Confidentiality in an Era of Patient-Doctor-Cop

From The Canadian Press:

Doctors at Royal Columbian Hospital in New Westminster have complained that local police and RCMP officers are routinely recording conversations without consent between doctors and patients who are considered a suspect in a crime.

“They will be present when we are trying to question the patients and trying to obtain a history of what happened,” said Tony Taylor, an emergency physician who practises at the hospital.

“They have now recently started recording these conversations and often they will do that unannounced, which has a number of implications around confidentiality and consent.”

As far as doctors at Royal Columbian are concerned, the police are getting in the way of patient care.

Patients tend to clam up when police officers are present, Dr. Taylor said. “That makes it difficult to get those kind of history details that are critically important,” he said.

The idea that the police are present, and recording interactions between a doctor and patient, is patently problematic from a procedural fairness perspective. In the past the authorities have lost Charter challenges based on their attempts to exploit Canada’s one-person consent doctrine; I’d be very curious to know the legal basis for their recording persons who may be accused of a crime, in a setting clearly designated as deserving heightened privacy protections, and the extent to which that legal theory holds up under scrutiny.


How to Fight Revenge Porn

Via The Atlantic:

This is an interesting approach, and one that might undermine some of the protections used to shield truly abhorrent websites.


Lawyers are trained in reading, understanding, interpreting and advising on laws and legal compliance programs, and defending their clients from litigants and regulators. Privacy laws, everywhere in the world, are vague, so they leave much room for legal interpretations. The lawyers’ skill set is becoming more and more central to the role of privacy leadership. Moreover, lawyers benefit from attorney-client privileged communications internally, which is becoming an absolutely essential mechanism for privacy lawyers to have deep, unfettered, unfiltered exchanges of information and advice with their clients.

Of course, non-legal disciplines will always play an essential role in safeguarding privacy at companies, e.g., the vital role played by security engineers. Privacy will always be a cross-disciplinary project. I’m not saying that the rise of the lawyer-privacy-leader is necessarily the best thing for “privacy”. Yet in the face of rampant litigation, discovery orders, vague laws, political debates, regulatory actions, threats of billion dollar fines, companies will be looking to their privacy lawyers for a lot more than drafting a privacy policy. It’s a great profession, if you like stretch goals.

* Peter Fleischer, “Stretch Goals for Privacy Lawyers

Attacks on the Press: A Moving Target – Committee to Protect Journalists:

While not every journalist is an international war correspondent, every journalist’s cellphone is untrustworthy. Mobile phones, and in particular Internet-enabled smartphones, are used by reporters around the world to gather and transmit news. But mobile phones also make journalists easier to locate and intimidate, and confidential sources easier to uncover. Cellular systems can pinpoint individual users within a few meters, and cellphone providers record months, even years, of individual movements and calls. Western cellphone companies like TeliaSonera and France Telecom have been accused by investigative journalists in their home countries of complicity in tracking reporters, while mobile spying tools built for law enforcement in Western countries have, according to computer security researchers working with human rights activists, been exported for use against journalists working under repressive regimes in Ethiopia, Bahrain, and elsewhere.


“Reporters need to understand that mobile communications are inherently insecure and expose you to risks that are not easy to detect or overcome,” says Katrin Verclas of the National Democratic Institute. Activists such as Verclas have been working on sites like SaferMobile, which give basic advice for journalists to protect themselves. CPJ recently published a security guide that addresses the use of satellite phones and digital mobile technologies. But repressive governments don’t need to keep up with all the tricks of mobile computing; they can merely set aside budget and strip away privacy laws to get all the power they need. Unless regulators, technology companies, and media personnel step up their own defenses of press freedom, the cellphone will become journalists’ most treacherous tool.

Network surveillance is a very real problem that journalists and, by extension, their sources have to account for. The problem is that many of the security tools that are used to protect confidential communications are awkward to use, provide to sources, and use correctly without network censors detecting the communication. Worst is when journalists simply externalize risk, putting sources at risk in the service of ‘getting the story’ in order to ‘spread the word.’ Such externalization is unfortunately common and generates fear and distrust in journalists.