Surveillance & Technology

Technology can, and does, support and enhance human endeavors. But it also has the capacity to render us increasingly vulnerable to a range of surveillance activities. Everything from our cell phones (do you know what information about you every app you download collects?) to our baby monitors (have you changed the password or is your livestream viewable on the internet?) to our internet browsers, our connected cars, our video doorbells, and our wearable fitness trackers and more are not just capable of collecting increasingly granular information about us, they’re deliberately designed to allow their vendors to profit from it. 

Whether it’s location tracking, communications interception or eavesdropping devices, facial recognition or other biometric tools, or just the hoovering up of our ‘data exhaust’ as we live our lives online, technological progress has also meant technological incursions into our privacy. And these technologies are developed and deployed much more quickly than our social, political, educational, or legal systems can react, leaving dangerous gaps in our laws and holes in our personal protections against excessive collection and use of our information. 

CCLA believes that privacy is a precondition, not a barrier, to innovation in tech. We all deserve technology designed to maximize benefits and minimize harms, to individuals and to society as a whole. 

Learn More About Our Work In Surveillance & Technology
Our Recent Cases and Reports

View our latest work and activity.

Toronto's Smart City 

Waterfront Toronto contracted with Google’s sibling Sidewalk Labs to create a smart city project in downtown Toronto. This project would be a sensor-laden neighbourhood, collecting data on people who live, work, or visit the area. Losing the ability to be a face in the crowd, and so much of our privacy, is what’s at stake. So we launched a legal action to reset the project.

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Toronto’s Smart City

Waterfront Toronto contracted with Google’s sibling Sidewalk Labs to create a smart city project in downtown Toronto. This project would be a sensor-laden neighbourhood, collecting data on people who live, work, or visit the area. Losing the ability to be a face in the crowd, and so much of our privacy, is what’s at stake. So we launched a legal action to reset the project.

Our Work in Surveillance & Technology

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Canadian Civil Liberties Association launches constitutional challenge to Ontario’s strip search law

June 20, 2022
The Canadian Civil Liberties Association and a woman with personal experience have launched a major…

CCLA Presents to ETHI on Facial Recognition

March 30, 2022
CCLA’s Privacy Director Brenda McPhail was invited to speak to the Standing Committee on Access…

Residents of BC, AB, QC protected from Clearview AI by binding orders from their Privacy Regulators

December 14, 2021
CCLA welcomes today’s decisions issued by the BC Information and Privacy Commissioner and the Alberta…

CCLA and Privacy International collaborate on submissions regarding facial recognition guidelines for police agencies

November 17, 2021
The proposed OPC guidance on police use of FRT technology can help ensure police agencies’…

CCLA to Minister: Choosing not to be vaccinated should not disentitle you from employment insurance

November 2, 2021
CCLA has written to Minister of Employment, Workforce Development and Disability Inclusion, Carla Qualtrough, urging…

CCLA’s Submission on Canada’s Proposed Approach to Addressing Harmful Content Online

September 28, 2021
Prior to the election, the government of Canada initiated a consultation on a proposed approach…

Fear, Loathing and the Law: Pushing the Limits of Legislating “Good” Behaviour

September 20, 2021
CCLA Essay by Cara Zwibel, Director of Fundamental Freedoms and Brenda McPhail, Director of Privacy…
COVID Vaccine Passport

FAQ: Vaccine Passports

August 17, 2021
The lines are being drawn between those who support and oppose some version of a…

Reaction To New Vaccine Passport ‘Benefits’

June 24, 2021
As Manitoba announces new “benefits” to be conferred on the fully vaccinated, the questions we…

‘Cease And Desist’ – Liberal Party Must Halt Use Of Facial Fingerprinting

June 23, 2021
The Canadian Civil Liberties Association (CCLA) is calling on the Liberal Party of Canada to…

Letter to Manitoba re: Vaccine Passports

June 17, 2021
We are writing regarding the Manitoba government’s plan to provide individuals with proof of vaccination…

RCMP Use of Face Recognition Tool Violated Privacy Law

June 10, 2021
Today Canada’s Privacy Commissioner released the Special Report to Parliament on Police Use of Facial…

CCLA contributes to consultations on Ontario’s AI Framework

June 4, 2021
CCLA was pleased to have the opportunity to participate in the Ontario government's consultation on…

Clearview AI Engaged In “Mass Surveillance”

February 3, 2021
Clearview AI broke Canadian law when it scraped the internet for 3 billion photos of…

Interim Report: Facial Recognition Technology in Canada

January 4, 2021
What is Facial Recognition Technology and where do we find it? Written for the CCLA…
INCLO InFocus FacialRecognition Report

In Focus: Facial Recognition Tech Stories and Rights Harms from Around the World, (INCLO)

January 1, 2021
Facial Recognition Tech Stories and Rights Harms from Around the World, Published by the International…

CCLA Debates Vaccine Passports on TVO.org: Our Letter that Sparked the Debate

December 14, 2020
We are writing you about the bad idea floated from an Ontario executive podium respecting…

Proof of Vaccination

December 9, 2020
Ontario’s health minister openly suggested that people who don’t have proof they’ve chosen to receive…

Secret Evidence in The Age of Artificial Intelligence

November 13, 2020
Today’s most popular form of artificial intelligence (AI) – machine learning – is often called…

Submission to the Special Committee Reviewing BC’s Personal Information Protection Act

October 23, 2020
On August 14th, CCLA made submissions to the Special Committee to Review BC’s Personal Information…

Can City Hall ‘Deploy’ Contact Tracing App on Its Phones?

September 25, 2020
Ahead of a second wave of the coronavirus in Canada, Toronto’s Deputy Mayor Stephen Holiday is asking…

Montreal makes history to promote transparency and protect privacy.

September 24, 2020
You probably missed the landmark decision by a major Canadian law-maker this week, striking a…

Montreal Surveillance Tech Moratorium Presser

September 18, 2020
CCLA urges Montréal City council to protect their constituents from identity and personal data theft.

Montreal Councillor Rotrand’s Initiative to Mandate Accountability & Transparency

September 17, 2020
We support Councillor Rotrand's initiative to mandate public accountability and transparency for surveillance technologies purchased,…

What Do We Want? Stronger Privacy Laws. When Do We Want Them? Now

August 26, 2020
It has become routine to start all commentary on privacy laws in Canada with a…

Order a Ride and Say Goodbye to Privacy

August 12, 2020
The CCLA recently submitted its feedback on the draft regulations for Québec’s new Act respecting…

Facial Fingerprinting Pilot by Police Halted by UK Court of Appeal

August 11, 2020
There was a huge victory today for privacy rights against police use of facial recognition…

Letter to Bill Blair

July 8, 2020
Subject: Ban on use of facial recognition surveillance by federal law enforcement and intelligence agencies.

Contact Tracing App in Canada: To Download or Not

July 3, 2020
The Canadian Civil Liberties Association (CCLA) will challenge the Government of Nova Scotia’s exceptionally broad injunction limiting…

Let’s Not Forget, We Won

June 26, 2020
June 25th was supposed to be Decision Day, the day Sidewalk Labs and Waterfront Toronto would…

The Canadian Contact Tracing Experiment Begins

June 18, 2020
A social experiment in technologically-assisted tracking for public health purposes is about to being in…

“Immunity Passports”: a New Journey to Inequality

May 26, 2020
As we flounder about looking for ways out of the COVID-19 climate of fear, and…

Data Surveillance by Canadian Governments as COVID Response: CCLA’s Privacy Protection Prescription

April 20, 2020
We are writing you about the use of technologically-mediated surveillance as a public health response…

Statement On The Reset Of The Quayside Project

March 7, 2020
Today’s news that Sidewalk Labs has withdrawn from pursuing the project is a victory for…

Make the Choice: Put the Horse Back in the Barn

January 1, 2020
Clearview AI is a tech company that the New York Times reports has scraped 3…

Haunting Decisions Due October 31

October 29, 2019
October 31 is an important decision-day for the Waterfront Toronto/Sidewalk Labs smart city— a fitting…

CCLA Joins Rights Groups Challenging Mass Surveillance In Europe

July 10, 2019
Following last year’s victory in which the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) found the…

CCLA v. Waterfront Toronto, et. aI: Public Court Documents

June 24, 2019
CCLA v. Waterfront Toronto, et. aI: Public Court Documents

CCLA Written Submission to Toronto City Council Executive Committee

June 6, 2019
CCLA provided a written submission to Toronto’s Executive Committee for their consideration during their recent…

Deputation on Facial Recognition System

May 30, 2019
What’s the problem with facial recognition technology as a police surveillance and investigation tool? It’s…

Canada’s Privacy Commissioner’s Office is Furious, and He’s Deleting Their Facebook Page

April 25, 2019
A blistering report issued by Canada’s and British Columbia’s Privacy Commissioners accuses Facebook of violating…

CCLA at The Supreme Court: Privacy Lost

April 19, 2019
It’s a loss for privacy in a disappointing Supreme Court decision released April 18 in…

Canada Responds to CCLA’s Demand for Waterfront Toronto Quayside Project Reset

April 18, 2019
Canada Responds to CCLA’s Demand for Waterfront Toronto Quayside Project Reset

CCLA Commences Proceedings Against Waterfront Toronto

April 16, 2019
Today, the Canadian Civil Liberties Association along with co-applicant Lester Brown, commenced proceedings against Waterfront…

Demanding Our Privacy Rights Get a Seat at The Table

April 16, 2019
CCLA is going to court to reset the Waterfront Toronto/Sidewalk Labs smart city project.  A…

Open Letter from CCLA: Calling for a Reset on Waterfront Toronto

March 5, 2019
Dear Prime Minister, Premier and Mayor, We are writing to you about the Smart City initiative for the Toronto Eastern…

Big Brother Watch and Others v. the United Kingdom

February 14, 2019
ECHR Grand Chamber Panel Decision

Privacy Wins: Jarvis Decision Confirms Privacy Rights Exist in Public Spaces

February 14, 2019
A teacher who argued at the Supreme Court that his secret filming of girls’ cleavage…

Shotspotter is not coming to Toronto, and that’s a win

February 14, 2019
The Canadian Civil Liberties Association (CCLA) will challenge the Government of Nova Scotia’s exceptionally broad injunction limiting…

Money (That’s What They Want)

February 13, 2019
It shouldn’t come as a shock to anyone that the collection of our private, personal…

Mass surveillance challenge proceeds to Europe’s highest human rights court

February 5, 2019
CCLA and 9 partner organisations have made another step forward in our attempt to stop…

Governing by Mercenary

January 29, 2019
As with the U.S. over-reliance upon private contractors to wage wars, in Canada, we too…

We’re not done talking about privacy in the smart city

January 24, 2019
Since Sidewalk Labs and Waterfront Toronto announced their agreement to develop a plan for a…

Presto Change-O Privacy Disappears!

January 2, 2019
December 31 is the end of an era for Torontonians. It’s the last day, ever,…

Mass Surveillance INCLO Case Continues

December 11, 2018
Mass surveillance violates international privacy rights and is fundamentally incompatible with the rights to free…

Auditor General To Toronto’s Smart Cities: Not So Fast

December 6, 2018
Ontario’s Auditor General this week took a provincial agency to task for its role in…

CCLA, INCLO and Others Welcome Historic Win Against Mass Surveillance in UK

September 14, 2018
In a landmark win for seven INCLO members, the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR)…

A Quick Win For Privacy Rights: CCLA vs. Cadillac Fairview

August 7, 2018
Cadillac Fairview, the company that owns numerous popular malls, said it will pause the use…

CCLA Urges Toronto to Delay Purchase of Gunshot-Location Technology ShotSpotter

July 23, 2018
The Canadian Civil Liberties Association has serious concerns regarding the impact of new police surveillance…

Yorku Protesters: You Have The Power. We Have Your Back (Survey)

March 27, 2018
I am writing to you about disturbing reports regarding the reported activities of security personnel…

Lessons to Learn From The Facebook / Cambridge Analytica Scandal

March 21, 2018
There is a lot of outrage, blame, and more than a few “I told you…

Mass Surveillance and Bulk Collection in Bill C-59

September 12, 2017
One of the most insidious elements of Bill C-59 is the way it facilitates bulk…

Canadians’ Right To Privacy In Cell Phone Data Confirmed…

January 14, 2016
The Canadian Civil Liberties Association (CCLA) will challenge the Government of Nova Scotia’s exceptionally broad injunction limiting…

Summary: International Covenant On Civil And Political Rights (Iccpr)

October 27, 2015
The Canadian Civil Liberties Association (CCLA) will challenge the Government of Nova Scotia’s exceptionally broad injunction limiting…