Public Safety Minister Vic Toews speaks to the media in the Foyer of the House of Commons at Parliament Hill on November 1, 2011. (ANDRE FORGET/QMI Agency)
By Ezra Levant Saturday February 18, 2012
What a pleasure to see Canada’s consensus media so concerned about the erosion of privacy and civil liberties under a proposed new crime law called Bill C-30, introduced by Public Safety Minister Vic Toews.
Government snooping didn’t bother the media pack when it came in the form of the long-form census and its invasive personal questions — to be forcibly answered on pain of fines and even prison.
It didn’t bother the media pack when personal data was collected from farmers and duck hunters for the firearms registry (including information about their romantic lives and medical history).
And the media pack didn’t sympathize when consenting adults tried to sell wheat to each other in the privacy of their own homes. The Wheat Board’s Soviet-style monopoly was more important.
But the fight against child pornography has Canada’s press in high dudgeon.
To be sure, there are problems with the bill. It’s called the Protecting Children from Internet Predators Act. But in fact the law allows police to snoop on anyone, for any reason — not just for suspected child abuse. Literally any cop in Canada — and civilian staff working at police stations — can use the law. Not just the vice squad. Traffic cops, too. Even, bizarrely, the Competition Bureau. They have nothing to do with child pornography. They’re business deal cops.
That’s about 100,000 new snoops.
Under the bill, they can compel any Internet and cell phone company to turn over six different pieces of information about you, without a warrant.
Those cops and pretend cops can get things like your name, e-mail address and IP address (your unique Internet ID, like a phone number), just by making a written request of your Internet company. No need to go before a court to prove that there’s any reason for such invasiveness.
To be clear, these cops will only be able to get basic info about you, not about what you’re saying or doing or watching. So they can learn your e-mail address, but not what you write from it. They can learn your Internet IP address, but not what websites you’re looking at.
For that extra information, they have to go to court and persuade a judge to get a search warrant.
So the grassroots mockery of the bill — thousands of people publishing trivial personal comments on Twitter, accompanied by the phrase “TellVicEverything” — isn’t accurate. The truth would be TellVicYourE-mailAddress. Which isn’t too much more invasive than what a phone book does, or a driver’s licence.
Still, we ought to be able to have private e-mail addresses that government snoops can’t find out for any reason or no reason. And that’s another thing that the consensus media has missed. Today police call up Internet companies all the time, without a warrant, and simply ask for this information. There are no guidelines in play — it’s however tough or persuasive or abusive the cop is, and however stubborn or co-operative or privacy-oriented the Internet company is.
It’s unregulated today — whereas C-30 would limit those requests to six kinds of information, and require a report of them to the privacy commissioner. Those controls don’t exist now.
This isn’t a civil liberties meltdown like the left says it is. But it’s refreshing to see the media and opposition care.
This week there was another Internet vote in Parliament, the repeal of section 13 of the Canadian Human Rights Act. That’s a censorship provision that prosecuted dozens of Canadians for what they write on blogs, using private names, that others deem offensive. Real fines have been meted out. Even jail.
It’s not TellVicEverything. It was SayNothingOffensive. For 35 years the consensus media accepted that law because it was used to prosecute conservatives and Christians, and liberals don’t mind that. Only a single opposition MP, the great Scott Simms from Newfoundland, joined the government in voting for the repeal of that Orwellian law.
I’m a skeptic of C-30 because I believe in freedom. If only freedom — and not partisan potshots — motivated the consensus media too.
Yeah, but you really just can't trust technology. I entered my address into my GPS, and it claims that I live in an amazingly free and democratic country called "Canada." Can't be. I really must update my world maps.... The old term "thin edge of the wedge" occurs to me.... (shudder.)
What I find hilarious is the fact that hackers were able to get into and disseminate Vic's personal divorce info -with no warrant!!! The idea that anything we do on a computer is safe is ridiculous; an intelligent teenager who knows computers (or "Anonymous") can have most of our personal info in an afternoon. The question is how much we LEGALLY want to give to our own government. Let’s not pretend that our info is safe from others (including foreign governments) because it's not. I for one believe times have changed and so should internet and access laws for police. I'm sick of cops busting a guy after he has accumulated millions of images of child porn or lured some teenager somewhere when he could have reasonably been caught earlier if police could have traced his IP address when he posted on a triple X kids site years earlier.
Then again whatever I think doesn't really matter, as a broadcaster I should, and we all should, present an accurate representation of the bill and its repercussions.
"The idea that anything we do on a computer is safe is ridiculous; an intelligent teenager who knows computers (or "Anonymous") can have most of our personal info in an afternoon"
Exactly! More reason to be very afraid of this bill. So your computer is hacked and thousands of child porn pics are downloaded onto your system without your knowledge. The police have a free pass to look at your computer, how are you going to explain this away to the police?
I can't believe some people, especially conservatives, are prepared to give up their rights, privacy and freedom so easily. You really want to live in a police state? Give the government and police all the powers they want to do whatever they want? This is a real good start.
I want these sicko's caught just like 99.9 per cent of the population out there but this bill just goes way too far.
Open Mike has a point. I often get e-mails from friends, and it turns out that my friends didn't send them. So although I know little about all this information technology stuff, it must be possible for creeps to use someone else's e-mail accounts to transmit and receive their filth.
If that happens to you, and Big Bro get's involved in your life (for all the good intentions), it seems to me that you could get immersed in a quagmire that you don't need.... just like having your id stolen. You really don't want these disgusting creeps hiding in your mailbox, or having "the Man" rummaging through your correspondence. I understand that they may still need a warrant to read your mail. But that's really irrelevant if some slug is pretending to be you, and you could be in for a world of grief before it all gets worked out. To simply say "if you're innocent, you have nothing to worry about" is likke saying if someone hacks your credit, you are safe. We all know that ain't so.
I don't have the answer of course, and can only hope that technology will provide us with a better way, but this legislation scares me - it tastes a little like unreasonable search and seizure. Or, perhaps, in a politically conservative climate, I just don't trust law enforcement at its various levels and incarnations as much as I used to. There's gotta be a better way to track these pricks.