Yesterday, February 15, 2012, we reported on a planned Internet Privacy Bill in Canada. The Bill has been ruffling feathers for some time. Back in August 2011 CBC reported experts in privacy and Internet laws were asking the government of Canada to study the changes well. It was generally felt that the changes would severely affect the privacy rights of Canadians.
Yesterday as other reports hit media headlines many Canadians came on-line to express concerns. Whilst no right minded person would approve of child pornography most people seemed unsure of just how much these changes would help fight that crime. Most people wondered if the law would hit more inncent Internet users than child abusers.
The crux of the matter will be just who can access any of your private Internet information and what it will be used for.
In August it was said the Bill would give law enforcement agencies more power to take information from internet service providers and other private companies without a warrant That is in Canada but what about others such as the US and the UK?
Yesterday too we reported that UK website RnBXlusive had been unceremoniously closed down by the UK SOCA, serious organised crime agency. Obviously monitoring is already underway. Just how far it goes is up for debate. The changes in Canada would apply to phone calls too. Currently most western law officers need a warrant to "snoop" this far.
Of course we all usually forget that we are under surveillance constantly online. This happens in lots of ways. Cookies which used to leave a calling card behind have been joined by commercial spying that collects a great deal of your personal data, often without due cause. This is why it is important to read the small print on-line. More often than not we flit around here, there and everywhere, suppling DOB, address, e.mail addresses and so much more. In effect an advertiser's dream.
For Canadians the Investigative Powers for the 21st Century Act (Bill C-51) is something which could impact on their Internet browsing habits. The Canadian government brought in the omnibus crime bill but now they are looking at amendments. An online petition against the planned changes is currently gathering signatures. The Canadian government maintain that Internet "snooping" will only be used to fight crime.
Back in August 2011 the Canadian Justice Minister said, "While technology has advanced rapidly in the past two decades, law enforcement and national security agencies have faced increased difficulty in protecting the safety and security of Canadians. Existing privacy safeguards in the Criminal Code will be maintained or enhanced under this legislation, including requirements for police to obtain prior authorization in the form of a judicial order or warrant. No information could be obtained by police without prior judicial authorization." Now though it seems the amendments will abolish the need for a warrant.
CBC reported today that: "A court challenge, I think will be inevitable, if this law passes as is," said University of Ottawa law professor Michael Geist, who holds a Canada Research Chair in internet and e-commerce law. "I think the more immediate question is whether or not the government is prepared to consider amendments to this legislation." Police officials have denied that they will be able to see the content people have accessed and say they therefore can't "track" people with this data. But Chantal Bernier, assistant privacy commissioner of Canada, said that according to her office's technologists, the six easily obtainable types of subscriber data are enough information to identify a person and track where he or she goes online. Ken Anderson, assistant privacy commissioner of Ontario, said the information can be used to build a profile of what sites someone has been to and what they've been doing on the internet.The "protecting children from internet predators act,"introduced in the House of Commons Tuesday, is similar to previous bills designed to give police and intelligence officials new powers to access digital communications. All the previous bills died when the minority governments that proposed them fell and elections were called.
All in all this appears to be a minefield. It could be something to cause concern to Internet users or a storm in a teacup. We all rightly try to protect what little freedom we have though and so we should never surrender any such freedoms lightly.
The related reading and videos below show that people have many different interpretations of what is happening. Suffice to say if you are an online user they could affect you. If you are not happy with any proposed legislation now is the time to contact your political representative. Waiting until the changes have been implemented is pointless. Then it will be too late.
Sources and related reading:
Sources and related reading re the UK and the US:
Eileen Kersey manages TEK Staff Blog