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“Shattered Mirror”: New Report Examines Canadian Media’s Uncertain Future

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The past decade has been marked by massive upheavals in news and journalism. Even if you haven’t followed the media industry turmoil particularly closely, the disruption is easy to see; here in Red Deer we’ve seen the local daily newspaper scaled back to 4 days a week and our local TV station RDTV was closed in 2009.

Declining advertising revenues throughout the industry in Canada have led to massive budget cuts, restructuring and layoffs. For evidence, look no further than the Todayville office! Much of our team is comprised of recently laid-off managers and employees from large broadcasters and now we spend our days working to scale our small digital news and community platform while also monitoring what’s happening in the industry-at-large, talking (and scratching our heads frankly) about what to make of it all.

In turns it’s been fascinating to watch the way the Internet has changed news and journalism, incredibly sad to continually see friends and colleagues restructured out of the industry they love and also quite daunting as we do our best to navigate a completely uncertain future.

It’s safe to say no one has a road map for what lies ahead for our industry, but the Canadian think tank Public Policy Forum recently released a report which takes a thorough look back and makes some bold predictions and suggestions about the future. Titled ‘THE SHATTERED MIRROR: News, Democracy and Trust in the Digital Age’, the report investigates the broken revenue model of traditional media, the under-development of digital-only news providers and the consolidation of revenues by Google and Facebook.

The report can be downloaded and read by visiting www.shatteredmirror.ca, where you’ll also find videos, FAQs and more.

And to hear some compelling criticism and context on the report’s recommendations, listen to this recent episode of the CANADALAND podcast where host Jesse Brown speaks to the report’s author, PPF President Edward Greenspon. CANADALAND is a crowd-funded news site started by Brown that focuses on media criticism, news, politics, and investigative reporting. (It’s one of our favourites here at Todayville and well worth your time to check out.)

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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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