Canada's sweeping new, evidence-free electronic spying bill

Michael Geist sez, "The Canadian government will introduce new Internet surveillance legislation that will mandate a massive new surveillance infrastructure at all Canadian ISPs and remove the need for court oversight of the disclosure of customer information. I've posted a detailed FAQ on the history of the bill, the likely contents, the lack of government evidence supporting the need for the invasive legislation, and what Canadians can do about it."

The first prong mandates the disclosure of Internet provider customer information without court oversight. Under current privacy laws, providers may voluntarily disclose customer information but are not required to do so. The new system would require the disclosure of customer name, address, phone number, email address, Internet protocol address, and a series of device identification numbers.

While some of that information may seem relatively harmless, the ability to link it with other data will often open the door to a detailed profile about an identifiable person. Given its potential sensitivity, the decision to require disclosure without any oversight should raise concerns within the Canadian privacy community.

The second prong requires Internet providers to dramatically re-work their networks to allow for real-time surveillance. The bill sets out detailed capability requirements that will eventually apply to all Canadian Internet providers. These include the power to intercept communications, to isolate the communications to a particular individual, and to engage in multiple simultaneous interceptions.

Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Lawful Access, But Were (Understandably) Afraid To Ask


      1. Doug, that statement belies a level of incomprehension about how the Canadian system works. With a simple majority first past the post system of representation that is precisely what we are: beholden to parties.

        1. OP seems to say that there is nothing more he can do to protest as his voice is already with his MP.

          This restates the CPC story of mandate as an argument to give up speaking.

          And as you no doubt well know, they do not have a majority of the popular vote, they do have a plurality of seats in the house – easily confused with a majority. Sadly. 

          The voting system we have has been skewed, yes, to party affiliation. It used to work differently, and does work differently in other commonwealth nations. Specifically, there is nothing wrong with the checks and balances in a pure or purer House of Commons system. Presently our Canadian system can only be fixed by some sort of PR.

        2. In the past, Harper has proven that he is more of a populist than his most ardent and vocal critics have made him out to be. Although the early indicators under majority CPC rule are that he and the party are less likely to listen to opposition, I’m more inclined to believe that Harper et al. will still compromise to overwhelming demonstrations of public will.

  1. One pretty obvious problem I can see is that such a law would make some of the major service providers “plaintiff, judge, jury and executioner”.

    Take Bell, for instance.  There’s the Internet division.  There’s the Bell TV division.  And then there’s the Bell Media division.  There’s way too much potential for conflicts of interest, and major abuse of such a law.

    And with the major ISPs involved in content-creation, only the smaller ISPs are going to fight against such a law.

    At this point, I think we should start pushing for forcing all those big media conglomerates to spin off their ISP divisions from the TV distribution and content-creation parts of these businesses.

    They control too much.  The most obvious example is data caps on broadband Internet, which only make sense when you consider that they want to prevent Internet-based competition to their cable TV / satellite TV services.  That’s unfair competition.  Bell should know better, as it was once forced to share its phone line infrastructure with the competition to prevent it from being a monopoly.

    The only alternative I can see would be to nationalize Internet service, taking over the network infrastructure from the ISPs, and offering a better deal to the entire population, while increasing broadband penetration to the less-populated areas.

    Québec did it with electric power more than half a century ago, due to the abuses of the individual electric companies, who had no interest in the bigger projects that Hydro-Québec eventually built.

    But I doubt Harper would take the chance of angering his corporate friends in this way.

    1. There are major and important differences between the electric grid and the internet.

      Just as an example: I would love a fibre optic line into my place, but I also know that it is not a future-proof technology. Toronto Hydro has infrastructure IN USE that is at least 80 years old.

      Hydro Quebec and Ontario, let us not forget, were able to come into existence due in no small part to the specious “right” to the natural resources the state made claim to as a result of colonization.

      If the state were to enter into the internet infrastructure game, it wouldn’t have the same competitive advantages that Hydro had when it claimed the water-powers of the province as a gift from nature for the people. And that is to say nothing of the technical reasons why electrical grids (or more specifically: transmission/distribution) are more properly “natural monopolies” than the internet is.

    1. I saw that comment on the CBC last night and immediately fired off an angry (but polite) e-mail to my Conservative MP. I told him it’s exactly that contemptuous, demonizing attitude toward citizens who might disagree with some policy proposal that makes some of us concerned about what the government might do with it’s new powers.

      1. I hope you used a proxy, otherwise you’ve probably been added to a list of suspected sex offenders …

        Ha ha!

  2. Honest question here — how are these provisions different from current laws regarding tracking telephone usage and tapping phone calls?  Is it just the question of volume (i.e. On average, I use my phone about once a month, and my internet connection about once a minute)?

    1. As far as I know, no telephone company was ever asked to keep a recording of every conversation between two people using their system in case the police would like a copy of it later.

      That’s basically what they’re asking ISPs and cell providers to do now. They want your timestamped text messages, they want to track all the locations your cell has been, they want a list of websites you visited, and oh, they can’t let on the police are watching you (and they don’t even need a warrant). It’s a giant fishing expedition in which you no longer need to be suspected of a crime before being investigated for one. Plus ISP rates will undoubtedly skyrocket to implement the spying technology required to accommodate the permanent loss of your freedom to Big Brother–oops, I mean the Harper Government(TM).

      1. It’s hardly more than people are already willing to trade for free services like facebook, google (everything), etc.

        It’s sad that Harper is trying to use fear to get people to consent to this stuff, because it would probably be much easier for them to team up with the aforementioned giants in the field.

        That they are going about things this way is disconcerning.

      2. But the courts issue warrants for wire taps, yes?  And that _would_ record all of your incoming and outgoing conversations on the telephone.

        And telephone companies _do_ track all of your calls (by duration and target number) which, again, is what is being proposed here for your internet usage.  

        Again, the bill’s provisions boil down to: “always tracked; accessible by warrant”.  How is this conceptually different from the existing policies regarding the telephone?  

  3. Good Luck getting past a Constitutional Challenge.  Email or mail, SMS text or Phone Call, all are governed by the Telecommunications Act yet why is it Mail or Phones require a warrant to tap but Internet will not?  THAT alone is grounds for a challenge!

  4. Didn’t the ministry (er… canadian gov. … er Harper Gov, sorry sire!) already release their hounds to ‘correct’ misleading information posted about them on the internets? If they get this wonderful new bill passed, would they stop paying the cyber-culture-cops? Doubtful. :(

  5. so now they can stop any expose of government criminality in the one venue left that they couldn’t control.

    1. Winner, winner, chicken dinner!  All these laws are about protecting the current system in power.  Nothing more.  And, by “the current system”, I am NOT referring to a single political party, but to them all.

  6. Ultimately, this is a technological problem. While it’s worth fighting these laws in the short term, the long term goal should be to make it impossible for ISPs to comply with these orders.

  7. Just imagine if this was applied to telephone or postal services. After all, criminals use telephones and write letters, too.

    The cops should have actual evidence of a crime BEFORE they go snooping. There is simply too much room for abuse of power.

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