Canada Post supplier hit by huge data breach

A data breach affected nearly 1 million individuals when a supplier to Canada Post fell victim to a malware attack last week. These individuals were customers of 44 businesses served by the postal agency.

The supplier, Commport Communication – an electronic data interchange solution supplier, has been used by the postal agency to manage the shipping manifest data of large business customers.

Canada Post made the announcement on Wednesday after conducting a detailed forensic investigation – claiming that no financial information was compromised following the attack.

The postal service added they have proactively informed impacted business customers and have provided them with the information and support to help them “determine next steps.”

The Office of the Privacy Commissioner has also been notified, Canada Post added.

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Should Social Media companies monitor for workplace harassment?

Social Media platforms, particularly Facebook, Google, and Twitter, have come under fire for not policing their platforms sufficiently against misinformation, hate speech and online bullying. Real-life terrorist instances, like the mosque shootings in New Zealand, were live-streamed on Facebook – sparking outright condemnation by individuals and world leaders. More should be done to moderate these platforms, but is monitoring for workplace harassment a bit too intrusive?

Instant Messaging

Should instant messaging platforms be held to similar scrutiny? In countries like India, Mexico, and other lesser developed nations, WhatsApp is a bigger problem than Facebook. In extreme instances, misinformation on the viral platform has led to lynching and extra judiciary killings.

One company, in particular, has come into scrutiny this week: Slack Technologies Inc., which until recently had been a darling in the technology space. Their platform, Slack, is a workplace messaging app that is widely adopted by many modern-day digital companies.

Workplace Harassment

A recent report by The Verge exposed the toxic workplace culture created by Stephanie Korey, CEO and Co-Founder of Away, a travel and lifestyle brand company designing and selling luggage. While Korey sold a vision of ‘travel and inclusion’, the company’s employees reported being intimidated and harassed online.

Employees who complained about work-related issues on a private LGBTQ channel were dismissed from the company. Korey, who was known for micro-managing, also sent off harsh messages in the middle of the night, to junior employees in their already overworked and understaffed customer service team berating them publicly, and – “to help [employees] learn the career skill of accountability” cancelling their paid work leave.

But why should a supposedly private work-related messenger platform be held to the same standards as a public platform like Facebook? For one, work legislation has come a long way and includes online and electronic workplace harassment, in provinces like Ontario. “While the Occupational Health and Safety Act protects employees from this conduct, changing toxic workplace culture starts with management and leadership.” according to Human Rights and Employment lawyer, Nicole Simes. “Employers have an obligation under OHSA to address workplace harassment and bullying wherever it occurs, including in chat forums.”

Secondly, on the broader question of privacy, Slack publicly announced in 2018 that it would give employers with a premium plan access to all employee conversations. This sets the expectation that no Slack channel is private and is always subject to intrusion.

A Safe Space for some?

As with any form of online policing, the danger is this could go too far. Different jurisdictions have varying standards and regulations today. Which ones should Slack abide by? Social media apps don’t want to be seen as enforcers of morality, which is perhaps the reason Facebook and other platforms have taken so long to act. Critics also argue that freedom of speech and safe spaces for all kinds of discussions should fundamentally be allowed on the internet.

Despite these criticisms, speech moderation across the internet is inevitable. If Slack is to continue its growth and user acquisition, it must give equal consideration to employee and employer well-being. Consumers today are better informed and socially conscious – therefore companies with bad ethics and culture are quickly punished.

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Will facial recognition catch on in schools and public institutions?

Imagine a regular classroom setting with the addition of inconspicuously placed security cameras focusing in on each student. The teacher confirms attendance without the need for a roll call. The cameras pick up on the students’ reactions and their level of attentiveness in class. The data is then collected to assess their attitude in general and provide feedback. This will be used to grade them in school, and if combined with other behavioural patterns, influence their standing in life.

This scenario will sound like a deeply intrusive and worrying use of technology to most people. It may also seem too early to collect such data on an individual. In China, however, this is already becoming a reality in schools across the country.

Mystery Eyes

Along with other uses of facial recognition, China has become a pioneer at implementing the technology in State institutions such as detention centres and schools. Students have reported changing their behaviour as a result of increased monitoring.

“Previously when I had classes that I didn’t like very much, I would be lazy and maybe take naps on the desk, or flick through other textbooks,” one student told Hangzhou.com. “But I don’t dare be distracted after the cameras were installed in the classrooms. It’s like a pair of mystery eyes are constantly watching me.”

My Face, My Identity

Facial recognition technology is already widely used by the communist state, especially in policing. To critics, it is a powerful new tool for the authoritative regime to conduct mass surveillance and to crack down on dissent. To its proponents however, it is yet another instance of China leading the world in the use of futuristic technology. Enthusiasts claim this is a convenience technology, making everyday tasks simpler. For example, it can be used for individual authentication (replacing identity documents, passwords, signing documents etc.) or for consumer verification when purchasing goods and services. For businesses and institutions, it will be a cost reduction technology. Human jobs that require monitoring or interaction can be replaced by responsive machines fitted with facial recognition capabilities.

Public Scrutiny

Law makers in several other countries have proposed legislation to curtail or restrict its use. Politicians like Bernie Sanders, are seeking to ban the use of facial recognition in sensitive scenarios such as policing. He argues that it is prone to overuse and misused against racial minorities and vulnerable populations. As with most technologies, privacy and personal intrusion are other major concerns. Despite the scrutiny, it won’t be long before facial recognition is commonly used across major urban centres worldwide.

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