The Supreme Court of Canada ruled last week that requesting someone's Internet data constitutes a search, and therefore requires a warrant. This Ctrl+Alt+Del'd a bill moving through parliament that would have let everyone from crack-smoking mayors to crack-smoking fisheries officers track citizens' Internet use without a warrant.
The law already said that if police want to break down our door and interrupt our game of Magic the Gathering with an enchanted pepper spray spell, they should at least have to fill out a form first. But the government argued Internet data is different, and they wanted to access it without any of those annoying "limits whatsoever."
They sought this access while claiming they were only interested in "phone book-type" information (for anyone under 20, a phone book is like Facebook but instead of allowing you to create profiles, upload photos, and send messages, it's very big).
Our proposed approach of linking an Internet address to subscriber information is on par with a phone book linking phone numbers to a residential address -- Vic Toews, former Minister of Public Safety
That statement is on par with bullshit. An IP address is a unique identifier that tracks where your computer is on the Internet. It's not like a home address, it's effectively the address of your thoughts.
Think I'm exaggerating? Here's my Google searches over a single one hour period.
- Am I "normcore"?
- Is "borecore" a thing yet?
- Purchase comically large hats online
- Where does Pharrell live?
- Where exactly does Pharrell live?
- Maximum jail term for stalking
- "scott vrooman"
- "scott vrooman" "funny"
- Drops of Jupiter lyrics
Thankfully the Supreme Court judges understood the implications of Internet technology even though the youngest judge is 53 and most of their research was done by horse-drawn encyclopedia.
It was recently revealed by the Privacy Commissioner that Canadian telecoms have been getting more than a MILLION requests a year from law enforcement for data including IP addresses, passwords, and content of emails. The cozy relationship between telecoms and police isn't surprising since the police are the only Canadians who don't hate them.
Guess who owns the network that broadcasts The Big Bang Theory you HYPOCRITES?!
And it makes it clear why law enforcement agencies weren't happy with the decision.
"This additional court order will impose an increased investigative workload on the police who are already overwhelmed." -- Paul Gillespie, Toronto Police child exploitation unit
Okay, you're busy. Fair enough. Two options here. One, shred our constitutional right to privacy. Two, hire more people for your child exploitation unit! Canadians won't fight you on this, the pro-child-exploitation lobby is very weak. Their last telethon was pathetic. It was held in some old pervert’s basement and there were no cameras.
We can always make the police's job easier. We can reduce crime to nothing by walking around naked, holding clear bags of our own urine above our heads. But safety isn't the only thing our society values. And besides, perfect safety is impossible. Even if we made everything out of Nerf, you know some drunk idiot would fall off a Nerf balcony and break his neck.
Some people don't even think privacy is a big deal. They say "If you're not doing anything wrong, you have nothing to fear." But "wrong" and "illegal" are not the same things. If they were, when someone guesses incorrectly on Jeopardy Alex Trebek would say "Ohhh, I'm sorry, that answer is illegal." Then read them their rights in the form of a question.
Similarly, whether someone is a "bad guy" completely depends on your perspective. If you're a cop and I'm a thief, I'm a bad guy. If you're a racist cop and I'm black, I'm a bad guy. If you're allergic to gluten and I'm white flour, I'm a bad guy. Unless you're also racist in which case I have at least one redeeming feature.
Our private lives are where we create, explore, and get sexy -- the things that make life worth living. If we open them up to mass surveillance, we'll inevitably become less creative, less sexy and more boring. So basically more like our government. So thank you Supreme Court for not making "borecore"a mandatory, permanent fad.
This post originally appeared on Medium.
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