We already know that Vic Toews hasn’t. I’d said all I have to say on the subject, or so I thought, and then I came across this blatant fiction — there is no other way to describe it — from National Post columnist Chris Selley:
One of the bright points in the legislation is that it would require disclosure to customers when “Internet providers and telecom companies provide subscriber data without a warrant.”
Um, no. It wouldn’t. I’m going to provide a point-by-point summary of the Harper regime’s Big Brother bill. For those of you who haven’t read it already, this is essential reading, believe me. If you have already, I suppose it’s of less use to you, but it might still help focus your thoughts. If you don’t trust me, you can read it yourself.
Short Title: Protecting Children from Internet Predators Act — To paraphrase Yes, Prime Minister, one should always dispose of the difficult bits in the title: they do less damage there than in the law itself. In this case, the opposite is true. The title refers to child protection, but none of the provisions in this law actually restrict the government to snooping on our computers only when kids are at risk. This would be an easy fix, and the fact that it’s not there tells you all you need to know about their real intentions.
Obligation to Intercept (sections 6-15) — The bill requires that all service providers install surveillance equipment capable of monitoring all of their subscribers in advance of actually receiving a request from the government. In short, the bill requires that wiretaps be pre-installed on every computer and cell phone in the country. Then, when Vic Toews, CSIS, or the RCMP want to start snooping, all they have to do is flip the switch.
This would include everything from our emails, to our Internet activity, to the text messages and location tracking data from our cell phones. Anything that counts as “telecommunications” would be free game for Big Brother.
Information on Request (sections 16-22) — Service providers are required to share “the name, address, telephone number and electronic mail address… and the Internet protocol address and local service provider identifier” of any subscriber with the RCMP or CSIS upon request. This can work in either direction: supply IP addresses and emails associated with a name, or the email address, name, and home address associated with an IP address. Your IP address is the number your computer identifies itself with on the Internet every time you check your email or load a Web page.
Up to five percent of RCMP and CSIS agents can be designated as official snoopers. However, “any police officer” is entitled to snoop, provided that he reports it to one of the official designates within 24 hours.
Gag Rule (section 23) — This section makes it illegal for a company to tell you that they’ve been ordered to spy on you by the government. In short, if the secret service asks your service provider for your personal information, your cell phone tracking data, or a list of all the websites you visit, it’s illegal for your service provider to turn around and tell you they’re doing this.
Oddly enough, this disclosure is precisely what the National Post‘s Selley says is a “bright spot” about the bill. But the bill doesn’t require the government to share this information. Quite the opposite: it outlaws sharing it. Bell Aliant can’t tell me, in other words, that they’re reporting my every online move to CSIS.
Wiretaps Activated by Court Order (section 24) — Once a warrant is secured, the government can flip the switch on the pre-installed spy gear and begin monitoring everything a person does on the Internet, their email, and/or their cell phone.
Check With Spy Service Before Upgrading (section 26) — Once government-issued snooping equipment is installed, your service provider is required to get approval from the government before upgrading your service network, to make sure that the upgrades will not affect the government’s snooping capabilities.
Telecommunications “Inspectors” can access all records (sections 33-38) — The Act creates a new type of bureaucrat called a telecommunications inspector. The Inspector has the right to enter any Internet or cell phone provider’s facilities, access any computer, collect any information, and leave the premises with it. The Inspector can be accompanied by a CSIS agent or by “any other person that they believe is necessary.”
Guilty Until Proven Innocent (sections 39-41) — If a person breaks this law by obstructing an Inspector, refusing to help the government spy on people, or leaking the fact that they’re being spied on, the government can charge that person in court with the crime. However, they also have the option of administering an “administrative monetary penalty” of up to $50,000.
If an administrative penalty is assessed, the person is presumed guilty. They have 30 days to apply to Minister Vic Toews and prove their innocence. If the clock runs out, or if Toews or his designate decide “on a balance of probabilities” that they’re probably guilty anyways, the penalty remains in place.
There are lots of consequential amendments, but that’s about the size of it. One of the recent complaints of the corporate media is that Vic Toews has been mistreated by having his dirty laundry aired in public. (Dirty laundry, in this case, refers to publicly filed court documents.) But if it’s unacceptable for a Cabinet minister to have his private divorce discussed in public, why is it acceptable for the government to spy on the private lives of millions of Canadians?Tweet