Tories Consider Changes to Online Surveillance Bill

by Jordan Richardson on February 20, 2012

Ah, what a difference a few days can make in the topsy-turvy world of Canadian politics. Since the Harper government tabled Bill C-30, a new online surveillance bill, and announced that we were either for the bill or “with the child pornographers,” the public outrage reached a boiling point and Public Safety Minister Vic Toews found himself targeted by some online ruffians.

Even some Tories characterized the bill as “too intrusive,” so it was perhaps only a matter of time before Toews and Co. backed down somewhat from the bill. With New Democrats accusing the government of “hiding behind children” to jam the bill through, the Conservatives are now suggesting that they will consider amendments to it.

Witnessing the public outrage had to have come as a bit of a surprise to the government, although this type of thing is becoming more common thanks to mobilization of Internet users. The outcry over usage-based billing likely directly impacted the reshaping of that policy and it stands to reason that similar outcry could mould the proposed legislation so that it “strikes the right balance.”

Bill C-30, recently renamed the Protecting Children from Internet Predators Act, was the most tweeted topic in Canada on Thursday. The hashtag #TellVicEverything had Twitter users tweeting the Public Safety Minister an endless series of mundane personal details with a healthy dose of vitriol mixed in for good measure.

A more nefarious Twitter incident involving an account named Vikileaks30 involved the public outing of Toews’ personal information, including sordid details of his divorce. The account featured dozens of quotations from various divorce proceedings, although the content wasn’t verified. The account is now closed, but the IP address was apparently linked to within the House of Commons.

And now word is coming out that Toews is “surprised” by some of the content of Bill C-30, namely the provision that any police officer can request information from a telecommunications service provider in “exceptional circumstances.” Toews said that he would “certainly like to see an explanation of that.”

The next step is for the bill to be sent to committee before a second reading. Upon said second reading, the bill will be opened for amendments. MPs can make “broader changes” to the legislation and, according to Toews, the opposition will be able to bring any number of amendments to the bill. “I think there will be a very healthy debate,” he said.

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