The threat of 'Big Brother' Internet monitoring in Canada

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The concern over nations becoming "Big Brother" surveillance states is alive and well in Canada.

Canada, that bastion of civility, open-mindedness and personal rights?

Yes, unless you don't follow foreign affairs, our neighbour to the north has been under a conservative -- very conservative -- government for a bit of time now, with Conservative Party leader Stephen Harper serving as prime minister.

The most recent threat to personal privacy coming out of Ottawa is a bill that sounds frighteningly reminiscent of ones we've seen in the U.S.

The "Act to enact the Investigating and Preventing Criminal Electronic Communications Act and to amend the Criminal Code and other acts" would, among other abominable violations of civil liberties:

Require Internet service providers to give subscriber data to police and national security agencies without a warrant, including names, unlisted phone numbers and IP addresses.

Force Internet providers and other makers of technology to provide a "back door" to make communications accessible to police.

Notice that in the first provision, no warrant would be required. In the second provision (and these represent only part of the sweeping legislation), law enforcement would be allowed an unspecified "back door" into private communications and web activity.

The bill is just in its preliminary stages, but already the Harper Tory government is using the seedy tactics of the U.S. Republican Party to try and intimidate opponents who champion the preservation of civil liberties on the Internet. The Tory public safety minister is, according to the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, accusing critics of the bill of "aligning themselves with child pornographers."

A Liberal Party member of the Canadian Parliament, Francis Scarpaleggia, was not backing down:

[Scarpaleggia] alleged during [a parliamentary] question period Monday that the government is "preparing to read Canadians' emails and track their movements through cell phone signals, in both cases without a warrant."

He questioned whether the government could be trusted with such "sweeping powers" and suggested they could be misused to intimidate Canadians gathering to protest issues such as a pipeline or pension cuts.

Should Canada follow the path of becoming an electronic surveillance state, is there any doubt that it will share this data with the U.S. and vice versa?

And what happens when other nations follow the lead of the likes of Canada, the U.S., and -- in the strange bedfellows department -- China?

The emergence of a global, high-tech "Big Brother" monitoring our every move may not be far off -- and that's not a conspiracy theory.

This article was first posted on Truthout.

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