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C-13 – a two-faced law from a two-faced government

Posted by on May 20, 2014.

One of the nastiest little tricks of nasty little governments is to hide new laws that they don’t want us to know about in popular laws that we all welcome. All governments do it — and the latest example is being done to us in Canada.

Parliament of Canada

The Bill is C-13. It is called the Protecting Canadians from Online Crime Act — but has been sold to the people as the anti-cyberbullying law. Everybody agrees with the need for laws against cyberbullying and the practice of ‘revenge porn’ that frequently lies behind it. That’s the public face of C-13.

The government says,

This enactment amends the Criminal Code to provide, most notably, for

(a) a new offence of non-consensual distribution of intimate images as well as complementary amendments to authorize the removal of such images from the Internet and the recovery of expenses incurred to obtain the removal of such images, the forfeiture of property used in the commission of the offence, a recognizance order to be… read more
Bill C-13

But you know there are problems when the mother of a victim of cyberbullying stands up and says, this is wrong. Carol Todd (whose daughter, Amanda, took her own life) wants the public face of C-13; but is worried about what lies beneath — the hidden face of C-13. That hidden face is all about providing the authorities with personal information on demand without a judicial warrant.

Todd wants emotional issues like cyberbullying to be kept separate from contentious issues like information sharing.

The government swiftly rejected Todd’s proposal, in keeping with its pattern of linking the two issues, likely because the Conservatives know that the only way to get the public to swallow unacceptable intrusions into our privacy is by linking them to child protection.
Feds slyly expand power to invade privacy

That’s what C-13 is really about — making it easier for government officials to obtain users’ personal data from the telcos. But it does it more subtly than the earlier controversial and contentious C-30. At that time, the proposal was that the telcos would have to hand over data on demand. This one doesn’t do that — it simply provides immunity to the telcos when they do so.

Professor Michael Geist

Professor Michael Geist

Two years ago, Michael Geist revealed that the telecoms companies were collaborating with the government over c-30:

In the months leading up to the introduction Bill C-30, Canada’s telecom companies worked actively with government officials to identify key issues and to develop a secret industry-government collaborative forum on lawful access.

The working group includes virtually all the major telecom and cable companies, whose representatives have signed nondisclosure agreements and been granted secret-level security clearance.
How Canada’s telecoms quietly backed Internet surveillance bill

That collaboration has probably never stopped. Governments want telcos’ user data; and telcos cannot thrive without government approval. Ergo, telcos will work with governments to provide whatever is required. C-30 would have given the telcos legal support for surrendering customer data.

But even though they didn’t get C-30, it hasn’t stopped the telcos handing over the data. On 30 April 2014, the Canadian Privacy Commissioner published details on telcos information disclosure to government authorities. Twelve telcos were asked to respond. Nine did. The figures show that there were almost 1.2 million government requests (on average) per year. The number of accounts that were subject to disclosure by the telcos amounted to 784,756 (but with the added note, “This total only includes three providers as five providers were unable to provide this information”). We can confidently assume that there are more than 1 million government requests for personal information every year, and that in the majority of cases, the telcos provide that information without a judicial requirement and while refusing to tell either the privacy commissioner, or the users, who was involved nor what information was required for what purpose.

C-13 will allow the telcos to hand over data willingly without fear of privacy action from the user. This would include giving almost any customer data to almost any government official without the awkward need for a judicial warrant.

Blacklock’s Reporter, an Ottawa-based website that covers the federal government, reported that, according to lawyers and police, this would allow any clerk at the CRA to hand confidential information to any police officer on a fishing expedition with no paper trail.

Currently, tax information can only be released by a judge. If the Tories pass this clause unamended, it will no longer be judges making that call, but CRA officials, which is scary.
Feds slyly expand power to invade privacy

C-13 is scary. And so indeed is any government, and that includes almost all of them, who tries to smuggle invidious legislation in an insidious manner.

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