Digital rights in 2018: Year in review and what comes next

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Digital rights sign. Photo: netzpolitik.org/Flickr

2019 is off to a start and here at OpenMedia we wanted to take stock of what the previous year brought us in terms of digital rights -- both accomplishments and challenges -- and what might come in 2019.

First of all, it is no surprise that 2018 saw big attempts from Big Telecom to have a heavier hand in regulating the web in their pockets' favour. For example, Bell's FairPlay website-blocking proposal was put forward. This proposal would have given Bell and a handful of other corporations the power to blacklist websites across Canada without court oversight. Fortunately, over 70,000 submissions from the public were sent to the CRTC through DontCensor.ca in opposition to FairPlay to stop these web-censoring plans. It was also no surprise when Big Telecom tried to sneak a similar web-censoring proposal into the renegotiated NAFTA earlier in 2018 -- that time, over 26,000 people spoke out against this blatant attempt to use NAFTA to block the web for profit. This relentless fight for corporate control of the web is sure to continue in 2019, as it has given no signs of slowing down.

In the data and privacy realm, the usual suspects flooded our timelines with scandal after scandal. More notably: Facebook and its Cambridge Analytica data mishandling had Christopher Wylie, former director of research at Cambridge Analytica, testifying in front of a Parliamentary Committee. OpenMedia crowdsourced questions for members of Parliament to ask Wylie, and his responses made the headlines.

Facebook continues to be in the news for being less than transparent in their (mis)handling of personal data, and we expect 2019 to bring forward more stories that will make evident the need for both government and corporations to step up their commitments to more responsible and ethical use of people's data.

Speaking of governments and data, Canadian political parties and Statistics Canada were both in the spotlight and not in a good way. A report from Global News claimed Statistics Canada was not taking appropriate measures to anonymize or de-identify personal financial information it was obtaining from Canadian banks. About 7,000 people spoke up, asking Statistics Canada to address this issue.

Similarly, 9,000 people took action to have Bill C-76 reformed so that political parties are made to comply with Canadian privacy laws -- did you know they are not subject to comply with them already?

Finally, this wouldn't be a re-cap without mentioning that 2018 was the year of NAFTA. After running a national consultation on the contentious trade agreement -- a consultation whose results would never see the light of day, nor be taken into consideration for the negotiations -- Trudeau's government decided to go forward with the agreement. The agreement had chapters that weakened protections for the public domain in Canada, potentially making medicine and textbooks more expensive for all. Over 29,000 people spoke against this trade agreement negotiated behind closed doors.

NAFTA wasn't the only place where intellectual property issues came up; in 2018 the government undertook the Copyright Act review, opening the door to corporate lobbyists to amend the law in their favour. Thankfully, over 4,000 members of the OpenMedia community made detailed comment submissions in favour of balanced copyright rules in Canada. With our lives increasingly being enmeshed in the digital, intellectual property issues are sure to come up again in 2019.

These were only a few of the many issues that we tackled in 2018. This year promises to continue to be a packed one in the digital rights front. Stay up to date on these and other digital issues by following our work at openmedia.org and @OpenMediaOrg on Twitter.

Marianela Ramos Capelo is a Design Specialist in the communications team for OpenMedia, a non-profit organization that works to keep the internet open, affordable, and surveillance-free. Write-up done with information compiled by Marie Aspiazu.

Photo: netzpolitik.org/Flickr

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