NDP Calls on Government to Stop Online Spying Bills

- 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.

The letter expresses additional concerns regarding the lack of effective external oversight for the new sweeping powers it puts in place, as well as over the transparency of the entire process -- the lawful access surveillance bills are currently to be pushed through as part of an omnibus criminal bill, with little time for the careful study that many of their more ambiguous and invasive provisions require. It further points to the government's, promise, made by then Public Safety Minister Stockwell Day in 2007, to avoid proposing any powers that would permit state agents to force ISPs to provide personal information of customers.