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Toronto man raises privacy concerns after car dealership employee turns off his dashcams — twice

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A Toronto man is warning others to safeguard their privacy after his dashboard video cameras were turned off twice while work at a dealership was being done on his vehicle.

Haider Firas, 24, took his car to Parkview BMW in November. One camera in the car points out to capture video of other vehicles, and another points inside his car to protect his property.

The dealership’s mechanic was captured on video noticing the cameras and turning them both off.

“Well that kind of raises a flag,” Firas told CBC Toronto. 

“Why did he do that? Now I don’t know what happened to my car for that time being. It’s under their control now. They could do anything, they could speed off with it, they could have damages done to it. I don’t know.”

Unsatisfied with Parkview BMW’s response after an employee there turned off his dashcam video, Firas went to the media to alert others to what he says could be an industry-wide problem. (Chris Glover/CBC)

Dashcam data deleted on 2nd visit

Firas said he complained to the dealership, but decided to take his car back to the same company a couple of weeks later.

Not only did the employee turn off his recording devices a second time, but the worker also deleted the videos on the file, Firas said.

“This is raising a concern with privacy because I have my family in my car and we have conversations. [The employee] actually had to go through footage to find their own footage to delete and this is a 100 per cent no-no, like you can’t access people’s private information to get rid of your own footage.”

Firas also uploads his videos to YouTube, and said they are particularly valuable to him for that reason. 

Firas recorded a phone conversation between himself and the dealership’s director of fixed operations, who said some employees are not comfortable being watched without their knowledge, and argued it is common practice in the trade.

“I don’t think it’s OK for you to disconnect the camera without asking the owner’s permission,” Firas tells the director on the recording.

The two dashcam video recorders in Firas’s vehicle were turned off by an employee at the dealership. He also says files were deleted the second time he went to the dealership. (Chris Glover/CBC)

“For example, if I have a house and I hire contractors to come work in my house … and they disconnect my cameras, … you can’t do that, because I’m recording for my safety for my property. It’s the same thing. It’s my car, you’re not allowed to disconnect it without permission.”

Parkview BMW’s general manager did not respond to CBC Toronto’s request for comment.

However, you can hear a spokesperson for the dealership speak with Firas in this recording, which has been edited for brevity.

Listen to Haider Firas confront his car dealership about disconnecting his dashcam 0:00

Other dealerships weigh in

Art Safonov, parts manager at Volkswagen MidTown Toronto, said its policy is not to touch an owner’s property without contacting the person first.

“If the technician does decide that they want it off, we would notify the customer that it is going to be turned off … because we are totally transparent,” Safonov said.

“Generally, we don’t touch them; there’s no reason to touch it,” he added.

“But is it standard across the board? I have no idea. From dealer to dealer, it may vary.”

At Lakeside Motors, owner Mike Colangelo said his shop hasn’t encountered the situation yet, but suggested it would be best to let the owner know.

“I don’t think it’s a bad idea to tell the customer, because if anything happens … they’d say it happened while the camera was off,” he said.

“It’s a bit of a grey area. I don’t know what the logistics are around this. You could go both ways. You’d almost need to be a lawyer.”

Lawyer cites potential privacy violation by worker

Privacy lawyer Alice Tseng said that in Canada, privacy legislation applies to entities such as businesses or governments, not private individuals or consumers.

She doesn’t believe it was against the law for Firas to record the employee, or for the employee to stop the recording.

But she said the situation could be problematic for the employee.

“If the employee just stopped it and no more, I don’t see a privacy issue,” Tseng said.

“If the employee deleted files, I don’t think it’s a privacy issue, but I do think the consumer could have some sort of recourse, because you can’t just damage other people’s property or delete other people’s property,” she added.

“To the extent that the employee actually had to access or watch any past files, that could be a privacy violation.”

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The ‘Maple Majestic’ wants to be Canada’s homegrown Tesla

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Look out Tesla, Canada has a homegrown electric sedan on the way. Well, that’s if AK International Motor Corporation can drum up enough investment to make its EV a reality. Dubbed the “Maple Majestic,” the vehicle is a battery-electric designed to “excel in extreme climate performance without adversely affecting the climate, as befits a vehicle from Canada,” according to its website.

What’s in a name? — The company says the maple leaf is a “symbol of Canada’s warmth and friendliness towards all cultures,” while “majestic” refers to the country’s “status as a Constitutional Monarchy.”

That patriotism carries over into Maple Majestic’s parent company’s lofty goals. AK Motor founder Arkadiusz Kaminski says he wants the company, which he founded in 2012, to become “Canada’s first multi-brand automotive OEM,” and that the “Maple Majestic is intended to be Canada’s flagship brand of automobiles on the world stage.”

Partnerships are key — “We acknowledge that the best chance for the Maple Majestic brand to succeed, lies in continuing to build the relationship with Canada’s parts suppliers and technological innovators, whether they be academic institutions, corporations, or individual inventors,” the company explains. “We are currently seeking partners in automotive engineering, parts manufacturing, automotive assembly, electric propulsion technology, battery technology, autonomous technology, and hybrid power generation technology.”

In other words, don’t expect to be able to buy a Maple Majestic any time soon… and don’t expect to pour over 0-60 mph times, power output, range, or other key stats, because those don’t currently exist. For now, all we have are pictures and a short video clip. But at least those are arresting.

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PE-backed Quorum Software to merge with Canadian energy tech firm

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Houston-based energy technology company Quorum Software will merge with a Canadian tech firm to bolster its presence in oil and gas services.

Quorum announced Feb. 15 it plans to merge with Calgary, Alberta-based Aucerna, a global provider of planning, execution and reserves software for the energy sector. The combined firm will operate under the Quorum Software brand.

Gene Austin, CEO of Quorum Software, will continue in his capacity as chief executive of the combined firm. Austin, former CEO of Austin-based marketing tech firm Bazaarvoice Inc., became CEO of Quorum in December 2018.

Aucerna co-founder and CEO Wayne Sim will be appointed to the Quorum Software board of directors. Both companies are backed by San Francisco- and Chicago-based private equity firm Thoma Bravo.

“Over the last 20 years, Quorum has become the leading innovator of software deployed by North American energy companies,” said Austin. “Today, Quorum is expanding the scope of our technology and expertise to all energy-producing regions of the globe. Customers everywhere will have access to a cloud technology ecosystem that connects decision-ready data from operations to the boardroom.”

In addition to the merger announcement, Quorum Software announced it had entered into an agreement with Finnish IT firm TietoEvry to purchase TietoEvry’s entire oil and gas business. The agreement, which includes hydrocarbon management, personnel and material logistics software and related services, is valued at 155 million euros, or $188 million, according to a statement from TietoEvry.

“Our three organizations complement each other — from the software that our great people design to the energy markets where we operate,” said Sim. “Our new company will be able to deliver value to our stakeholders, while accelerating the growth of our combined business and the energy industry’s software transformation.”

The combined company will serve over 1,800 energy companies in 55 countries, according to the announcement. With its headquarters in Houston, Quorum will continue to have a significant presence in Calgary and in Norway, the headquarters for TietoEvry’s oil and gas software business. Quorum will have other offices throughout North America, Latin America, Europe, Asia and the Middle East.

As of Sept. 30, 2020, private equity firm Thoma Bravo had more than $73 billion in assets under management. In late December 2020, Thoma Bravo agreed to acquire Richardson, Texas-based tech firm RealPage in a roughly $10 billion acquisition.

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Piece of Kitchener technology lands on Mars on Perseverance rover

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KITCHENER — A piece of Kitchener technology has landed on Mars, thanks to NASA’s Perseverance rover.

The rover settled on the planet’s surface on Thursday afternoon. It’s been travelling through space since it was launched from Cape Canaveral, Fla. in July.

“The whole idea of being on a device that we’re sending to another plant with the express mission of looking for traces of past life, it’s pretty mind boggling actually,” said Rafal Pawluczyk, chief technical officer for FiberTech Optica.

The Kitchener-based company made fibre optic cables for the rover’s SuperCam that will examine samples with a camera, laser and spectrometers.

“The cables that we built take the light from that multiplexer and deliver it to each spectrograph,” Pawluczyk said.

The cables connect a device on the rover to the SuperCam, which will be used to examine rock and soil samples, to spectrometers. They’ll relay information from one device to another.

The project started four years ago with a connection to Los Alamos National Lab, where the instruments connected to the cables were developed.

“We could actually demonstrate we can design something that will meet their really hard engineering requirements,” Pawluczyk said.

The Jezero Crater is where the Perseverance rover, with FiberTech Optica’s technology onboard, landed Thursday. Scientists believe it was once flooded with water and is the best bet for finding any evidence of life. FiberTech’s cables will help that in that search.

Ioannis Haranas, an astrophysicist and professor at Wilfrid Laurier University, said the rover isn’t looking for “green men.”

“They’re looking for microbial, single-cell life, any type of fossils and stuff like that,” Haranas said. “That’s why they chose a special landing site. This could be very fertile land for that.”

“It’s very ambitious,” said Ralf Gellert, a physics professor at the University of Guelph.

Gellert helped with previous rover missions and said it’s the first time a Mars rover has landed without a piece of Guelph technology on it. While he’s not part of Perseverance’s mission, he said the possibilities are exciting.

“Every new landing site is a new piece of the puzzle that you can put together with the new results that we have from the other landing sites,” he said.

“It’s scientifically very interesting because, even though we don’t have an instrument on that rover, we can compare what the new rover Perseverance finds at this new landing site,” he said.

Now that Perseverance has landed on Mars, FiberTech is looking ahead to its next possible mission into space.

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