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Tuesday, November 09, 2010

Tories Table Surveillance Bills or: Welcome to 1984, Please Sign in at the Front Desk


Last week, the Government of Canada reintroduced legislation that will strengthen the state's ability to monitor the online activity of its citizens. Ostensibly billed as a means of combating child predators and terrorists, the bills would turn the Internet—once a bastion of freedom and liberty—into a virtual police state.

The legislation would allow police and intelligence agencies to circumvent the court system by intercepting online communications and obtaining personal information about Internet users without obtaining a warrant. It also forces private Internet service providers to install costly monitoring equipment on their networks to facilitate big brother.

The two bills—known as the Investigative Power for the 21st Century Act and the Investigating and Preventing Criminal Electronic Communications Act—were first introduced in the summer of 2009, but died on the order paper when Parliament was prorogued last Christmas. At the time they were originally introduced, I wrote a series of feature articles for the Western Standard, explaining what the legislation means and how people can protect themselves. The first article takes an in-depth look at the legislation and why freedom loving Canadians should be concerned. The second looks at a number of technologies that allow people to subvert government surveillance.

Although it is possible to take steps to protect your privacy on the Internet, we would all be far better off if this legislation does not become law. The last time it was before Parliament, it did not garner very much media attention. Months after the legislation was introduced, a number of my colleagues who study communications and are concerned with Internet privacy, were completely unaware of the situation. This time around, I have already heard people argue that it doesn't matter, because they have nothing to hide and their personal information is already in the hands of large corporations.

Nothing could be further from the truth. As Thomas Jefferson once said, "The price of freedom is eternal vigilance." While it's true that companies like Google and Facebook collect our personal information, there are fundamental differences between private businesses and the government. First, we have some control over what ends up in the hands of these companies. Second, we know they are using this information for marketing purposes. The government's intentions are always less clear and more nefarious.

And you better believe we have something to worry about when it comes to big brother spying on us. Especially when it enhances the state's ability to track people who think they are speaking anonymously.

This country has seen many attacks on free speech in recent years. Human rights commissions went after Ezra Levant for publishing some cartoons; they persecuted Mark Steyn for publishing an excerpt of his book; they tried to slap an Alberta pastor with a lifetime publication ban for writing an op-ed on gay marriage. Meanwhile, prosecutors in Quebec are charging a horror film maker with violating obscenity laws. Do you really think they won't come after you or I next?

[Cross-posted on jesse.kline.ca]

Posted by Jesse Kline on November 9, 2010 in Web/Tech | Permalink


Another reason why the most productive and least destructive thing Parliament should do is prorouge itself.

Posted by: John Chittick | 2010-11-09 10:43:52 PM

Freedom is lost, never to return, one nibble at a time. Always for our own good, or for the children, for our health or for the planet. The nanny state continues to expand.
Rest assured that blogsites like the WS will be monitored closely if this legislation passes into law. Write or email your MP while you stll have time, tell him/her that you strongly oppose this attack on your freedom. This is no different than strangers opening your personal mail.
Get involved.

Posted by: peterj | 2010-11-09 11:26:14 PM

Who s watching the watchmen...?

Posted by: don b | 2010-11-10 12:03:05 PM

The creeping state into all our lives diminished Liberty for all! MPs should be put on notice: Defend Liberty or perish at the hands of the citizens.

Posted by: AB Patriot | 2010-11-10 10:04:20 PM

I would not permit such a bill. It would be sort of like spying on people in their homes. Much more danger exists in people of various ilk walking the streets and flying in aeroplanes. Why not have police stop persons on the street and ask them for their papers, the papers which provide the person with permission to be walking in the street. These papers would show proof that the person was searched before leaving the zone of his/her residence and that the route was approved for the destination. The bill would be HRCs wrote bigger? Anyway, that's my opinion.

Posted by: Agha Ali Arkhan | 2010-11-10 10:58:50 PM

These bills must never come to life, for they are just another poorly disguised attack on liberty and freedom. Those who are willing to trade freedom for security end up with neither.

Posted by: Alain | 2010-11-11 11:33:29 AM

I was shocked to note that not only was all our email being now kept on a seperate external server, but even our drafts.. if you have windows live email you can readily notice it .. but who cares the government never acts on our letters to them anway, this one included..the police do not like me wrting bad things about them too! No one likes to be asked to repent!

Posted by: thenonconformer | 2010-11-13 5:13:56 PM

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