The Conservatives’ new online security bill is stirring fierce criticism but the government says it is open to revisions of the bill, and that is why it is being sent to committee early.
The Protecting Children from Internet Predators Act was introduced Tuesday and, if passed as it is now, would compel Internet Service Providers (ISPs) to store data about their users’ Internet activity for 90 days and give some information to police without a warrant, including names, addresses, phone numbers, and IP addresses.
That information can be shared now without a warrant, but only if the ISP is willing.
ISPs would need a warrant to provide police detailed information stored about subscribers’ internet activity, such as emails and web surfing activity.
The opposition and many others have noted the privacy concerns implicit in the bill, and the long-term implications of requiring ISPs to store detailed subscriber activity—or provide any information at all to police without a warrant.
The bill is being sent directly to committee, which House Leader Peter Van Loan says signals the government is open to a wide range of amendments.
“Our objective here is to provide the necessary tools for police to be able to do what they used to do with old technology with new technology while at the same time ensuring that individuals’ privacy rights are protected,” he says.
Prime Minister Stephen Harper indicated earlier during question period on Wednesday that there would be a detailed look at the bill.
“We’ve been very clear; we’re working with provinces and police to attack problems of online pornography, child pornography. But of course we will ensure that Parliament fully studies this bill and that private life is also protected in this regard,” said the PM.
Public Security Minister Vic Toews said the bill is necessary because Canada’s laws don’t adequately protect children from online exploitation.
“Everyone understands that. I think there is widespread agreement by Canadians that there is a problem. We want to fix our laws while striking the right balance when it comes to privacy,” he said.
“We will send this legislation directly to committee for a full and wide-ranging examination of the best way to do what is right for our children.”
Speaking in French, NDP leader, Nycole Turmel lambasted the bill as a contradiction of the government’s reasoning for destroying the gun registry.
“On the one hand, they say they will destroy the gun registry because it violates privacy. On the other hand, they give themselves the right to search everyone’s computers. This is nonsense. This is illogical. It’s hypocritical.”
On his blog, Michael Geist, Canada Research Chair in Internet and E-commerce Law at the University of Ottawa, Faculty of Law, notes problems with the bill.
“Mandatory disclosure isn’t the only issue with the bill—the oversight of surveillance capabilities remains underdeveloped, the costs associated with surveillance equipment is a giant question mark, and the fears of surveillance misuse based on the experience in other jurisdictions continues to cause concern,” writes Geist.
“None of these issues will be easy to solve, but the starting point must surely be a moratorium on the inflammatory us vs. them rhetoric from the government which fosters alienation rather than cooperation.”
Geist may have been referring to Toews’ comment during question period on Monday when he told Liberal MP Francis Scarpaleggia that he could “either stand with us or with the child pornographers.”