Media releases

  • Brock sociology professor receives grant for online privacy research

    MEDIA RELEASE: R00161 – 25 July 2016

    A Brock University professor has received a grant to examine the online privacy risks facing Canadians.

    Department of Sociology adjunct professor Natasha Tusikov will research what companies do with personal information collected online.

    The controversy of Edward Snowden leaking highly classified files stirred up great public concern over government surveillance programs on the Internet. It shed light on how large Internet firms were facilitating government surveillance by providing their users’ personal data to the U.S. National Security Agency.

    Tusikov offers a different perspective in looking at privacy on the Internet by examining the regulations and policies involved with these Internet firms and the sharing of Canadians’ personal data with third parties.

    Tusikov recently received a grant from the Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada to examine the risks on Canadians’ privacy from Internet firms and the non-legally binding policies undertaken by these companies and online payment providers.

    Her project, "Effects of Informal Online Regulatory Regimes on Privacy,” will explore what personal data from Canadians that Internet firms such as Google, Twitter, Yahoo and Microsoft share with third parties, as well as the informal regulatory agreements that govern the sharing of information.

    “Canadians may reasonably assume that many of the U.S.-based Internet firms operating in Canada are working in accordance with Canadian law. The problem, however, is that non-binding regulation occurs outside these laws,” Tusikov says.

    She warns people need to question who makes and enforces the rules on the Internet.
    “What rules guide how companies collect, store, and use our personal data online? This is especially relevant when we have non-Canadian Internet companies operating in Canada. Whose rules do these companies follow?”

    Tusikov will be carrying out interviews with Internet companies, privacy advocates (the Electronic Frontier Foundation and the Future of Privacy Forum among others), and civil-society organizations in Washington, Toronto and Ottawa during September and October.

    The outcome of this project will be an in-depth public research report with the ultimate goal of raising public awareness on where Canadians’ personal information goes and what it’s used for online. She will be presenting her findings at the 2017 Congress of the Humanities and Social Sciences in Toronto.

    Her upcoming book, Chokepoints: Global Private Regulation on the Internet (University of California Press), further examines Internet regulation and online privacy concerns and will be released in November.

    Department of Sociology adjunct professor Natasha Tusikov is available for interviews.

    For more information or for assistance arranging interviews:

    * Dan Dakin, Media Relations Officer, Brock University ddakin@brocku.ca, 905-688-5550 x5353 or 905-347-1970

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    Categories: Media releases

  • Brock labour expert releases first study of animal cruelty investigation work in Ontario

    MEDIA RELEASE: R00160 – 25 July 2016

    Enforcement officers with the Ontario Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (OSPCA) are underequipped compared to their police service counterparts and face many instances of disrespect on the job, says new research by Brock University and the University of Windsor.

    “OSPCA officers have the same legal authority as police to enforce animal cruelty legislation, yet key elements of their working conditions are quite shocking,” says Kendra Coulter, associate professor in Brock University’s Centre for Labour Studies, and lead author of the report.

    The report, “Difference Makers: Understanding and Improving the OSPCA’s Animal Cruelty Investigation Work,” which can be found at humanejobs.org is a first-of-its-kind study of animal cruelty investigators and their work in Ontario.

    Coulter and co-author Amy Fitzgerald, a criminologist at the University of Windsor, collected data from cruelty investigators working with the OSPCA through a survey and focus groups. Policy and financial analysis are also included within the report.

    The OSPCA has 91 officers, 62 per cent of whom are women, investigating some 18,000 complaints of animal cruelty all across Ontario each year.

    The researchers note the irony of OSPCA investigation officers being empowered to obtain warrants, seize animals, lay charges and perform other enforcement duties while the agency they work for has charitable status.

    “No other law enforcement agency in Ontario is reliant on donations for operations, or staffed by more women than men,” says Coulter.

    Key findings include:

    •    Most OSPCA officers must work alone, and some are responsible for geographic regions that take five hours to cross
    •    Officers do not have two-way radios and those in remote regions are regularly without even cell phone service
    •    Officers experience many kinds of disrespect, including verbal and physical abuse, on the job
    •    The $5 million that the Ontario government provides the OSPCA each year only covers less than one third of the agency’s protection budget. “Animal cruelty investigation work in Ontario is still dependent on private donations,” says the report, adding that police, conservation, fisheries and food inspection officers are fully funded through public funds, “and are understood to be providing a public service.”

    Despite the obstacles and difficulties they face, many cruelty investigators — who Coulter says are required to be part police officer, part social worker and part nurse — go to great lengths to find compassionate solutions, most of which go unrecognized.

    “The fact that so many officers make animal cruelty investigation their career, and stay for years or even decades despite the very challenging conditions, is a clear indication of their commitment. But these workers and the animals of our province deserve better,” says Coulter.

    The report makes several recommendations to government, industry and the OSPCA on how to better support cruelty investigation officers and the animals they’re trying to protect, as well as improve workers’ safety and effectiveness.

    Kendra Coulter, associate professor, Centre for Labour Studies, Brock University is available for media interviews at kcoulter@brocku.ca

    Windsor-area media are asked to contact Amy Fitzgerald, associate professor, Department of Sociology, Anthropology, and Criminology, University of Windsor at afitz@uwindsor.ca

    For more information or for assistance arranging interviews:

    * Dan Dakin, Media Relations Officer, Brock University ddakin@brocku.ca, 905-688-5550 x5353 or 905-347-1970

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    Categories: Media releases