The Ottawa Citizen refused to remove a video surreptitiously filmed and posted by an Uber driver of Ottawa Senators hockey players disparaging one of the team’s coaches.
The Senators, in a letter to the newspaper, argued the video was of no “genuine public interest” and that its publication was a “clear and obvious violation of the rights of the Senators players involved under Ontario law and has damaged the Ottawa Senators.”
Michelle Richardson, editor in chief of the Ottawa Citizen and Ottawa Sun, dismissed those claims and disputed the team’s argument that the video violated Canadian law.
“The public interest in the Senators as an organization extends beyond the team’s performance on the ice,” she said in a statement. “The organization is involved in one of the biggest development projects in Ottawa’s history, a project that hinges on the Senators being here to play in a downtown arena. On-ice performance, ticket sales, attendance, discord in the locker room and public support of the organization are all relevant when it comes to discussing the overall health of the team.”
Seven Senators players were riding in an Uber in Phoenix when they began panning the team’s penalty kill and assistant coach Martin Raymond’s strategies. The Uber was equipped with a dashboard camera that recorded the Oct. 29 conversation, which was later published online.
The players — Chris Wideman, Matt Duchene, Thomas Chabot, Dylan DeMelo, Alex Formenton, Chris Tierney and Colin White — are seen and heard in the video complaining about the team’s penalty kill, which Raymond oversees.
Players around the NHL have sympathized with Ottawa’s coaches and players. Flyers forward Jakub Voracek called the vehicle’s driver “a loser” and said anyone who steps into a taxi or ride-hailing car likely has had similar conversations.
“I guarantee that every single person who has a boss, every sports team in the world can guarantee it happens everywhere,” he said to NBC Sports Philadelphia on Wednesday. “And I can guarantee that the coaches behind the door talk about the players. It happens everywhere all the time."
Uber in a statement said the video was a “clear violation of our Community Guidelines,” and worked to have the recording removed from the Web. It was later republished by the Citizen newspaper and other media outlets.
Canadian privacy and press freedom experts have laid blame with Uber and the driver for privacy violations. Canada’s Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act limits the disclosure of “personal information,” which includes data such as name, age and income and subjective comments such as opinions, evaluations or social status gathered during commercial activities. Ontario has similar provincial legislation.
The Canadian Constitution protects freedom of expression and the press, but allows the government to restrict speech for purposes of national security, ending discrimination, ensuring social harmony and promoting gender equality, according to democracy watchdog group Freedom House.
“But it’s not just the legality. It’s the ethical issue,” Ann Cavoukian, the distinguished expert-in-residence on privacy at Ryerson University’s Privacy by Design Centre of Excellence and a three-term Ontario privacy commissioner, told the Citizen. “Who would guess that someone is recording your conversation in an Uber? If I thought that was the case, I’d never set foot in an Uber.”
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