1. From who me to #metoo
Writes Stephen Kimber:
In which Stephen McNeil continues to be Stephen McNeil, dismissing calls to apologize to a young man for the province’s own security failure. But there is also some small hint of change in the #metoo air. We take our good news where we find it.
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2. Desmond Cole
In which El Jones and Desmond Cole sit around and read the news.
3. Examineradio 157
This week we interview Darious Mirshahi, an organizer with the Service Employees International Union, about his organization’s efforts to unionize Halifax janitors, baristas, and other front line workers.
Also, we discuss the Halifax Examiner’s successful court action to unseal the search warrant that led to the arrest of a 19-year-old man in the FOIPOP security failure case.
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4. The site of the proposed Sydney container pier is eroding
Mary Campbell has been bird-dogging the so-called “Assumption Fund” for over a year. What’s the Assumption Fund? She writes:
The Assumption Fund is a trust fund containing monies (about $2.5 million originally) left over from the 2012 Sydney harbor dredge, a $37 million project funded by three levels of government (with a $1 million contribution from Nova Scotia Power Inc). The leftover funds were earmarked for new navigational aids for the deepened channel, CBU research on fish habitat post-dredge, and monitoring of the “confined disposal facility” (CDF) for the dredged material, better known as the greenfield site. Originally under the control of the Sydney Ports Corporation (SPC), the Assumption Fund became the responsibility of the Port of Sydney Development Corporation when it took over from the SPC in 2015.
The fish habitat research and CDF monitoring happened; the navigational aids never did, and some of the money that might have been used for them was subsequently diverted to “business development.” The Spectator wrote about it all in detail here.
The business development spending we reported on earlier centered on the drive to turn Sydney into a mega-hub for ultra-large container vessels (ULCVs). Since that last article, responsibility for the container terminal project has been removed from the Port of Sydney and returned to the Mayor of the CBRM and our “port developer,” Albert Barbusci of Sydney Harbour Investment Partners (SHIP).
Updating her earlier work, Campbell found that in the last fiscal year, the Port of Sydney spent $210,867 from the fund, bringing the total to $1.1 million.
Campbell explains the biggest expenditure from last year:
In the year ended 31 March 2018, CBCL received $92,024 for monitoring the confined disposal facility (or greenfield site) which is where we’re supposed to build this mega-container terminal. The figure represents a sharp jump from the $17,296 paid to CBCL for the same job in 2016 and the $16,633 paid in 2017. I asked [Port CEO Marlene] Usher what explained the spike in this payment and she told me:
The CDF was eroding in one section and CBCL (who monitors it) identified a body of work which was contracted out. This work was done by JonelJim at a cost of $68,990. [emphasis mine]
I originally listed this payment last but realized I was effectively burying the lede — the erosion of the intended location for our mega-container port surely deserves top billing.
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5. Drivers’ licences, identity theft, and identity give-aways
We’ve been told not to smile for passport photos for a while, and now that direction will be given for Nova Scotia drivers’ licences, reports David Burke for the CBC:
“That’s really for the software to work properly,” said Kevin Mitchell, Nova Scotia’s registrar of motor vehicles.
The software he’s referring to is the province’s new facial recognition program, which has been up and running since January. Anyone flagged by the software is also double checked by a person who is trained in facial recognition.
“When you have a consistency in your photo from one photo to the next it allows the software to work best,” said Mitchell.
It’s meant to help stop identity theft, prevent people from getting a licence when they’re not supposed to, and detect whether one photo is being used with many different names.
If you’ve known anyone who has had their identity stolen, you know that identity theft is a real concern. It can turn your life upside down for a couple of years as you try to reclaim your bank accounts and credit ratings. So tightening up the process for provincial IDs like drivers’ licences makes sense, except… well, does it? It’s one of those things that makes intuitive sense, but maybe on closer inspection we find a more nuanced situation.
To begin, what’s the justification for this? Continues Burke:
So far, only a handful of people have been caught trying to defraud the system, but Mitchell wouldn’t say exactly how many.
None of the cases have been serious enough to warrant police involvement, he said. Anyone who was caught was contacted by the Registry of Motor Vehicles.
So the cases aren’t serious, but they’re not going to tell us the nature of them or how many of them there are. This is what we in the worry-about-government-doing-shit business call a “red flag”: implied but not detailed scenarios that have supposedly already happened are trotted out to justify a new program, in this case more data collection.
I can envision situations where someone gets multiple drivers’ licences by mistake, or at least not with ill-intent. A newly married woman woman changes her name and gets a new licence without bothering to cancel her previous one, for instance. But if this is what we’re talking about, why not just tell us? Because it doesn’t really rise to “holy crow, we gotta spend a bunch of money!” level, is my guess.
But this technology is tested right? Oh yeah, explains Burke:
Other jurisdictions have been using facial recognition technology for years for similar purposes.
Got that — similar purposes. Some examples?
In Ontario the province’s lottery and gaming commission has been using facial recognition to keep problem gamblers out of casinos. In China, billions are tracked through facial recognition.
China. China? The link is to a CBC Spark article that explains that:
In recent years, the Chinese government has been rolling out a nationwide surveillance system using CCTVs in conjunction with facial recognition technology, to monitor the movements of the country’s 1.4 billion people.
Paul Haswell is a technology lawyer at Pinsent Mansons in Hong Kong. He’s witnessed the new changes in China, and is concerned about the impact of surveillance on society and personal freedom.
“Part of me thinks this is a really scary sci-fi film,” Haswell said. “We’re going down a route where people are monitored 24/7 and there’s no longer any privacy.”
According to Haswell, the technology can detect people walking down the street and offer up other information about their identities, including their name, job, and their public profiles online.
Haswell is surprised that more people aren’t worried about it. “Perhaps it’s starting in China, but it’s the sort of thing we could find being rolled out or encouraged in other parts of the world.”
So the Nova Scotian government’s new facial recognition software has a similar purpose to the Chinese dictatorial regime’s collection of biometric information on its citizens so they can be monitored and controlled. Good to know.
Yes, yes, there’s alarmist Bousquet flying off the handle again. Doesn’t he know Canada has laws and controls and processes so none of that China-like surveillance can happen?
Kevin Mitchell said the facial recognition software in Nova Scotia is only being used internally by the Registry of Motor Vehicles and will not be shared with third parties. The facial recognition data will only be handed over if required by a court order, according to the registry’s website.
Well, I’m convinced.
Except, um, aren’t we like in the middle of a scandal involving a security failure of the province’s collection of data? Didn’t the province just put thousands of people’s personal information on the public-facing Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy (FOIPOP) website for anyone in the world to download at their leisure? Thankfully, in that case, the information was discovered by some hapless teenager with no evil designs, but with biometrics now being collected and stored on provincial computers, the potential damage caused by a security failure is enormous.
I don’t know who’s responsible for securing the biometric information collected by a the Registry of Motor Vehicles, but I’ll note that the Public Service Commission, which oversees the registry, paid Unisys, Inc. $3,564,249.46 last fiscal year (ending on March 31, 2018). That’s in addition to the $3,953,511.24 that Internal Services, the operator of the FOIPOP site, paid to Unisys in the same period, and Unisys was responsible for security of the FOIPOP site.
6. There’s a terrorist under your bed
At 4:08pm Friday, the U.S. Consulate in Halifax sent out a “security alert” via email. (Because I use the consulate’s services, I’m on their mailing list, but the same alert was posted to the U.S. embassy’s website.) It read:
Security Alert – U. S. Consulate General Halifax, Canada
May 11, 2018
Location: Canada, countrywide
Event: The U.S. government remains concerned that terrorists are intent on targeting U.S. citizens, including children. Terrorists may employ a variety of tactics, such as violent assaults and kidnappings. In the past they have used knives, guns, and vehicles as ramming devices. They may target schools, hospitals, churches, tourist locations, transportation hubs, and other public venues.
Actions to Take:
• Stay alert in public places, including schools, hospitals, churches, tourist locations, and transportation hubs.
• Review travel routes and times to reduce time and place predictability.
• Keep a low profile.
• Be aware of your surroundings.
• Review your personal security plans.
• Report social media threats to local authorities.
What am I supposed to do with that?
Keep a low profile? I was a speaker at a conference this weekend; was I supposed to cancel?
Review my personal security plans? People have “personal security plans”? Is the U.S. consulate telling me to carry a gun?
More to the point, should Canadians be concerned about this seeming imminent terrorist attack?
No, says Kyle Duggan, reporting for iPolitics:
Canada’s terrorism threat level remains unchanged, despite a security notice issued by the U.S. embassy in Canada late Friday afternoon warning Americans around the world that the U.S. government “remains” concerned they could be potentially targeted by terrorists.
The embassy wouldn’t explain why it issued the notice, but said the U.S. issued it in other countries as well, but Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale’s office said Canada’s terrorism threat level remains at medium.
The cryptic notice was tweeted out by the U.S. embassy and various other U.S. consulates across Canada Friday afternoon, but no explanation was given about what prompted the security alert. U.S. embassy spokesperson Joseph Crook would only say the alert was “not Canada specific.”
A U.S. official speaking on condition of anonymity said the notice was not related to a specific threat, but was issued to keep general awareness levels up about ISIS foreign fighters.
So, just be vaguely frightened, I guess.
North West Community Council (Monday, 7pm, Bedford-Hammonds Plains Community Centre, Bedford) — a bunch of Bedford area stuff.
Halifax & West Community Council (Tuesday, 6pm, City Hall) — public hearings on that building at the corner of Bloomfield and Gottingen Streets and a rezone affecting a building at 3834 Robie Street, which is at the far north end of Robie Street. On the latter, the staff report explains:
- The current building was constructed in the early 1960s as a 4-unit dwelling. Research indicates it was internally converted to a 6-unit apartment building in the late 1960s without municipal permits.
- The property is currently not compliant with R-2 Zone which permits a maximum of 4 units.
- The property is the subject of an ongoing zoning compliance process initiated by the HRM.
- The current rezoning application is proposed to bring the property into compliance by establishing the R-2A Zone.
- R-2A is a variant of the R-2 Zone that enables buildings built prior to September 1987 to be converted to small apartment buildings from 5 to 14 units.
- The building is proposed to be maintained in its current 6-unit configuration with no physical alterations noting that the R-2A zone includes restrictions on expanding the building.
- The subject property has road frontage on both Robie Street and Basinview Dr. This configuration also restricts future expansion of the building footprint and envelope.
- The current parking provisions comply with the Halifax Peninsula LUB and access to the parking spaces is from Basinview Dr.
- The existing building and site meet the requirements for the R-2A Zone.
- Development Engineering, Civic Addressing, and Halifax Water put forward no objections to the application.
No public meetings.
Veterans Affairs (Tuesday, 2pm, One Government Place) — Joëlle Badman, the Education Program Manager of the Roméo Dallaire Child Soldiers Initiative, will speak about “Veteran Trainers to Eradicate the Use of Child Soldiers.”
Selonsertib (Monday, 10am, Theatre A, Tupper Medical Building) — David Breckenridge from Gilead Sciences Inc. will speak on “Discovery and development of Selonsertib, a first in class inhibitor of ASK1 for the treatment of nonalcoholic steatohepatitis.”
Three short stories on survival in the age of CRISPR/Cas9 (Monday, 4pm, Theatre A, Tupper Medical Building) — David Edgell from Western University will speak.
Infrastructures of Art and Research (Monday, 11:30am, Room 430, Goldberg Computer Science Building) — Jamie Allen, Canada Research Chair in Infrastructure, Media & Communications at NSCAD, will speak. His abstract:
One way to think about concepts and realities of “infrastructure” is as structure that allows structure to exist. As such, it makes us pay attention not just to wires and piping, roads and bridges, but to the organizational, institutional and material scaffoldings which prop up systems of meaning, media and message. This media-materiality is a subject of interest in history of science and engineering, as well as a topic in the politics of contemporary technologies, also the intended focus of public projects in art and research by Jamie Allen. Jamie will discuss his prior work in technology and media based artistic and design practice investigating these themes, as well as current interests in the founding of an institute of artistic research into infrastructures, and some current interests and collaborations he’s hoping to get going around the particular infrastructure of human language as a generative and framing device for creative work in research, art, media and technology.
Thesis Defence, Political Science (Monday, 1pm, Room 3107, Mona Campbell Building) — David Morgan will defend his thesis, “The Humanitarians: Understanding the Crisis of the Humanitarian Field.”
Senate (Monday, 3pm, Theatre B, Tupper Medical Building) — here’s the agenda.
No public events.
In the harbour
5am: YM Express, container ship, arrives at Fairview Cove from New York
5:30am: Hestia Leader, car carrier, arrives at Autoport from Bremerhaven, Germany
6am: Catharina Schulte, container ship, arrives at Pier 42 from Lisbon, Portugal
8am: Acadian, oil tanker, arrives at Irving Oil from Saint John
11:30am: Hestia Leader, car carrier, sails from Autoport for sea
4pm: YM Express, container ship, sails from Fairview Cove for Rotterdam
4:30pm: Catharina Schulte, container ship, sails from Pier 42 for sea
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