On Valentine's Day 2012, Conservative Public Safety minister Vic Toews along with Justice Minister Rob Nicholson introduced Bill C-30, originally named the Lawful Access Act. An hour later, the bill's name was changed to Protecting Children from Internet Predators Act. This happened in the wake of SOAPA in the United States, a bill that also proposed letting police have more access and power online.
What was it
Bill C-30 would grant new powers to authorities to monitor the online activity of Canadians in real time like never before. This would require service providers to grant access to personal records of costumers, and allow police to access personal information and digital activity without receiving a warrant. This means that for no reason at all, police could force telecommunications companies to divulge information of anonymous users and use real time wire-tapping without any kind of mechanism for parliamentary or company based oversight. You could be heavily investigated online or through your mobile and never even know it.
It wouldn't just be the RCMP who would have access either. CSIS and anyone appointed by Vic Toews would also be allowed to spy on citizens without cause. They would also be allowed to make copies of the information from their snooping. Telecommunications companies would not be able to alert customers that they are being investigated.
Naturally, the bill has drew criticisms. Even though other than the title, the bill doesn't mention internet predators or protecting children, the guise of saving children was used to defend the legislation. Every other political party than the Harper Conservatives denounced the bill as an infringement on the privacy of Canadians.
This isn't the first time such a bill has been brought before the House. In fact, since the late 1990s, "lawful access" legislation has been proposed to allow police unrestricted access to monitor Canadians. It was first suggested by the Liberal government in 1999. It did not succeed, though the concept of internet surveillance has been consistent throughout bills submitted in 2005, 2009 and 2010.
The closest call before this piece of legislation were bills C-50, C-51 and C-52 that were abandoned through the dissolution of Parliament in the 2011 federal election. Many legal groups, including the British Columbia Civil Liberties Association have spoken out against C-30, calling it unconstitutional, as it would be unlawful search and seizure of digital information.
Protests took to the web to fight back. A twitter account named vikileaks30 started in response, publishing details of Vic Toew's divorce. Though criticized with doing exactly what the bill could do to Canadians, the account has garnered a lot of attention to the problematic bill. Another twitter protest #tellvictoewseverything involves folks tweeting mundane occurrences in their lives @victoews en masse. The reasoning is that the bill would give the authorities access to this private information, so you might as well tell the minister anyways.
The hacker group Anonymous also spoke out against the bill, threatening to embarrass Canadian politicians if the bill continues through Parliament as is. They refered to their operation as White North.
Though Toews backed down from his original ‘with us or against us' mentality, the Conservatives attempted to sneak straight from first reading to second reading without going to committee.
Thanks to public outcry and protest, the bill was axed on February 11, 2013. For more on internet privacy and what you can do, check out Open Media.
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