The Internet & COVID-19: how governments backdoor access proposals threaten Canadian health and security online

Tuesday November 24: 2:35 – 3:20 PM

Despite the crucial need for digital security to navigate a global health crisis, the debate on whether law enforcement should be able to access encrypted information – and in doing so threatening the security of its users – is going strong in countries including Australia, the United Sates, the United Kingdom and mainland Europe. And while more Canadians are working from home than ever to curb the spread of COVID-19, government efforts could undermine our strongest digital tool to keep people secure online: encryption.

This panel will examine the shifting global debate on backdoor access to encrypted data, the technical realities of end-to-end encryption and exceptional access, and what it could mean for Canadians security online.


Brenda McPhail, Canadian Civil Liberties Association’s Privacy, Surveillance, and Technology Program
Christopher Parsons, Citizen Lab
Leo Ratledge, Child Rights International Network
Matt Hatfield, OpenMedia
Hosein Badran, Internet Society (moderator)

Brenda McPhail is the Director of the Canadian Civil Liberties Association’s Privacy, Surveillance, and Technology Program. Her portfolio focuses on litigation, advocacy and public education relating to the ways in which privacy rights are at risk in contemporary society. Current areas of focus include national security, intelligence, and law enforcement surveillance technologies; information sharing in the public and private sector; and the social impacts of existing and emerging technologies such as smart city tech, facial recognition, the internet of things, big data and artificial intelligence.

Significant cases she has guided for CCLA, working with amazing pro bono counsel, include the Supreme Court of Canada cases R. v. Marakah and R v. Jones, which confirmed privacy rights in electronic communications and R. V. Jarvis, in which the Court rejected the idea that privacy is an all-or-nothing concept, even in public spaces. Brenda received her Ph.D. from the University of Toronto, Faculty of Information.

Dr. Christopher Parsons received his Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees from the University of Guelph, and his Ph.D from the University of Victoria. He is a Senior Research Associate at Citizen Lab, in the Munk School of Global Affairs & Public Policy with the University of Toronto. His research focuses on third-party access to telecommunications data, data privacy, data security, and national security. In addition to publishing in academic journals and presses on topics such as national security, internet privacy, and government surveillance practices, he routinely presents findings to members of government and the media. His work has been recognized by information and privacy commissioners, Canadian political parties, and national and international non-profits as advancing the state of privacy discourse.

Leo Ratledge
Leo is the Legal and Policy Director of the Child Rights International Network (CRIN). He has worked to protect the human rights of children and young people since 2010 and leads on CRIN’s legal and policy work on sexual violence against children and children’s rights in the digital context. He holds an LLB from King’s College London and an LLM from the LSE.

Matt Hatfield
Matt is the Campaigns Director of OpenMedia, the Canadian grassroots civil society group that works to protect access to and freedom of expression on the open Internet.  Previously he led international digital rights advocacy at IFEX, and contributed to climate change policy at UN Environment program and Canopy Planet. He holds a Bachelors in International Relations from the University of British Columbia, and a Masters of Global Affairs from the University of Toronto. 

Dr. Hosein Badran
Dr. Hosein Badran holds the position of Director, Internet Growth and Trust, with the Internet Society, based in Ottawa, Canada. He is an invited member of the Canadian Multi-stakeholder Initiative on IoT Security, where he was the lead researcher and editor of the white paper “Secure IoT: Labels to build trust and empower consumers”, and co-author of the final report “Enhancing IoT Security: Final Outcomes and Recommendations.

He is the Chair of the Program Committee of the Canadian IGF 2020, and is organizing two sessions as a PC member, on Connecting Indigenous Communities, and on the Encryption Debate in Canada.

He has been a member of the Steering Committee of the Arab IGF, since its inception in 2010. The committee is in charge of the program content for the annual event, along other functions.

During his career of over 25 years as C-level expert, he spent 14 years with Cisco Systems as Distinguished Systems Architect and Regional Chief Technology Officer as a member of the Cisco CTO Office. He spent the last three years as Director, Special Projects and Innovation, at Qatar Computing Research Institute (QCRI), a member of Qatar Foundation, in Doha, Qatar, where he led projects dealing with machine learning and data-driven optimization in different IoT and national socio-economic initiatives including smart transportation, e-health, aviation, and cybersecurity.