Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Happy Toewsday

Today is Toewsday. Have you sent your letter to the Honourable Mr. Toews protesting Bill C-30?

While I fight the urge to make mockery of the Ministry of Public Safety, and am refraining from alluding to the fact their offices may in fact be next to the Ministry of Silly Walks, today is a great day to let the Right Hon. know that we're not going to take it. And he can twist that, sister!

I have :)

Honourable Vic Toews
House of Commons
Ottawa, Ontario
K1A 0A6

cc: Opposition Party Leaders

Dear Mr. Toews,

I am writing to you to express my concern that Bill C-30 does not strike an appropriate balance between respecting my privacy rights as a Canadian and providing law enforcement agencies with the tools they need to fulfill their mandates.

I am not necessarily opposed to legislation that modernizes police powers online - but it must also protect the public, respect fundamental privacy principles established in Canadian law and be subject to proper oversight. In my judgement Bill C-30 would result in unacceptable invasions of privacy and an irrevocable erosion of the freedoms we enjoy as Canadian citizens.

I am heartened to hear the Government is open to amendments to Bill C-30. However, given there have been many successful investigations of child exploitation and child endangerment under existing legislation, it is not clear why Bill C-30 is required [1]. As such my first preference is for Bill C-30 to be withdrawn. Failing that I would like to propose the following suggestions and improvements to Bill C-30.

Short name
The short name for Bill C-30 should be changed to more accurately reflect its impact.

One of the drivers behind the bill seems to be the issue of law enforcement having access to warrants in a timely manner. I suggest this is an issue of procedure, rather than an issue of law. Perhaps a fast-track approach for subscriber information warrants could be created. Warrants of this type could have a lower "for cause" threshold and be issued more quickly while retaining judicial oversight, a degree of probably cause, and mandatory reporting requirements.

Risk of privacy breach
Requiring Internet Service Providers (ISPs) to constantly collect data on subscribers (location, name, address, email, telephone and "IP" address) regardless of whether or not an investigation is taking place puts the privacy of every Canadian Internet user at risk. 

Given that mobile phones are in constant movement and IP addresses are changed throughout the day as subscribers connect and disconnect from the Internet, ISPs will be required to store vast amounts of information, all day, every day.

The mere existence of this data spread out amongst all ISPs, each with varying degrees of protections (errors will be made at this scale of collection), places the privacy of every Canadian at risk. I submit that the risk to Canadian privacy is too high. I agree with Ontario Information and Privacy Commissioner Ann Cavoukian when she stated: "This is going to be like the Fort Knox of information that the hackers and the real bad guys will want to go after. This is going to be a gold mine." [2]

Cost of interception infrastructure
This bill will impose high costs on smaller ISPs and threaten Canadian broadband competition, which is already minimal. Larger firms like Rogers, Bell and Telus will be able to implement the regulations and pass costs onto the consumer. The incremental costs to smaller providers will be much higher and lower their competitiveness, possibly to the point of ending their viability.

The requirement that telecommunications companies reconfigure their networks to guarantee real-time monitoring should be removed.

In light of the positive track record Privacy Commissioners have with the Canadian people, oversight of implementation of this bill be rested with the Federal Privacy Commissioner, with input from Provincial Privacy Commissioners.

Overly broad powers of inspection
Section 34 of the act empowers anyone deemed an Inspector by the Minister to copy subscriber data from an ISP at any time, outside of any warrant or emergency situation, and not even for the purpose of a criminal investigation. This is an overly broad power.

I am not an expert in every issue that I have raised with you today. In fact, this letter is the product of a collaboration among many Canadians, each of whom are concerned enough about the impacts of Bill C-30 to engage with you and offer constructive input.

It is my hope, our hope, that you will complete a full consultation with your fellow Members of Parliament, civil society stakeholders and regular Canadians so that in the end Bill C-30 will enable judges to continue to protect our privacy rights while providing law enforcement agencies with the tools they must have to fulfil their mandate.


 [1]  Cops charge 60 in Ontario child-porn bust

[2] Online surveillance bill 'a gold mine' for hackers: Ontario privacy commissioner

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