Reporters Without Borders

Canada's online surveillance bill threatens Web users' rights

Canada’s online surveillance bill threatens Web users’ rights

Published on Tuesday 21 February 2012.
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Reporters Without Borders expresses its deep concern about Bill C-30, also known as the Protecting Children from Internet Predators Act, introduced in the House of Commons on 14 February by Canada’s minister for public safety, Vic Toews.

“The fight against online child pornography is a legitimate aim, but it should not be waged at the expense of protecting rights and freedoms on the Internet,” the press freedom organization said.

“By rubber stamping excessive monitoring of all Web users and allowing the authorities to obtain information about users without a warrant, Bill C-30 goes much too far. The fight against cyber crime should not be carried out at the expense of respect for people’s private lives and the presumption of innocence.”

The bill beefs up the existing legal framework for accessing users’ personal information and gives the police greater rights to fight cyber crime.

Internet and cell phone service providers could be forced to provide tools to monitor and record subscribers’ communications.

Armed with a warrant, authorities could obtain records of the online activities of user for the preceding 90 days.

Even without a warrant, any police officer would have the right to require telecoms companies to provide information about their subscribers, such as names, addresses, telephone numbers, postal addresses, IP addresses and telecoms companies’ names. The police would also be able to install equipment to identify the IP address of any device connected to the Internet.

At the moment, ISPs can refuse to hand over the personal details of clients to the police. If they agree to cooperate, 10 days’ notice is required.

The privacy commissioner, Jennifer Stoddart, has expressed concern and has announced that her office would undertake a thorough review of Bill C-30.

Faced with protests from the opposition and privacy protection campaigners such as Unlawful Access, and criticism emerging from within the ruling Conservative Party itself, Toews said on 18 February that he was prepared to make changes to the bill.

Bill C-30 goes to its committee stage before being submitted to its first vote in the Commons, which could offer an opportunity for any changes.

Reporters Without Borders calls on the Canadian government to review the bill with a view to curbing the powers of the police to access users’ information. The authorities must not make service providers responsible for monitoring their users. In addition, the limits of the bill’s scope must be clearly defined to prevent improper use.

So far the government has not given a satisfactory guarantee that the authorities seeking legal access to user information will be properly supervised.

The Internet advocacy group Open Media has highlighted its “Stop Online Spying” campaign against Internet surveillance with an online petition against Bill C-30.

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