Sunday, May 27, 2007

Cameras Soon in Ontario Courtrooms?

According to this story from CTV News, Ontario Attorney General Michael Bryant says cameras and webcasts will soon be coming to certain, unspecified courtrooms in the Province:

TORONTO -- Ontario Attorney General Michael Bryant says some court proceedings will soon be webcast over the Internet and archived online for 90 days. Bryant says webcasting court cases and providing copies to the media on DVD will increase the openness of the justice system. Fees to access court files have been also reduced following recommendations from a panel and complaints from the Canadian Association of Journalists about a lack of access to court documents.

The association awarded Bryant the Code of Silence award as a representative of the "most secretive government body in Canada," and for having the highest fees in Canada for accessing court records.

-Garry J. Wise, in Montreal
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Wednesday, May 16, 2007


... to Steve Matthews of Vancouver Law Librarian Blog for his kind comments regarding our article, Starting A Law Firm.

- Garry J. Wise, Toronto
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Is there Privacy on Facebook?

The internet has always posed privacy concerns, and Facebook is no exception. Searching the term “privacy” on Facebook’s search engine will generate over 500 groups that discuss everything from third party information sharing to the right to free speech. Included in these groups, is a note that has been circulating through “friends” which includes allegations that Facebook is connected to the Central Intelligence Agency and that Facebook is selling user information through a development platform.

Facebook’s Privacy Policy, which you accept by using or accessing Facebook, is probably not being read by a majority of users, which may be causing the confusion and hype. One research paper indicated that approximately 80% of facebook users have never read the privacy policy in spite of the fact that another paper indicated that 61% of users are “quite concerned” about privacy on the site. The same paper provides information on how to download vast amounts of data from Facebook and indicates that other persons have previously used the site to download information for various purposes.

While somewhat extensive, Facebook's privacy policy leaves many questions unanswered. To assist in clarifying misconceptions, here’s a brief summary of Facebook’s privacy policies:

1. A user has the option of inviting friends by email. Facebook keeps a copy of any email address that is used for invite purposes so that they may track the success of their referral program. You have the option of requesting that they remove this information from their system by contacting them.

2. Facebook may collect information about you from other sources (websites, links, blogs etc). They do so for the purposes of creating more “personalized features” for users.

3. Facebook will not knowingly collect information from anyone under the age of 13, or knowingly allow them to register. They recommend that minors between the ages of 13 and 18 obtain parental consent before registering.

4. Facebook blocks access to site information by third party search engines (“crawlers”). Accordingly, if someone googles your name, they should not be able to obtain a link to your user profile.

5. Facebook may use the information in your profile without identifying you as an individual to third parties. They do so for the purposes of personalizing advertising and promotions to users.

6. Facebook shares information with third parties only in “limited circumstances” where they believe such sharing is “reasonably necessary to offer the service”, “legally required” or “permitted by you”.

7. Facebook may share information with 3rd parties to facilitate business. This may allow 3rd parties access to your user content for a limited time in “connection with business activities”.

8. Third party advertisers may deliver advertisements directly to users. This allows them to collect your IP address and recognize your computer each time an advertisement is sent to you.

9. Removed information from your account, or deactivated accounts may be kept in backup copies for a “reasonable period” of time.

10. Facebook staff may access your user content if they have reason to believe you are violating the policies or terms of the site.

11. Facebook does not sell your information.

Facebook has also created a Facebook Platform which allows certain applications and sites to access your user content in a “limited fashion”. A list of these applications and sites is available through the Facebook Platform component of a user’s privacy settings. A user can choose to uncheck any information they do not was shared through the platform.

Facebook co-founder Chris Hughes has several times stated that Facebook is not “harvesting” information for any group or government agency. However, doubts remain, specifically with reference to numbers 6 and 7 listed above.

If like me, you’re a facebooker who is not quite ready to walk away from the site regardless of privacy issues, it is a good idea to both review Facebook’s privacy policy in full and ensure that your privacy settings are at a level that is comfortable for you.

The site’s extensive list of privacy settings, include who may search your name, and who can access specific information on your profile from your wall, to your photos, to your status updates. You can also create a limited profile, restricting certain people’s access to certain information. In light of the above, these privacy settings a certainly worth examination by every facebook user.

In addition to reviewing Facebook’s policies and available security settings, it is imperative to remember, that as stated in their privacy policy “You post user content at your own risk…please be aware that no security measures are perfect or impenetrable”.

Indeed. Even Facebook can’t be perfect.
- Annie Noa Kenet, Toronto
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Sunday, May 13, 2007

Happy Mother's Day

- Garry J. Wise, Toronto
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Quick Scandal Guide (from

For those in need of a quick primer on the various Republican scandals du jour, see Slate's An Illustrated Guide to Republican Scandals:

- Garry J. Wise, Toronto

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Saturday, May 12, 2007

Video Resumes - Now Magazine Article

Just a short note directing you to David Silverberg's Now Magazine article, Video Killed the Resume Star, in which I am briefly quoted on the employment law ramifications of this new trend.

- Garry J. Wise, Toronto
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Friday, May 11, 2007

U.S. Intelligence

Yet another keystone cops tale.

This news report from the Toronto Star explains how Canadian currency apparently struck fear in the hearts of U.S. espionage specialists:

An odd-looking Canadian coin with a bright red flower was the culprit behind the U.S. Defence Department's false espionage warning earlier this year, the Associated Press has learned."

The odd-looking – but harmless – "poppy coin" was so unfamiliar to suspicious U.S. Army contractors travelling in Canada that they filed confidential espionage accounts about them. The worried contractors described the coins as "anomalous" and "filled with something man-made that looked like nano-technology," according to once-classified U.S. government reports and e-mails obtained by the AP.

...The supposed nano-technology actually was a conventional protective coating the Royal Canadian Mint applied to prevent the poppy's red color from rubbing off. The mint produced nearly 30 million such quarters in 2004 commemorating Canada's 117,000 war dead.

.."It did not appear to be electronic (analog) in nature or have a power source," wrote one U.S. contractor, who discovered the coin in the cup holder of a rental car. "Under high power microscope, it appeared to be complex consisting of several layers of clear, but different material, with a wire like mesh suspended on top."

...Intelligence and technology experts were flabbergasted over the warning when it was first publicized earlier this year. The warning suggested that such transmitters could be used surreptitiously to track the movements of people carrying the coins.

- Garry J. Wise, Toronto
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Thursday, May 10, 2007

The Facebook Bug

In our next few posts, we will discuss the latest news stories and controversies surrounding Facebook, including a look at its privacy and employment implications.

Before we provide our additional commentary regarding cyberspace's newest addiction (and its related controversies and benefits), I think it will be useful to do a quick backgrounder as to what Facebook is all about.

Facebook was started by Mark Zuckerberg as a social networking website in February 2004. Born May 14, 1984 in Dobbs Ferry, N.Y., a small suburb approximately 60 kilometres outside of New York City, Zukerberg is a computer programmer who initiated the Facebook project while enrolled at Harvard.

Originally intended for Harvard students only, it quickly spread through universities and high school networks allowing “friends” to reconnect and remain up-to-date with each other’s lives. After registering, it prompts you to create a personal profile which allows you to search and add friends, upload pictures, post status updates, message people, and write on their “walls”. It provides a “news feed” home page that allows you to observe what, if anything, new and exciting, boring and mundane is occurring in your “friends” lives. You can join groups, post events, share notes, and provide links to your favorite websites (like for example).

Due to high demand, by September 2006 Facebook opened its registration to anyone with a valid email address. From Singapore to Israel to India, Facebook began spreading rapidly, and we at Wise Law Office have indeed caught the bug.

So how contagious is this bug? Facebook now accounts for 1% of all internet activity, boasting 21 million users who spend an average of 19 minutes on the site per day. It is the 6th most trafficked US site, and has almost 550,000 users in the Toronto network alone. But if you’re still not impressed - consider that it attracts 30 billion page views and conducts 600 billion searches each month.

The potential to connect with people from your past, present and even your future are only as limited as your privacy settings.

And of course, we hope that you can take some time away from checking in on Facebook to continue to visit us at Wise Law Blog….

- Annie Noa Kenet, Toronto
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Thursday, May 03, 2007

Facebook Ban: Ontario Government Blocks Employee Access

I have to admit it, Wise Law Office has caught the Facebook bug.

Annie Kenet, our soon-to-be-called-to-the-Bar articling student, essentially has almost all of us hooked.

The emerging Facebook culture is simply fascinating. Aside from the the opportunity it provides to deepen or re-establish important personal and professional connections, I am beginning to anticipate that this new technology will have an enormous commercial and cultural impact over time.

Beyond the anthropological implications of social networking, however, we have had a number of discussions within our office about this new technology's privacy implications and its ramifications for the workplace. I touched upon these briefly, in this post, a few weeks ago.

With this ongoing dialogue in mind, this report today from CTV News caught my eye:

Ont. government employees blocked from Facebook

Government employees in Ontario can no longer access Facebook, the popular social networking website, on their computers.To the chagrin of some of the thousands of workers -- including Liberal aides, backbenchers and cabinet ministers -- the 21-million member site is now blocked by the provincial ban.

As of Tuesday, when workers tried to access the site, they were greeted with the same "access denied" message that pops up if someone tries to access a pornography site, according to the Toronto Star.

Facebook is the latest website to be banned by the province, joining YouTube, online poker gambling websites and hardcore sex sites, Government Services Minister Gerry Phillips told the Star.

"The staff determined it's not as directly related to the workplace as we'd like it to be so we're restricting access to it," he said.

"Our IT (information technology) people are pretty broadly familiar with the marketplace and they said, `Here's a website that's going to be increasingly more popular for the OPS (Ontario public service). Is this an appropriate website to be spending time on?'"

...Premier Dalton McGuinty weighed in on the ban, saying he doesn't see how Facebook adds value to a workplace environment.

... Canada is the fastest growing market for the Facebook website with more than two million users. In Toronto, there are more than 500,000 registered users.

We'll have more to say on the Facebook phenomenon in posts to come.

For now, however, I'll go on record as predicting that time will prove the Premier wholly wrong as to Facebook's potential to "add value" to the workplace.
- Garry J. Wise, Toronto
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Quote of the Day

From Welcome to Pottersville:

Paul Rieckhoff:

The president can say we’re a country at war all he wants. We’re not. The military is at war. And the military families are at war. Everybody else is shopping.

- Garry J. Wise, Toronto

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Wednesday, May 02, 2007

CCH Law Student E-Monthly - Interview with Garry Wise

Thanks to writer Stephanie Mah for her article about Wise Law Blog, Notes On A Blawg: An Interview with Garry Wise, in April 2007's CCH Law Student e-monthly.

I very much enjoyed my discussions with Ms. Mah, who herself, is a lawyer with a genuine passion (and talent) for legal writing.

Ms. Mah's CCH credits, aside from the e-Monthly, include the Ontario Corporations Law Guide, the Canadian Corporate Secretary's Guide and Alberta Corporations Law Guide.

I'd like to welcome those of her readers who have come to check out Wise Law Blog.

- Garry J. Wise, Toronto
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