UQAM) as part of an Information Law course (JUR5512).

Free admission (the number of places being limited, please RSVP by email: peladeau dot pierrot @t uqam dot ca)

Jodhan c. A. G. of Canada
The legal news in the heart of the conference is the recent decision of the Federal Court in November 2010, v. Donna Jodhan Attorney General ofCanada, as amended by decision of January 2011 (French version:http://decisions.fct-cf.gc.ca/fr/2010/2010cf1197/2010cf1197.html; English version: http:// decisions.fct-cf.gc.ca/en/2010/2010fc1197/2010fc1197.html). The main issue was whether the federal government had violated the right to equality guaranteed by the Canadian Charter, either by setting inadequate technical standards for Web accessibility to information, or by not implementing existing technical standards.

Information Law

This course acknowledges that much of the legal regulation of interpersonal relations mediated by information handlings flows from adhesion contracts, technical standards as well as rules and procedures incorporated into the informational devices themselves.

CommunicationsInformation & LawLab NotesLiving between the linesNotes

I Create and Give a Whole New ‘Information and Law’ Course in January

tablette cuneiformeWas UQAM so desperate that it finally came to offer me this course? Because if I am indeed a jurist by training, I still remain a non-practicing and non-believing one. Enough joking. I accepted to create and teach a course officially entitled Droit de l’information (Information Law), never offered before. This course is part of the LLB program, but is offered to students in all programs. Indeed, currently 12% of students enrolled are from Communications.

I suggested – and it was agreed – that the scope of the course be expanded into a sort of  ‘Information & Law’ course, almost and ‘Information Society and Law’ one. So rather than covering one by one, some special legal institutions (intellectual property, access to information, freedom of press and libel, privacy and others), I propose instead to explore:

  • all of legal realities through the perspective of information and of an information society, and conversely,
  • the realities of information and of information society as they are regulated by laws, norms and standards of all kinds.

I have yet to produce a detailed course outline. However, at the time I am writing this, the first objective would be to get students to acquire certain knowledge and skills to work in an information society, including:

  • detect the presence of information in any considered human activity;
  • reconstruct how the information is handled, who are those involved, what types of relationships (including legal) develop between whom through such information handling;
  • identify the relevant legal institutions and the different sources of norms potentially applicable to a particular information handling;
  • raise the social and ethical issues of this handling;
  • detect the informational dimension in any legal document (law, contract, court, legal communication, norm or standard);
  • communicate about the legal dimension of handling information, including lay citizens and users.

Students in law will be especially encouraged to develop the ability to legally qualify a human activity involving the handling of information.

Rather than switch from one field law to another, the course’s plan will rather follow, week after week, the consecutive life cycle stages of information from its initial creation to various uses, including personal decision making.

This course will also insist on:

  • basic knowledge in information science and management, linguistics and related fields, and
  • methods to properly document information practices.

The course will be held on Monday evenings from January 10, 2011. There is still room for students. I therefore make this a formal invitation. Welcome to all!

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