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.