Canada's new surveillance bill eliminates any pretense of privacy


Michael Geist writes, "Canada's proposed anti-terrorism legislation is currently being debated in the House of Commons, with the government already serving notice that it plans to limit debate. That decision has enormous privacy consequences, since the bill effectively creates a 'total information awareness' approach that represents a radical shift away from our traditional understanding of public sector privacy protection."

Roach and Forcese dig further into this issue, concluding that the information sharing provisions are excessive and unbalanced. There is much to digest, but the privacy concerns largely come down to three linked issues:

* First, the bill permits information sharing across government for an incredibly wide range of purposes, most of which have nothing to do with terrorism (“It is, quite simply, the broadest concept of security that we have ever seen codified into law in Canada.”).

* Second, the scope of sharing is remarkably broad: 17 government institutions with the prospect of cabinet expansion as well as further disclosure “to any person, for any purpose.”

* Third, the oversight over public sector privacy has long been viewed as inadequate. In fact, calls for Privacy Act reform date back over three decades. The notion that the law is equipped to deal with this massive expansion in sharing personal information is simply not credible.

“Total Information Awareness”: The Disastrous Privacy Consequences of Bill C-51 [Michael Geist]

(Image: Stephen Harper pisses on Canada, Doug Rogers, CC-BY)

Notable Replies

  1. Probably getting my stories mixed up about this issue, but at least the Canadians had the cojones to put the language into a bill, rather than allowing the NSA to run amok and then trying to play catch up while not being allowed to access information relevant to the particular case (NSL, security clearances, etc.).

  2. This is messed and Harper needs to be stopped.

  3. Dear Canada, there are many issues where the US should not be considered a role model. This is one of them. Also, Canada, you've been making me sad lately.

  4. Unfortunately, as I've been saying to my fellow Canadians for years, we are not smarter than Americans, we are actually just more cautious (I would say "conservative" but that word doesn't mean that anymore), and this plays out by us being four to eight years behind America on policy. Sometimes that's great: We were only starting on ridiculous mortgage schemes when the global economic collapse happened and we hadn't had time to destroy ourselves with them yet. But we were getting into them.

    Honestly, when we elected Harper after years of making fun of Bush, we looked pretty stupid. Now when there are global environmental summits Canada is the bad guy at the table - but enough Canadians are defensive instead of embarrassed that we can't see the parallels. Sorry for making you sad, but we're a bunch of dummies.

  5. For awhile it seemed that Canada was the bastion for sensibility in the English speaking world. But now, it seems Australia wins by default. The US and England have been out of the running for a long time, and I kind of doubt they ever will be. Maybe it isn't too late for Canada, or at least I hope it isn't.

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