Electronic Surveillance - News

  • – 2012-02-16 –

    After receiving immense public pressure to make amendments to new online surveillance legislation that the government re-introduced on Tuesday, Prime Minister Harper announced today that these proposals could change as the bill makes its way through Parliamentary debate. The legislation will be referred to legislative committee prior to second reading, leaving room for significant changes in principal as opposed to minor changes of a technical nature.

    The proposed legislation at issue is Bill C-30, An Act to enact the Investigating and Preventing Criminal Electronic Communications Act and to amend the Criminal Code and other Acts -- it is otherwise known as the "lawful access" legislation. If this name sounds familiar, it's likely because the government unsuccessfully tried to introduce similar legislation in 2009 and again in 2010. Heavily criticized by the federal and provincial privacy commissioners -- as well as by civil society and the public -- these past efforts never made their way to a legislative committee. Nevertheless, the new bill remains largely unchanged from these earlier attempts.

    Reprisals against this bill have been pouring out from across all party lines. However, we strongly encourage everyone to keep up the pressure. The government has not yet commited to any specific amendments or improvements.  We encourage you to talk to your M.P. and sign the StopSpying.ca petition now.

  • – 2012-02-08 –

    CIPPIC co-hosted a Public Forum on Internet Surveillance in Ottawa today, with the objective of discussing issues arising from the government's lawful access legislative agenda. The Public Forum, which was held at St. Paul University, kicked off with a book launch for "The Internet Tree: The State of Telecom Policy in Canada, 3.0". This book launch was followed by screenings of two mini-documentaries: "(Un)Lawful Access: Canadian Experts on the State of Cyber-Surveillance" & "Moving Toward a Surveillance Society", each exploring different elements of the online spying debate. Finally, the event closed with two panels:

    • Lawful Access: Legal & Technical Questions. Moderator: Roch Tassé. Panelists: Stephen McCammon, Office of the Information & Privacy Commissioner of Ontario; John Lawford, Public Interest Advocacy Centre; Kirsten Embree, Fraser, Milner, Casgrain; Christopher Parsons, PhD Candidate, University of Victoria;
    • Lawful Access: Policy Roundtable. Moderator: Dr. Michael Geist. Panelists: Charlie Angus, MP (NDP); Elizabeth May, MP (Green Party); Charmain Borg, MP (NDP)
  • – 2011-08-09 –

    CIPPIC speaheaded a group of privacy experts comprised of academics and public interest organizations today in calling on the government to rethink a set of legislative proposals (innocuously dubbed 'lawful access') that threaten to seriously undermine online privacy. In doing so, the group of privacy experts have added their voices to the 46,000+ Canadians who have already signed an online petition, Charlie Angus and Jasbir Sandhu (NDP Privacy Spokesman and Public Safety Ciritic, respectively), the BC Civil Liberties Association, as well as to Canada's federal and provincial privacy Commissioners, collectively, all of whom have already stated grave concerns with respect to the proposed erosion of online privacy.

    Presented as merely an application of existing powers to the evolved technological landscape, in the words of Canada's Privacy Commissioners, "it would be misleading to suggest that these bills will simply maintain capacity." In fact, as previously introduced, the legislation represents a serious increase of power that the privacy experts have referred to as 'chilling' and, in addition there is the "everpresent threat of abuse." This type of expansion in surveillance power should only be undertaken with great care and where demonstrably necessary. Again, in the words of Canada's Privacy Commissioners, "at no time have Canadian authorities provided the public with any evidence or reasoning to suggest that CSIS or any other Canadian law enforcement agencies have been frustrated in the performance of their duties as a result of shortcomings attributable to current law, TSPs or the manner in which they operate."

  • – 2011-07-25 –

    This Wednesday, July 27th, the Forum to Stop Online Spying will be held at Simon Fraser University in Vancouver. The forum will examine issues arising from proposed cyber surveillance legislation that threatens to undermine online privacy in serious ways. The forum will be hosted by the SFU School of Communication, with support from OpenMedia.ca, the BC Freedom of Information and Privacy Association, and the BC Civil Liberties Association.

  • – 2011-06-30 –

    CIPPIC and PIAC, as members of the Civil Society Information Society Advisory Council (CSISAC) to the Organization of Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), have joined 80 international civil society groups in rejecting a set of OECD Internet policy-making Principles set out in a Communiqué on Principles for Internet-Policy Making. While recognizing the efforts of multiple OECD stakeholders to accommodate civil societ concerns regarding the Principles set out in the Communiqué, CIPPIC was ultimately unable to support it in that many of the most important amongst these principles were completely undermined by their implementation within the Communiqué.

  • – 2011-06-23 –

    Charlie Angus and Jasbit Sandhu, the NDP Ethics, Privacy and Digital Issues Spokesman and Public Safety Critic, respectively, in a letter to Minister of Public Safety Vic Toews, are calling for careful scrutiny of a legislative proposal that threatens to create a "digital panopticon" where online citizen actions can be tracked at rates unprecedented in Canada.

    The letter highlights a number of concerns, foremost of which are the warrantless disclosure provisions in the proposed legislation, which will force telecommunications service providers to identify anonymous customers upon request. Anonymity is key to any meaningful privacy protection online, and such identities will be the doorway to a host of personal information ranging from online political speech on blogs to exposing the social connections of anonymous accounts on services such as Twitter, to geolocation data. Yet under these lawful access bills, state agents will be given the power to seize such information, even where there is no reason to suspect it will be useful to an investigation.

  • – 2011-06-23 –

    OpenMedia.ca has launched a petition to stop the Government's online spying mandate. The petition, which is directed 'lawful access' legislation the federal government has committed to pass as part of an omnibus bill within 100 days of Parliament's sitting, expresses concern with the broad, warrantless powers that the government seeks to put in place without any real oversight. These powers are troubling in that they will allow state agents to identify anonymous online users in situations where there is not even any reason to suspect the information will be useful to an investigation. Indicative of this concern, the Privacy Commissioners of Canada had collectively denounced the lawful access bills, as drafted, in a historic joint letter to the government in May.

    The bills will also require telecommunications service providers to build in spyware back doors into their services so that police can more readily intercept the communications of users. Such back doors open security vulnerabilities that can be exploited by criminals, for example, and the OpenMedia.ca petition points out the detrimental impact this will have for the personal information of Canadians. Finally, the petition is concerned that Canadians will be forced to bear the weight of this costly surveillance program through tax dollars

  • – 2010-11-19 –

    In an open letter to the House of Commons Standing Committee on Access to Information, Privacy and Ethics, CIPPIC and a number of civil society organizations voice serious concerns with respect to Bill C-29, currently before the House and scheduled for second reading early next week. The Bill, ironically dubbed the 'Safeguarding Canadians' Personal Information Act', proposes a number of amendments to Canada's federal privacy protection statute, PIPEDA. Far from improving privacy, the Bill threatens to erode civil liberties in serious ways. Even where it attempts to improve privacy, it falls short by failing to provide any incentive for compliance.

    The most troubling elements of the Bill pave the way to a dramatic expansion in the ways in which private businesses can be used in investigations against their own customers. While privacy should never be a bar to legitimate investigations of actual wrongs, the law provides mechanisms such as warrants, production orders, mandatory disclosure laws, and discovery processes that ensure investigations can occur with proper safeguards in place. This Bill essentially bypasses all of these safeguards by adding and expanding exceptions that permit organizations to simply give away their customer's information and includes elements evocative of the US PATRIOT Act and all the civil liberties violations that accompanied it.

  • – 2010-07-14 –

    As part of its intention to help Canada regain its leadership position in the global digital economy, the government recently concluded a public consultation process which sought submissions from all sectors of the public on who to achieve this objective.

    CIPPIC provided two input streams into the Government's consultaiton process. First, we helped develop and endorsed a consensus subimssion convened by Andrew Clement and Karen Louise Smith of the University of Toronto's Faculty of Information. In addition, CIPPIC's 2010 summer interns put together a comprehensive submission that set out 36 recommendations. In this submission, CIPPIC calls on the government to encourage the creation of a digital environment that will be better for all Canadians and will serve as a model for other jurisdictions. CIPPIC offers recommendations on issues such as privacy, online file-sharing, and on quality and access to communications that will help the government achieve this objective.

    For more info see: https://cippic.ca/Digital_Economy_Consultation_Canada

  • – 2009-06-17 –

    The government is indicating that lawful access legislation will be introduced in the House of Commons this week.

    Update:  The government has introduced two bills:

    Government backgrounders: