Wednesday, November 03, 2010

The Canadian government wants to spy on us

Warning: Tech rant coming. But then I'm on TV. So it's not all bad.

Perhaps I'm overstating things in the headline, but not by much. It turns out the U.S. isn't the only place on the planet with a ridiculously oddball political landscape. Despite our reputation as mild-mannered hosers, Canadians can make political headlines, too.

To wit, our minority Conservative government, headed by none other than Prime Minister Stephen Harper, is introducing two bills that would greatly expand the ability of law enforcement agencies to investigate citizens' online activities (background story here.) For the record, the bills are known as the Investigative Power for the 21st Century Act and the Investigating and Preventing Criminal Electronic Communications Act. Ooh, big words, I know. But what do they mean?

Simple: If these bills are passed, Internet service providers (ISPs) would be compelled to track and store information on our online activities. Send an e-mail, do a Google search, Skype your ex...your ISP will know, and they'll be forced, by law, the store it all in a database.

Part 2 is even more fun: Law enforcement agencies would be able to tap into this personal data without a warrant.

Now, don't get me wrong. Cops have been screaming for years that they need better tools to go after cybercriminals. They need more powerful, accelerated means of going after child pornographers, identity thieves and other freaks of the modern age. I get that, and I'll do everything in my power to support their quest to keep us safe.

But these bills, as currently structured, turn ISPs into proxies and open up massive privacy holes. I'm not so naive as to believe that ISPs don't already have this capability. Do anything online and you leave a footprint that is easily trackable by the dumbest of the dumb. But if this becomes law, ISPs will now be compelled to keep much richer datasets on our activities. And cops won't need a warrant to pore through the results. Due diligence much? Not anymore.

More ominously, do you really think your ISP - with outsourced tech support in Bangladesh - will keep a lid on your personal data? Do you think no-warrant access to every last bit about your online life is a good idea? My take: it'll open up a Pandora's Box, and it's a road we don't necessarily want to go down.

Want to improve law enforcement's ability to catch bad guys? Don't give them new, Draconian legislation. Instead, give them money and resources so they can hire and train the best of the best and give them the best technology humankind can buy. There's nothing in the current laws of the land that keeps them from kicking some cybercriminal butt.

Bills much like these two are nothing new. This is the fourth kick at the can in recent years, and they've died on the docket every time before. If Canadians are lucky, they'll die this time, too.

I did a live interview with CTV News Channel's Dan Matheson this afternoon, and the video can be found here.

Your turn: What thinketh you?

9 comments:

Kalei's Best Friend said...

From what I've been told, its already happening to us in the states...I know u've heard the term 'Big Brother'... nothing surprises me.

Lorraine said...

BIG BROTHER... -invasion i expect worse will come..

Marion said...

I hope this one will die on the docket as well. Super video, Carmi...you're getting better and better each time I see you on video!

fredamans said...

I deem this as an invasion of privacy, and doesn't that come up some where in our constitution?

bruce said...

scary stuff...i love the use of draconian...so underplayed, yet so thought invoking...

the idea of giving the govt the best tools is the better option, but opening Pandora's Box, is the first, and a giant one at that, step in the total collapse of privacy...

while i agree on the protection aspect, i disagree on the premise of opening up one more hole in the cyberweb...

power in the wrong hands is very scary and disturbing.

i do not trust the powers that be to use this for the common good, call me paranoid, but i suspect that it will just make more of us criminals for non-criminal activity...I am positive the database will encompass words that taken out of context will be flagged...

great post as usual...

Buff said...

Pardon me for a little levity, but isn't it ironic for you as a journalist to complain about access to information....

Seriously, I think don't think privacy is the point, I think it is justice, or perhaps ethics. I don't think a pedophile has a right to privacy while pursuing victims. On the other hand, I don't think law enforcement officers have a right to all of our information without reasonable cause to investigate.

I guess I don't know where I stand, it doesn't seem as straightforward to me as it does to you.

Thanks for poking this thought provoking issue.

kcinnova said...

I think I'm with Buff on this one.

Shirley said...

Well, that is disturbing. If our internet use is tracked and recorded what is to stop identity theft from becoming more prevalent? Where are the safeguards? I'm all for catching the "bad guy" but not for exposing myself, nor anyone else for that matter, so we become victims of clever criminals. If the police can get the information without warrants, what do you want to bet the criminals can do the same? I hope this dies on the dockets once again. Here's to training the best of the best and equipping them with the necessary means to safeguard and protect the innocent!

Breeze said...

It's about due process. We're all entitled to it..even the bad guys...and this is a blatant interference with it. First you scare the folks with words like "pedophile" and then you offer a solution that interferes with the due process that even a pedophile is entitled to. Yes, our instinct is to jail them and throw away the key immediately, catch them at all costs however, nothing must interfere with the basic right of all of us as Canadians to due process, not even our fear.

Great interview. Important information.

As an aside..Carmi..thank you so much for your words below over on my blog at www.breezedaze.blogspot.com. Are you sure you're not a poet yourself?

Carolyn

"Such beauty in both visuals and words. I admire your ability to paint a scene with poetry. I'd probably just stand there with my camera and leave it at that. But you've crafted something entirely different. And cherished. I'll think of this the next time the rain clouds and the sun do their dance on high"