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“Surveillance Trojan Horse” or “Big Brother in Disguise”? How Canadian media reacted to government’s new online spying bill

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Last week saw the announcement of dangerous new online spying legislation - supposedly aimed at tackling the serious issue of cyberbullying. According to legal experts, Bill C-13 consists of just 2.5 pages aimed at cyberbullying – and 65 pages aimed at making it easier for the government to spy on your online activities. Canadians are speaking out in droves at http://OurPrivacy.ca

Judging by their reaction, many Canadian journalists and commentators saw this legislation for exactly what it is. Instead of just repeating government talking points, media outlets from across the country are amplifying the concerns of Canadians and privacy experts when it comes to this latest attempt to enable the government to spy on law-abiding citizens.

Take Paula Simons, for example, who highlighted in the Edmonton Journal how this “sweeping legislation cracks down on everyone from people who still steal cable and Wi-Fi, to computer hackers, to people accused of hate speech.” Paula noted that Bill C-13 includes “so many potentially troubling infringements on fundamental civil liberties deep inside legislation that is ostensibly about protecting the vulnerable from sexual exploitation.”

“Ottawa’s proposed law on ‘cyberbullying’ attacks civil rights” declared the headline of Roger Annis’ article in the Vancouver Observer, outlining how the government’s new online spying bill has “nothing to do with the purported problem” it is said to be trying to address.

This sentiment was further reinforced in a hard-hitting Globe and Mail editorial which criticized the government’s “compulsive habit of introducing omnibus bills, splicing together important pieces of legislation with little or no connection to each other.”

Joining the call for greater scrutiny, Chris Schafer from Protect Our Privacy coalition member the Canadian Constitution Foundation joined Sun News for a segment critical of the government's new proposal for online spying of innocent Canadians.

Blogging for CSOonline.com, Dave Lewis refers to Bill C-13 as a “Trojan horse” that includes provisions for “cyber bullying…power to compel evidence, collecting communication and location data, capability to monitor all forms of communication, tracking of subjects and my favorite, the ability to hide the existence of a warrant from disclosure at all. All the while lowering the bar for the police to conduct surveillance against a target.”

Andre Mayer of CBC News also weighed in, explaining how Bill C-13’s provisions could have serious implications that “include giving police easier access to the metadata that Internet service providers and phone companies keep on every call and email”.

Similarly, privacy law expert Michael Geist expressed grave concern in a recent article for the Huffington Post Canada about how the proposed legislation makes it easier for telecom companies to provide private information about their customers to the government. Professor Geist highlights how “it has become increasingly clear that many telecom companies willingly provided millions of documents on their subscribers. With this immunity in hand, Canadian telcos could ‘voluntarily’ provide surveillance data without any fear of liability.”

Long time members of OpenMedia’s community know that this is not the first time Canadians have seen their government try to ram through an online spying bill under the guise of an important issue. As Lee Berthiaume of Postmedia News states, “elements of the new legislation were originally contained in bill C-30, the Internet snooping bill that was scrapped last year amid public outrage over privacy concerns and then-public safety minister Vic Toews’ contention that anyone opposing the bill was on the side of child pornographers.”

The long shadow cast by the Bill C-30 debate was also recalled by the National Post’s Matt Gurney who described his reaction to the proposed new legislation:

I could almost hear [Former Minister of Public Safety] Toews growling, ‘You can stand with us, or with the cyberbullies. And the mobsters. And the terrorists. And the hate propagandists. And the people who get their cable for free when they really ought to be paying for it.

Thankfully, it looks like Canada’s media is seeing straight through the government’s shameful and disrespectful attempt to portray its legislation as being about cyber-bullying. At OpenMedia, we know that this negative media reaction is because Canadians took a strong stand against Bill C-30, and continue to make their voices heard against attempts to curtail our right to privacy. Thank you for speaking out, Canada!

Members of Canada’s largest ever pro-privacy coalition are working hard to safeguard our privacy against government intrusion. Join us today at http://OurPrivacy.ca


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