Over the last couple of years the Harper Government has attempted to introduce legislation that would give police more, and freer, access to the information stored by ISPs (Internet Service Providers) on their customers. Now that the Conservatives have a majority mandate, they plan to roll together their previous attempts into one, great big omnibus bill that they have promised to pass within the first hundred days they are in power. Given that a fair bit of that time thus far has been spent out of session, that is not going to leave a lot of time for debate before the hundred days are up.
So why am I making a big deal about this? After all, giving the police the equipment they need to catch the bad guys can't possibly be a bad thing, especially since I have nothing to hide, right?
Maybe. But consider what the bill entails:
In a nutshell, lawful access has to do with how law enforcement can access your communications. That includes activities like wiretapping, and obtaining access to your email or your web surfing history.
Of course, right now, police can get access to any of that stuff, but it requires legal authority (like a warrant) and reasonable grounds to believe you've done something wrong. But proposed new lawful access legislation could change things, making it easier for police to get detailed information about you from your internet service provider, your social networking accounts, or from your cellphone company (in some cases, without a warrant or without reasonable grounds to believe you've done something wrong).
- Dan Misener, CBC
As with most other Canadians, and a fair portion of the world with access to the internet, my life is increasingly integrated with the internet. So much of my public and private information and discussions are held in realms covered by this new legislation, and would thus be available to law enforcement officials with few limits and no real checks and balances (so far). I may not have anything to hide, but do I really want a stranger to have access to things that I wouldn't necessarily share with my friends? Not to mention that so rich a treasure trove of information is sure to be a nice target for the kinds of nefarious people this legislation is meant to target.
In the great tradition of trying to get things done on the internet OpenMedia.ca has created a petition protesting this legislation. I've signed it, and embedded it below. Do a little research and then think about signing it yourself.
Great places to start:
- The Dan Misener article
- Coverage from the CBC, Financial Post, and Globe and Mail
- An open letter to Public Safety Canada from the Privacy Commissioner and the provincial and territorial equivalents
- An open letter to Prime Minister Stephen Harper from a variety of individuals and organizations, including Michael Geist...
- ... who is also rounding up information on the legislation as it comes out