Examining the Online Surveillance Bill

by Jordan Richardson on February 15, 2012

A new era of online surveillance may be on the horizon in Canada with the tabling of Bill C-30.

At its core, the new bill gives police and intelligence agencies the power to access the electronic communications of Canadians and press telecommunications companies for subscriber data without a warrant.

Similar legislation has been tabled by the Conservatives and the Liberals in the past. The most recent provision was actually included in a bill that was supposed to go through but was scrapped when the Tories made their election play. After winning the majority government, the time has apparently come for Stephen Harper’s government to push it through again.

The reasoning behind the bill, to hear Public Safety Minister Vic Toews tell is, is “the protection of children.” And, to make things more contentious, Toews says that those against the bill are siding with “child pornography.”

The bill is essentially a lawful access provision. Lawful access is essentially a way to circumvent the standard process of obtaining warrants when it comes to pushing telecommunications companies for consumer data. Under this bill, that process will be eliminated and telecom companies will not be able to refuse a “lawful access” request for information. On top of that, the telecom companies will be required to install equipment for “real time surveillance.”

“This move clearly does not represent the will of Canadians,” said OpenMedia.ca Executive Director Steve Anderson. “Over 80,000 people to-date have signed a petition at http://www.StopSpying.ca to protest these bills, and a survey from Canada’s Privacy Commissioner show that 83 percent of Canadians oppose warrantless surveillance measures. It’s clear to Canadians that these poorly thought-out bills would create surveillance that is warrantless, invasive, and costly to Canadians and to our digital economy.”

Under the new bill, there are six “identifiers” that police, intelligence officers and Competition Bureau officials can obtain without a warrant from a telecommunications service provider:

  1. Name
  2. Address
  3. Phone number
  4. Email address
  5. IP address
  6. Local service provider identifier

“The technology available today makes various crimes such as distributing child porn easier to commit and harder to investigate,” said Justice Minister Rob Nicholson. “We have to make sure law enforcement have the tools necessary to fight crime in the 21st century.”

“What’s very disturbing in this bill is it’s going to force cellphone providers, the telecom providers, to build in the spy mechanisms so that police and security can track you any time they want,” said NDP digital affairs critic Charlie Angus.

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Written by: Jordan Richardson. www.digitcom.ca. Follow TheTelecomBlog.com by: RSSTwitterFacebook, or YouTube.

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