Canadians are now ‘digital-by-default’, accessing their work and essential services daily, online. But this has led the way for malicious actors to increasingly target people’s privacy and human rights.
The Council of Canadian Academies (CCA), a non-profit public corporation that assesses science and technology related to public issues, detailed in a new report how the surge of cyber-enabled harms is creating significant challenges for governments, law enforcement, and the private sector to protect online communities.
The number of cyber-related harms such as harassment, fraud, and hate propaganda has dramatically risen since 2014. But many ill-defined online harms are either considered not criminal or go unreported.
For instance, online harms are enabled by recent technologies like cryptocurrencies and crowdfunding sites, the dark web, and social media, which are decentralized, invite little oversight and give criminals the option of anonymity.
“Police are often hindered in their ability to investigate criminal activities that take place online, and grapple with outdated organizational structures, a massive volume of digital evidence, and inadequate resources,” noted the CCA. “Additionally, the justice system is facing considerable challenges applying existing legal frameworks to harmful online behaviours.”
According to the report, a collective effort including legal and non-legal approaches is required to protect people’s privacy and dignity in the digital age, while enabling better responsiveness to the needs of victims and survivors.
Community support, educational programs, and corporate social responsibility remain key to fostering a safer online ecosystem. Cooperation and coordination across jurisdictions, civil societies, policy makers, and law enforcement agencies are also crucial, to keep people safe in the digital age.
The CCA report, titled Vulnerable Connections, was sponsored by Public Safety Canada. See the full report here.
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