Backlash against online spying bill has Conservative government running scared

The federal Conservatives’ online spying bill is back in Parliament
and bad as ever … but opposition to the bill has been ferocious,
and the feds may have to reconsider some of the most controversial
sections.

Bill C-30, the Protecting Children from Internet Predators Act is
the latest version of a long string of lawful access bills and it has
the government desperately backpedaling from enraged back-
benchers, privacy commissioners, civil libertarians, internet freedom
advocates and many other Canadians.

Check out the Stop Online Spying Campaign.

The Prime Minister has agreed to send the bill directly to committee
where the government will be prepared to entertain “focused”
amendments. It remains to be seen if any proposed amendments
will meet the government’s definition of “focused”, and whether
those amendments will change the essentially repressive nature of
this legislation.

Under the current version of the bill, police, CSIS and other
authorities will be able to get access to various identifiers without
a warrant, which will allow online tracking of Canadians.

Telecommunications providers will have to create back doors into
their systems for law enforcement, which will make it easier to
hackers to break into those systems. The cost of doing this will
be borne by consumers and/or taxpayers.

The government claims they just want to ‘keep up with the bad
guys’ — that the new technologies mean police are being left
behind by the criminals. The Privacy Commissioners have directly
contradicted this, stating that what the government is proposing
is a vast increase in surveillance, not maintaining the status quo.

Click here for the letter from Canada’s privacy commissioners.

Media reports using documents obtained through Access to
Information show that the RCMP expect a major use for these
powers will be “non-criminal”.

Emails from the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police released
earlier this year show they were casting about for any examples
where an investigation had been hampered or prevented by the
lack of the powers contained in these online spying bills. To date,
none have been put forward.

Ironically, the day before introducing this bill seriously infringing on
privacy rights of Canadians, Conservative MPs were making
repeated statements about how the federal gun registry violated
the rights of gun owners. Some of those MPs have now said they
have similar concerns with bill C-30.

Minister Vic Toews’ statements in the House yesterday that Canadians “can either stand with us or with the child pornographers” shows his contempt for the more than 80,000 people who signed a petition against the bill. He also seems to accuse every one of Canada’s Privacy Commissioners of being a supporter of child pornography. A big apology is in order, and has yet to come from the Minister of Public Safety.

For news coverage, click here.