900ftJesus has some important questions for the Privacy Commissioner re: the new Harpercon plan to randomly audit EI clients for *gasp* fraud, via taxpayer-subsidized bureaucratic fishing expeditions (House calls? REALLY?):
What information are federal employees told to gather through house visits?
How is this information gathered? (silent observation, questions, questioning and/or observing people other than the client at the home?
What information is included on any reports given to HRDC?
What is the format of this information?
To what use is this information put? How is the information applied?
What privacy rating is assigned to this information?
Who has access to this information?
Where, how, and for how long is this information stored?
What training have employees who gather the information, and employees who have access to it received in privacy issues and security issues?
What information is given to the clients prior to a visit and during a visit concerning information that will be gathered?
What privacy considerations are specifically given to non-EI claimants sharing the home being visited?
Make no mistake: the Harper government is trying to do to EI recipients what its ideological predecessors, the Harris Reformatories, did to welfare recipients in Ontario in the 90s: demonize based on demonstrative appeals to self-aggrandizing Ford Nation assumptions about freeloaders (who, btw, were not, in fact, committing fraud willy-nilly back in the day, unless one contorts meaning into Gordian knots). Of course, EI != welfare. As 900ftJesus notes, “EI recipients are clients [emph. mine]. They have paid their insurance premiums and are clients, making insurance claims.”
Which is of course the overall point of the egregious Harpercon house call exercise: to dramatically shift Canadian perceptions on how we frame and view EI, until the lines between client and recipient (ie, leech) have been sufficiently blurred.
Tuesday’s revelation that Sean Bruyea, a vocal critic of Veterans Affairs had his private medical records deliberately compromised by bureacrats in a brazen attempt to discredit his legitimate, extensive complaints about systemic deficiencies within the department has struck a nerve among Canadians across the nation. Rick Mercer’s tweet from yesterday morning succinctly sums up the outrage:
“Bat-shit crazy”? Canadians should be spitting mad — and appropriately chastened by the sobering realization that what happened to Bruyea could happen to any one of us. Add the steamrolling of civil liberties that occurred during the G20 summit in Toronto, and you have a Canadian government that, for all intents and purposes, is acting as if the citizenry represent a hostile entity, simply for the crime of expressing dissent.
In short, once again it seems all too apparent our elected representatives no longer believe that they should answer to the people.
In this specific instance, the naked disregard for personal privacy is unconscionable. The Privacy Commissioner should immediately investigate, and heads must roll, no matter how high up the food chain. But, in broader context, we see yet another example of the contemptuous culture of impunity among the political class that currently reigns supreme in Ottawa, perfectly encapsulated by the arbitrary way the PMO keeps the civil service under heel, and the disrespectful manner in which our Members of Parliament conduct themselves during Question Period.
Hard to defend the virtues of Canadian parliamentary democracy when our leaders act as if they are completely entitled to run roughshod over the people they deign to serve.
Well, isn’t this lovely:
The Conservative government is preparing sweeping new eavesdropping legislation that will force Internet service providers to let police tap exchanges on their systems – but will likely reignite fear that Big Brother will be monitoring the private conversations of Canadians.
The goal of the move, which would require police to obtain court approval, is to close what has been described as digital “safe havens” for criminals, pedophiles and terrorists because current eavesdropping laws were written in a time before text messages, Facebook and voice-over-Internet phone lines.
The change is certain to please the RCMP and other police forces, who have sought it for some time. But it is expected to face resistance from industry players concerned about the cost and civil libertarians who warn the powers will effectively place Canadians under constant surveillance.
Constant surveillance–how so?
The concern of critics is that unlike a traditional wiretap that cannot commence without judicial approval, lawful-access legislation in other countries has forced Internet providers to routinely gather and store the electronic traffic of their clients. Those stored data can then be obtained by police via search warrant.
“That means we’re under surveillance, in some sense, all the time,” said Richard Rosenberg, president of the B.C. Freedom of Information and Privacy Association. “I think that changes the whole nature of how we view innocence in a democratic society.”
Um, yeah, just a li’l bit.
Oh, and, via Michael Geist, it seems our loyal opposition is also doing its part to represent the best interests of the nation by, um, once again proposing its own lawful access legislation–a bill even more odious than the government’s':
…Liberal MP Marlene Jennings has reintroduced her lawful access private member’s bill, called the Modernization of Investigative Techniques Act. The Jennings bill is a virtual copy of a failed Liberal lawful access bill that died in 2005.
[T]he Jennings bill would require ISPs to disclose customer name and address information to law enforcement without court oversight.
The Magical ConservaLiberal Unity Pony drops yet another stinking, steaming load on our heads; I love the smell of bipartisan turdblossoms in the morning.
From what I can tell, the only substantive difference between Van Loan’s proposed piece of legislation and the one then-Public Safety Minister Stockboy Day tried to surreptitiously impose in 2007 without any public input (before backpeddling quicker than you can say ‘Ogopogo’) is the apparent requirement of judicial approval (which, as noted, may not provide much in the way of protection for a citizen’s private online information–and Jennings’ PMB offers, um, none). Otherwise, the state will, in essence, be forcing ISPs to fulfill the darkest fantasies of the tinfoil-adorned black helicopter set.
And, as Impolitical (h/t) notes:
The dangers of such powers being placed with law enforcement and the potential for abuses have been made abundantly clear by the experience Americans have had with the Bush administration and the revelations from whistleblowers in the last year.
Am in full agreement with Geist here:
…Van Loan should commit to active consultations with the privacy community before introducing the legislation; renew the government’s pledge for full court oversight (including for customer name and address information); and there must be full hearings on the bill that place the burden on law enforcement to demonstrate that there is a problem with the law as it currently stands.
Bottom line: this is not a path any purportedly ‘free’ society should hastily embark upon.
It really is the circle of life in Washington. And, yes, Obama totally deserves the WOTD moniker for rolling over right along with the rest of ‘em. “[A] colossal failure of leadership” is putting it mildly; with this so-called “compromise”, Obama and the Democratic Party have collectively given the legislative finger to the rule of law, securing themselves a dubious legacy:
…in 2006, when the Congress was controlled by Bill Frist and Denny Hastert, the [Bush] administration tried to get a bill passed legalizing warrantless eavesdropping and telecom amnesty, but was unable. They had to wait until the Congress was controlled by Steny Hoyer, Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid to accomplish that.