Experts say Ottawa Senators Uber video raises privacy concerns

A secretly recorded video depicting NHL players venting about team personnel matters illustrates exactly why everyone from governments to companies need to get more proactive about privacy, industry experts said Tuesday.

Surveillance and data security scholars said they were not especially interested in the dirty laundry aired among the seven Ottawa Senators players during an Uber ride, but rather deeply concerned about the issues raised by the fact that the conversation was captured and shared without those players’ knowledge.

The incident, they said, shines a light on the growing ambiguity between public and private spaces as well as the shortcomings of current laws and social practices.

Scott Thompson, who studies surveillance technologies and their impact on society at the University of Saskatchewan, said past privacy legislation was crafted around the notion that private and public realms were distinct and could be subject to different sets of rules.

“The problem is that with the advance of technology, we’re seeing that it’s more and more difficult to identify spaces in this way,” Thompson said, citing everything from smart home devices to dash cameras in cars.

One such dashboard camera in an Uber car captured the off-hours conversation between the Senators team mates on Oct. 29 in Phoenix, Ariz. The five-minute video captures the seven players ridiculing a member of the coaching staff and mocking the team’s penalty killing performance.

Once the video became public, the players issued a statement apologizing to the coach. They also, however, emphasized that the video was shot without their consent.

A spokesman for Uber said the recording was “a clear violation” of the company’s guidelines.

“As soon as we learned of this situation, we immediately worked to help get this video removed,” Xavier Van Chau said in an email to The Canadian Press.

David Murakami Wood, Canada Research chair in surveillance studies and professor at Queen’s University, said the way the incident will be viewed and handled depends largely on context.

If it had played out on Canadian soil, he said the driver would likely be facing legal consequences for making a recording without permission. But laws vary widely by jurisdiction, he said, adding such consequences seem unlikely for the Arizona-based driver.

Ambiguity exists in Canada too, Murakami Wood said, adding that there are different rules in place for licensed taxis and privately hired vehicles, with ride-hailing companies occupying a poorly defined middle ground.

Murakami Wood, however, said the legal matters around privacy should be treated separately from the ethical considerations put on display in the Senators video.

“These people’s private conversation has been broadcast to basically the whole world,’ he said. “That is undoubtedly a breach of privacy in any moral or ethical sense.”

The Senators players are not the only high-profile Canadians who have had their privacy breached.

Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi was secretly live-streamed venting about Uber while catching a ride with rival ride-hailing provider Lyft during a 2016 visit to Boston.

“Been there, done that,” Nenshi said Tuesday when asked about the Senators’ incident. “People deserve a right to their privacy.”

Ann Cavoukian, former privacy commissioner of Ontario, called the latest breach “appalling” and said it highlighted the need for more action across the board.

Cavoukian said governments must tighten existing privacy laws, citing the European Union’s recently enacted General Data Protection Regulation as a strong international model for other countries to emulate. The office of the federal privacy commissioner did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Cavoukian said companies also need to play a role by tightening privacy protocols, suggesting apps and programs should treat high privacy as the default rather than forcing users to opt in to more secure protections.

Both Thompson and Murakami Wood said that while businesses ought to be part of the solution, public attitudes need to shift as well.

“Companies should not be determining what are the new norms of society,” Murakami Wood said. “We need to be more assertive ourselves by saying, ‘no, that’s just not socially acceptable.”’

He said society as a whole needs to pose fundamental questions, such as whether surveillance tools should be in such wide use or whether information learned outside of a well-defined context is truly open for sharing.

Cavoukian echoed the call for a re-evaluation of privacy in the modern age, calling on members of society not to be complacent about what she still sees as a fundamental right.

“I don’t want people to give up on their privacy,” she said. “You cannot have free and open societies without privacy, so do not give up on it. Reject the proposition that privacy is dead. Excuse me. It’s alive and well.”

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Alberta has 1,910 active cases of COVID-19 as of Wednesday. Red Deer is reporting five active cases, with 108 recovered. (File photo)
Red Deer now has 911 active COVID-19 cases

Central zone has 2,917 active cases

An anti-lockdown protest went ahead outside a café in central Alberta on Saturday, despite pouring rain and a pre-emptive court injunction. (Photo by The Canadian Press)
Anti-restriction protest underway in central Alberta despite injunction

A large crowd has gathered in the parking lot of the Whistle… Continue reading

Red Deer Regional Hospital Centre's expansion project is still a high priority, says Alberta Infrastructure Minister Prasad Panda. (File photo by Advocate staff)
Red Deer hospital ICU admissions stable, but rising, says surgeon

The Red Deer Regional Hospital Centre’s intensive care unit is in better… Continue reading

Alberta recorded a single-day record of over 57,000 doses of COVID-19 vaccine administered. (Photo courtesy Alberta Health Services Twitter)
Alberta hits daily record of COVID-19 vaccine doses administered

Central zone has administered 111,735 doses of the COVID-19

FILE - A firefighter wears a mask as he drives his truck. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward, File
VIDEO: Flames rip through Edmonton-area seniors complex, but no fatalities

ST. ALBERT, Alta. — Fire has destroyed part of a retirement complex… Continue reading

Dr. Robert Strang, Nova Scotia's chief medical officer of health, is setting off a social media reaction with his calls to stop non essential shopping, such as "buying sandals at Costco", with this photo of his worn sandals, which he published to social media on Saturday, May 8, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO-Dr. Robert Strang, *MANDATORY CREDIT*
Nova Scotia’s top doctor sparks meme with caution on non-essential shopping

HALIFAX — Nova Scotia’s top doctor has launched a social media meme… Continue reading

Chief Public Health Officer Theresa Tam speaks during a technical briefing on the COVID pandemic in Canada, in Ottawa on Friday, Jan. 15, 2021. Canada's chief public health officer is reminding Canadians even those who are fully vaccinated are not immune from transmitting the COVID-19. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Tam warns that full vaccination does not equal full protection from COVID-19

Canada’s chief public health officer reminded Canadians on Saturday that even those… Continue reading

Carolina Hurricanes coach Rod Brind'Amour conducts drills during NHL hockey training camp in Morrisville, N.C., Wednesday, Jan. 6, 2021. (AP Photo/Gerry Broome)
NHL relaxing virus protocols for vaccinated playoff teams

The NHL is relaxing virus protocols for teams that reach a threshold… Continue reading

Canada skip Kerri Einarson directs her teammates against Sweden in a qualification game at the Women's World Curling Championship in Calgary, Alta., Saturday, May 8, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
Canada’s Einarson eliminated at curling worlds after 8-3 loss to Sweden’s Hasselborg

CALGARY — Canada’s Kerri Einarson was eliminated at the world women’s curling… Continue reading

Jennifer Coffman, owner of Truffle Pigs in Field, B.C., poses beside her business sign on Thursday, May 6, 2021, in this handout photo. Her restaurant and lodge have been hit hard by a closure of a section of the Trans-Canada Highway and by the British Columbia government discouraging Alberta residents from visiting during the pandemic. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO-Jennifer Coffman, *MANDATORY CREDIT*
‘Why we survive’: B.C. boundary towns struggle without Albertans during pandemic

Jennifer Coffman didn’t expect to get hit with a double whammy at… Continue reading

A courtroom at the Edmonton Law Courts building, in Edmonton on Friday, June 28, 2019. The effect of the coronavirus pandemic will have a lasting impact on the Canadian justice system warn a number of legal experts. The Alberta Court of Queen's Bench announced Sunday it would adjourn all scheduled trials across the province for at least 10-weeks limiting hearings to only emergency or urgent matters. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson
Edmonton mother found guilty of manslaughter in death of five-year-old girl

EDMONTON — An Edmonton woman was found guilty Friday of manslaughter in… Continue reading

A Statistics Canada 2016 Census mailer sits on the key board of a laptop after arriving in the mail at a residence in Ottawa, May 2, 2016. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Statistics Canada sees more demand to fill out census online during pandemic

OTTAWA — Statistics Canada says the response to the census is higher… Continue reading

Travellers, who are not affected by new quarantine rules, arrive at Terminal 3 at Pearson Airport in Toronto, Monday, Feb. 22, 2021. Ottawa will create a new digital platform to help in processing immigration applications more quickly and efficiently after COVID-19 pandemic underscored the need for a faster shift to a digital immigration system, the immigration department said. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Frank Gunn
Ottawa to create new system to tackle delays in processing immigration applications

Ottawa says it will create a new digital platform to help process… Continue reading

Most Read