Continuing a regular spot on Victoria’s CFAX 1070AM, this week’s topics were the proposed Protecting Children from Internet Predators Act (Bill C-30), and the potential of Social Media in the 2012 Presidential election.
In the House of Commons last week, Minister of Public Safety Vic Toews introduced sweeping legislation primarily providing law enforcement mandated access to basic account information from Internet Service Providers. The theme (as all crime bills especially seem to require themes and titles these days) was protecting children from online predators, but in fact is an over-arching policy which goes much further: requiring ISPs to install software to retrieve information account holder information, preserving data, and granting the Minister powers to appoint ‘inspectors’ for warrantless searches:
As noted by the CBC’s Terry Milewski:
The inspector, says the bill, may “examine any document, information or thing found in the place and open or cause to be opened any container or other thing.” He or she may also “use, or cause to be used, any computer system in the place to search and examine any information contained in or available to the system.”
You read that right. The inspector gets to see “any” information that’s in or “available to the system.” Yours, mine, and everyone else’s emails, phone calls, web surfing, shopping, you name it. But, if that sounds breath-taking enough, don’t quit now because the section is still not done.
The inspector — remember, this is anyone the minister chooses — is also empowered to copy anything that strikes his or her fancy. The inspector may “reproduce, or cause to be reproduced, any information in the form of a printout, or other intelligible output, and remove the printout, or other output, for examination or copying.”
Oh, and he can even use the ISP’s own computers and connections to copy it or to email it to himself. He can “use, or cause to be used, any copying equipment or means of telecommunication at the place.”
In short, there’s nothing the inspector cannot see or copy. “Any” information is up for grabs. And you thought the new airport body scanners were intrusive?
Finally, note that such all-encompassing searches require no warrant, and don’t even have to be in the context of a criminal investigation. Ostensibly, the purpose is to ensure that the ISP is complying with the requirements of the act — but nothing in the section restricts the inspector to examining or seizing only information bearing upon that issue. It’s still “any” information whatsoever.
The backlash was fast, and creative. An anonymous Twitter account, @Vikileaks30 began posting details of Minister Toew’s divorce, with the IP of the account traced to a House of Commons address by the Ottawa Citizen. That lead to a call for the Speaker of the House to investigate, which as noted in the podcast, might be problematic: there are as few as four IP addresses serving thousands of MPs, staff and civil servants in multiple buildings on the Hill.
A more creative response was the Twitter hashtag #TellVicEverything which trended around Canada, even reaching the number 2 spot worldwide. Thousands of Canadians posted mundane, often hilarious, missives on what they were doing...you can view highlights here. We have yet to see if the cross party and public advocacy against Bill C-30 will lead to alterations, or even a re-think. Remember, in the US, the SOPA and PIPA bills were essentially dumped after a massive online reaction. More insight via Maclean’s, have a read of Andrew Coyne’s comment in The National Post.
The 2012 Presidential race is heating up, and while the Republicans are still fighting out who will win the nomination – the GOP race is THE BEST reality show on TV – the Democrats are busy building on the online success of 2008. Going beyond using social media primarily for fund raising, an experienced team is using Facebook as the platform to target voters. See the Guardian UK on the Chicago Democrat Headquarters and how Facebook was used to beat an incumbent mayor in Rapid City, South Dakota.
Podcast: On CFAX1070AM with host, Adam Stirling