C. S. Lewis wrote some pretty good sci-fi, some excellent kids books (which Disney managed to ruin), and my favourite satire on the commercialization of Christmas. Most people, though, would know him as a writer on Christianity. So I wonder if Stephen Harper and Vic Toews have ever read him. One of the things he wrote was, “It would be better to live under robber barons than under omnipotent moral busybodies.”
Bill C-30 (sometimes known as the Investigating and Preventing Criminal Electronic Communications Act, sometimes known as the Protecting Children from Internet Predators Act, and sometimes just known as “the online spy bill”) is heading for Committee of the Whole. This means that some aspects of it may change. But it’ll have to change an awful lot before it becomes even remotely acceptable.
It’s got interesting provisions. Apparently, as it stands, it doesn’t allow law enforcement to actually demand access to information without a warrant. But it allows the to request a “voluntary” disclosure of information. Up until, law enforcement could request voluntary disclosure, of course. But then the ISP would refuse pretty much automatically, since to provide that information would breach PIPEDA. So now that automatic protection seems to be lost.
(Speaking of PIPEDA, there is this guy who is being tracked by who-knows-who. The tracking is being done by an American company, so they can’t be forced by Canadian authorities to say who planted the bug. But the data is being passed by a Canadian company, Kore Wireless. And, one would think, they are in breach of PIPEDA, since they are passing personal information to a jurisdiction [the United States] which basically has no legal privacy protection at all.)
It doesn’t have to be law enforcement, either. The Minister would have the right to authorize anyone his (or her) little heart desires to request the information.
Then there is good old Section 14, which allows the government to make ISPs install any kind of surveillance equipment the government wants, impose confidentiality on anything (like telling people they are being surveilled), or impose any other operational requirements they want.
Now, our Minister of Public Safety (doesn’t that name just make you feel all warm and 1984ish?), Vic Toews, has been promoting the heck out of the bill, even though he actually doesn’t know what it says or what’s in it. He does know that if you oppose C-30 you are on the side of child pornographers. This has led a large number of Canadians to cry out #DontToewsMeBro and to suggest that it might be best to #TellVicEverything. Rick Mercer, Canada’s answer to Jon Stewart and famous for his “rants,” has weighed in on the matter.
As far as Toews and friends are concerned, the information that they are after, your IP address and connections, are just like a phone book. Right. Well, a few years back Google made their “phone book” available. Given the huge volume of information, even though it was anonymized, researchers were able to aggregate information, and determine locations, names, interests, political views, you name it. Hey, Google themselves admit that they can tell how you’re feeling.
But, hey, maybe I’m biased. Ask a lawyer. Michael Geist knows about these things, and he’s concerned. (Check out his notes on the new copyright bill, too.
The thing is, it’s not going to do what the government says it’s going to do. This will not automatically stop child pornography, or terrorism, or online fraudsters. Hard working, diligent law enforcement officers are going to do that. There are a lot of those diligent law enforcement officers out there, and they are doing a sometimes amazing job. And I’d like to help. But providing this sort of unfiltered data dump for them isn’t going to help. It’s going to hurt. The really diligent ones are going to be crowded out by lazy yahoos who will want to waltz into ISP offices and demand data. And then won’t be able to understand it.
How do I know this? It’s simple. Anyone who knows about the technology can tell you that this kind of access is 1) an invasion of privacy, and 2) not going to help. But this government is going after it anyway. In spite of the fact that the Minister responsible doesn’t know what is in the bill. (Or so he says.) Why is that? Is it because they are wilfully evil? (Oh, the temptation.) Well, no. These situations tend to be governed by Hanlon’s Rzor which, somewhat modified, states that you should never attribute to malicious intent, that which can adequately explained by assuming pure, blind, pig-ignorant stupidity.