Online surveillance law could erode Canadian freedoms, says Canada’s Privacy Commissioner

Privacy Commissioner of Canada Jennifer Stoddart has sent an open letter to Canadian Minister of Public Safety Vic Toews to outline her deep concerns about “lawful access” legislation that is expected soon from the Harper government.

“Lawful access” refers to the legal authority of police and security officials to monitor, intercept, seize, and search our Internet and telecommunications messages.

If the government introduces the same type of lawful access legislation that failed to make it through the House during the last Parliamentary session, it will vastly increase police surveillance of Canadians’ Internet and telecom
communications.

The Commissioner’s letter

News coverage and Canada.com and CBC

Stop Online Spying
Since 2001, privacy watchdog groups, including FIPA, have squared off against
similar legislation introduced unsuccessfully by both Liberal and Conservative
governments.

The current campaign against lawful access is called the Stop Online Spying campaign.

“Stop Online Spying” Coalition Calls on Harper to strip online spying powers from omnibus crime bill

JOINT LETTER QUESTIONS WHY GOVERNMENT IS AVOIDING DEBATE ON INTERNET SURVEILLANCE LEGISLATION

A new “Stop Online Spying” coalition of Canadian public interest organizations and academics released a joint letter to Prime Minister Stephen Harper today, voicing grave concerns about pending omnibus legislation that would allow for warrantless online spying on Canadians (“Lawful Access” legislation).

The letter calls on the government to, at minimum, give the proposed legislation an appropriate hearing instead of rushing it through Parliament.

“This legislation has never been to committee and MPs haven’t heard a single witness on what the government is proposing,” said Vincent Gogolek, FIPA’s Executive Director. “Given the serious concerns expressed by the Privacy Commissioners, burying these proposals in a catch-all omnibus crime bill is reckless and irresponsible.”

“The government’s own supporters are opposed to online spying without oversight,” added Gogolek. He pointed out that former Conservative Public Safety Minister Stockwell Day — and presumably the Conservative government — were formerly opposed to online spying without warrants http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/story/2007/09/14/tech-privacy-warrant.html:”Click Here”.

“Why did the government drop its principled position on this? That’s another reason we need a full debate on these measures.”

News release
Letter to Prime Minister Harper
Stop Online Spying campaign website
Read commentary here or here

Coalition against government surveillance of the internet (“lawful access”) growing by leaps and bounds

More than 30.000 people and organizations have signed an online petition against the federal government’s plan to sneak in internet spy legislation as part of its omnibus crime bill.

FIPA is a member of the STOP ONLINE SPYING campaign and encourages all its members and supporters to sign the petition which is available at http://www.stopspying.ca/

FIPA has been involved in the fight against lawful access bills introduced by Liberal and Conservative governments for more than 10 years. Read our current position and a history of our activities.

Related links

Petition against internet ‘lawful access’ bills

Tories reintroduce ISP intercept bill

Electronic snooping bill a ‘data grab’: privacy advocates

Bill C-50
Bill C-51
Bill C-52

Federal ‘tough-on-crime’ legislation takes aim at civil liberties

SOME PROPOSALS HINDER PRIVACY RIGHTS

By Ian Mulgrew
Vancouver Sun
June 7, 2011

The Conservative government’s omnibus “tough-on-crime” legislation should be redubbed “tough-on-civil-liberties” if it embraces all the last Parliament’s law-and-order leftovers.

Aside from concerns over the radical change to the country’s approach to crime-and-punishment, some of the proposals run roughshod over privacy rights and individual liberties.

For instance, the “lawful access” bill has measures — such as the authorization for warrantless searches by police of Internet use — that trample on constitutional protections and go too far.

Under the rubric “Investigative Powers of the 21st Century,” the proposal would require service providers to disclose customer information without prior judicial approval and provide law-enforcement access for “real-time surveillance.”

Similarly, the criminalization of hyperlinks to “hate” sites and using a pen name on the Internet also raise concerns.

The country’s privacy commissioners and ombudspersons were so taken aback when these provisions were unveiled they joined forces to oppose them.

“The feds are really trying to sneak this one past us, because they really don’t want to have the debate,” said Vincent Gogolek, executive director of the non-profit B.C. Freedom of Information and Privacy Association.

LINK to full Vancouver Sun article Click Here or Click Here