The Ontario Provincial Police (OPP) plans to send text messages to 7,500 people asking for information as part of solving a 2015 homicide. All individuals that were within the particular Ottawa neighbourhood where the homicide is thought to have taken place will be sent the message, information the police gathered from cellphone companies via a court order. This marks the first time the technique will be used in an ongoing homicide investigation, and the police have argued that it is an evolution of traditional door-to-door information gathering.
Speaking to the Globe and Mail, Citizen Lab Postdoctoral Fellow Christopher Parsons commented on the privacy implications of the police accessing and storing this data. “We all hope that the investigation is resolved quickly, but it could definitely become a cold case and were that to be the case, then we don’t know how long they’ll hold on to the data. Perhaps indefinitely.”
Canadian Minister of Public Safety Ralph Goodale has urged the OPP to follow the law and the Charter-guaranteed rights of Canadians in accessing the data.
In another interview with the Columbia Journalism Review, Christopher Parsons commented on the use of DDoS attacks to target journalists. News organizations now have to deal with the increasing frequency of these attacks, and yet continue to deliver their content.
“When you have the best-resourced companies being challenged,” said Christopher Parsons, “we’re at a point now where there isn’t an effective defense.” Self-hosting is a particular challenge, given that using the services of companies like Google, who use Project Shield to protect themselves, may involve online operations traveling through several geographic locations. This could include places like China, where some content is blocked, specifically sensitive news content.
Speaking to VICE Motherboard, Christopher Parsons commented on bill C-13, an anti-cyberbullying law that is in some instances being used to spy on Canadian journalists. He explained the possibility that the same powers assigned to police to tap into journalist’s mobile phones during police investigations could be use used against non-journalists. “This is an area where transparency and accountability are essential,” he said in the interview. “We’ve given piles and piles of new powers to law enforcement and security agencies alike. What’s happened to this journalist shows we desperately need to know how the government uses its powers to ensure they’re not abused in any way.”