Florian Martin-Bariteau contributes to Council of Canadian Academies’ report on public safety in the digital age

Faculty of Law - Common Law Section
Tech law

By Common Law

Communication, Faculty of Law

Vulnerable connections
The Center for Law, Technology and Society is delighted to announce that CLTS Faculty member Dr. Florian Martin-Bariteau has contributed to Vulnerable Connections, a report released by the Council of Canadian Academies examining the impact of information and communications technologies on society, the investigative challenges, and policy opportunities to mitigate online harms and crimes.

Public Safety Canada, with the support of Canadian Heritage, Communication Security Establishment, Global Affairs Canada, Innovation, Sciences and Economic Development Canada, Justice Canada, Privy Council Office, and the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, asked the Council of Canadian Academies (CCA) to examine the impact of technological advances on public safety and promising practices that could help to address those threats while respecting human rights and privacy. To this end, the CCA assembled an independent multidisciplinary expert panel, including Dr. Florian Martin-Bariteau, to examine and interpret the evidence to offer a better understanding of the impacts of these technological advances on public safety and the challenges they create that could help to inform approaches to protecting the public safety of Canadians in the digital context Vulnerable Connections examines how harmful and criminal activities have evolved as a result of digital technologies, the resulting challenges this causes for policy-makers and law enforcement, and possible opportunities in regulation, prevention, and investigation of cyber-enabled harm. 

Rapidly evolving technologies are creating challenges for those seeking to keep people safe, while protecting their rights and freedoms. While the Internet and communications technologies are essential, and often helpful, they also enable malicious actors to harm people and communities. Addressing these harms requires both legal and non-legal approaches that can keep pace with technological change and protect privacy and human rights.  

The report illustrates both the complexity and the urgency of these issues and demonstrates that promoting a safer online ecosystem can not be accomplished through the actions of a single public agency, be it provincial, federal, or foreign. Cooperation and coordination across jurisdictions are essential as cyber-enabled harm crosses borders and continues to evolve quickly. Additionally, solutions do not lie solely in the hands of governments; the private sector, including social media platforms, have a critical role to play, as do civil societies. 

As noted by Dr. Martin-Bariteau, 

“All people living in Canada are digital-by-default. Digital technologies have so ubiquitous that Canadians are connected even if they stay offline, or rarely use digital technologies. While the digital context brings considerable benefits, it can also compromise everyone’s safety. A whole-of-society approach is more-than-ever required to protect Canadians, including a whole-of-government coherent policy response.” 

The CCA expert panel focused its research and analysis on activities that use technology as an instrument (cyber-enabled) to inflict harm on individuals. These include activities such as radicalization, online abuse and cyber-fraud that take place on a spectrum of legality and criminality. While the activities that are the focus of this report are harmful, the line between lawful and unlawful behaviour is not always clear, nor is there a consensus on where that line ought to be. 

Read the report (this report is also available in French)

Dr. Florian Martin-Bariteau is the University Research Chair in Technology and Society at the University of Ottawa, where he is an Associate Professor in the Faculty of Law, Common Law Section as well as the Director of the AI + Society Initiative, and the Director (on leave) of the Centre for Law, Technology and Society. He is also a Fellow of the Berkman-Klein Center for Internet and Society at Harvard University, as well as a member of the Nexus for Quantum Technologies Institute at the University of Ottawa.