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Online Streaming Act won’t police user-generated content: heritage minister

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4 minute read

By Tara Deschamps

Canada’s heritage minister says he is open to reviewing substantiative amendments to a bill meant to regulate online streaming, after a committee pointed out industry experts disagree on whether the proposed legislation will cover user-generated content.

“I was born with an open mind, so of course, I have an open mind on this,” Pablo Rodriguez said.

“I cannot say at this moment, yes I would agree or disagree on… an amendment I have never read…On the general principal, we are open.”

His remarks on the legislation aimed at modernizing the Broadcasting Act were made Tuesday before a hearing of the standing committee on transport and communications held in Ottawa.

Bill C-11 is meant to require online streaming giants like YouTube and TikTok to contribute to the creation and availability of Canadian content like music, film and television.

However, the bill has generated plenty of concerns. Tech giants have fought it, arguing the bill will harm the livelihoods of users who earn money from streaming platform and could force the companies to rethink the algorithms it uses in Canada.

Several senators have qualms too. Sen. Michael MacDonald pointed out Tuesday that the standing committee has heard from experts concerned creators will be regulated through the bill.

Sen. Pamela Wallin added the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission’s commissioner previously appeared before the committee alongside legal counsel to confirm the bill would give his agency authority over user-generated content

“What they argued was, ‘it wouldn’t be in anybody’s interest to do it, so just trust us, we won’t regulate user-generated content,’ but again, twice they confirmed they have actual regulatory authority to do that,” she said.

Wallin added she has even heard from a creator who finds the legislation so confusing and unclear that she will move to the U.S. to escape it.

She and MacDonald questioned Rodriguez on whether he would step up to make changes to the bill to alleviate such concerns, but he offered no commitment because he said the legislation won’t cover user-generated content.

“The bill is quite simple. It is about platforms, it is not about users,” he said.

“There is no obligation for the creator. The obligation is only for the platform, not the creator.”

He argued the bill is meant to protect Canadian culture, deliver more choice to Canadians, meet the needs of minority-language communities and bring regulation of the industry into the 21st century.

The last time the act was modernized, he pointed out people were listening to music on Walkmans, renting films at Blockbuster and the internet barely existed.

Now, we have streaming platforms like Netflix, you can watch television on your phone and content is edited and filmed on phones, he continued.

“The act no longer reflects the reality. You have very big players that have no rules they have to abide by and there are huge challenges around culture and production and things that affect our creators and Canadian content,” he said.

“That’s why it’s important today that we be able to adopt this bill quickly.”

The bill has been before the Senate for six months and faced 42 hours of hearings before the standing committee.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 22, 2022.

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Home Depot gave personal data to Meta without valid customer consent: watchdog

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Ottawa – Retailer Home Depot shared details from electronic receipts with Meta, which owns the social media platform Facebook, without the knowledge or consent of customers, the federal privacy watchdog has found.

In a report released Thursday, privacy commissioner Philippe Dufresne said the data included encoded email addresses and in-store purchase information.

The commissioner’s investigation discovered that the information sent to Meta was used to see whether a customer had a Facebook account.

If they did have an account, Meta compared what the customer bought at Home Depot to advertisements sent over the platform to measure and report on the effectiveness of the ads.

Meta was also able to use the customer information for its own business purposes, including user profiling and targeted advertising unrelated to Home Depot, the commissioner found.

It is unlikely that Home Depot customers would have expected their personal information to be shared with a social media platform simply because they opted for an electronic receipt, Dufresne said in a statement.

He reminded companies that they must obtain valid consent at the point of sale to engage in this type of activity.

“As businesses increasingly look to deliver services electronically, they must carefully consider any consequential uses of personal information, which may require additional consent.”

Details of a person’s in-store purchases might not have been sensitive in the context of the home-improvement retailer, but they could be in other cases, revealing information about an individual’s health or sexuality, he added.

At a news conference, Dufresne suggested the Home Depot matter was not an isolated case.

“Our investigation focused on one organization, one situation, but our sense is that these tools are widely used. And this is why the message today is that all organizations should review their practices.”

Home Depot told the privacy commissioner it relied on implied consent and that its privacy statement, available through its website and in print upon request at retail outlets, adequately explained the company’s use of information. The retailer also cited Facebook’s privacy statement.

The commissioner rejected Home Depot’s argument, saying the privacy statements were not readily available to customers at the checkout counter and shoppers would have no reason to seek them out.

“The explanations provided in its policies were ultimately insufficient to support meaningful consent,” Dufresne’s statement said.

He recommended that Home Depot stop disclosing the personal information of customers who request an electronic receipt to Meta until it is able to put in place measures to ensure valid consent.

Home Depot fully co-operated with the investigation, agreed to implement the recommendations and stopped sharing customer information with Meta in October, the commissioner said.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 26, 2023.

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Meta funds a limited number of fellowships that support emerging journalists at The Canadian Press.

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Alberta

Alberta halts rate hikes on auto insurance for private passenger vehicles for 2023

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Edmonton – The Alberta government says it will not approve any more rate hikes for auto insurance on private passenger vehicles until the end of the year.

The government says in a news release that it shares concerns from the public and is imposing the cap while it works to find long-term solutions.

The move comes more than three years after the United Conservative Party government lifted a cap on hikes imposed by its NDP predecessors.

Finance Minister Travis Toews had previously resisted calls to reinstitute the cap, calling it an ineffective stopgap solution while pointing to reforms his government made in 2020 to stabilize rates over the long haul.

The government now says factors like inflation and supply chain issues for auto parts are affecting rates in the short term and must be addressed.

Premier Danielle Smith had called for her government to take action on insurance late last year, after a report commissioned by the Insurance Corporation of British Columbia found Albertans are paying among the highest rates  in Canada.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 26, 2023.

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