Pubdate: Wed, 27 Sep 2017
Source: StarPhoenix, The (CN SN)
Copyright: 2017 The StarPhoenix
Author: Morgan Modjeski
Page: A1


The Access and Privacy Branch of Saskatchewan's Ministry of Justice is
examining concerns around the province's survey on recreational
marijuana use after a University of Regina professor identified
potential vulnerabilities within the online tool.

Marc Spooner, a professor who specializes in qualitative and
participatory action research, originally raised concerns about the
fact anyone in Canada - and potentially around the globe - can take
the survey.

He argues the survey is "invalid" as a tool for consultation on public
policy in Saskatchewan, as there's no way to determine who has been
taking the survey, or if it's been compromised by a form of hacking
called "freeping " where an online measure is hijacked by a certain
group or those with a specific agenda.

In response to Spooner's concerns, Drew Wilby, executive director of
communications with the ministry of Justice said they wanted to ensure
Saskatchewan residents working or studying outside of the province
could provide feedback.

Wilby also said a "data-scrubbing " process will occur to eliminate
"possible junk or repetitive responses" before analysis starts, but
Spooner said this raises further concerns. Spooner, who ran for the
federal NDP in 2011, said the fact a data scrub is even possible
indicates the survey has been collecting information that could
potentially identify a respondent - like an IP address - despite the
fact the survey indicates data collected is "non-identifying."

"If they're able to, like I said, do this data scrubbing and eliminate
junk and repetitive responses, then they're gathering some identifying
information, because otherwise, how would they be able to do that?"
Spooner asked, calling the situation a "Catch-22."

He claims a data scrubbing process wouldn't be possible if the survey
was anonymous.

"At first, I was just concerned, thinking as a public policy matter,
this is not a good consultation, but now it's alarm," he said, adding
he feels this could be a "very serious" data and privacy breach.

Chantelle Probe, director of the ministry of Justice's Access and
Privacy Branch, said it has received Spooner's concerns and are
"looking at responding" to his questions. The StarPhoenix requested an
interview with a representative from the Justice ministry on the
privacy concerns brought forward, but a statement was provided instead.

"Concerns that are brought forward to the Ministry are taken seriously
and will be examined by the Access and Privacy Division," the
statement explained. "The Ministry has received Dr. Spooner's concerns
and is reviewing them internally. At this point, it's too early for
the Ministry to speak to any details about the concerns."

Information on the SurveyGizmo website - the company that provided the
government tools to create the survey - indicates IP addresses,
alongside a person's longitude and latitude, are pieces of information
that can be collected through a survey, but a statement from
SurveyGizmo Tuesday said IP addresses are not collected

"Each survey can be tailored according to the services offered at the
plan level that is purchased," the statement said, noting SurveyGizmo
"did not construct this survey" nor does it "own the survey or the

Saskatchewan NDP Justice critic and party leader Nicole Sarauer said
she feels the consultation process has been flawed from the start,
saying consultations should have started earlier and lasted longer.

She said it's important that members of the public are confident their
opinions and information are kept secure and properly

She feels the survey should be "re-done in a matter the Saskatchewan
people can trust the results."

"There's a lot of concern about potential weaknesses in this survey
and that needs to be taken seriously by the ministry," she said.

"Don't get me wrong, it's very important for the ministry to consult
on this issue and consult widely, but they should have been doing it
months ago."

A second statement from Justice indicates the survey will remain open
as it reviews the concerns, but said there's no timeline in regards to
when the review will be complete. It also noted while the ministry
appreciates Spooner has brought his concerns forward "these concerns
do not automatically invalidate the survey."

The survey, which is open until Oct. 6, is only one tool the
Government of Saskatchewan is using to consult on the legalization of
recreational marijuana, with the statement noting: "multiple
ministries have been consulting with stakeholders since the
announcement of cannabis legalization."
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MAP posted-by: Matt