C-30

It seems like every time I turn my head, I’m hearing some sort of news about how the government is trying to pass some new law which pisses me off. Mostly, it’s just the government doing its thing (I had ridiculously low expectations of the Harper government when they got their majority), but a few of them are just so crazy that I have to wonder where this stuff comes from. I know the conservatives bend the knee to a lot of big corporate interests (and, to be fair, so did other governments before them) but doesn’t any of this stuff get put to the giggle test any more?

The latest from the Canadian Conservatives is bill C-30. Originally called An Act to enact the Investigating and Preventing Criminal Electronic Communications Act and to amend the Criminal Code and others Acts, it would appear that due to an effort to deflect public outcry (and probably a complete inability on the part of officials to remember such an unwieldy name), it was renamed the Protecting Children from Internet Predators Act.

Sigh. Just like other bills regarding piracy were brought about to “save jobs”, now the government needs to have access to all your data because “won’t somebody think of the children!” This makes it easy for them, critics of the bill defending personal privacy and freedom can simply be shouted down from a position of perceived unassailability, because it’s hard to argue with a bill whose stated goal is protecting children.

Except that it’s not hard, because it isn’t just the police, or the government, and it isn’t just about kids. The bill proposes to force ISPs to install monitoring equipment, and to allow the government to appoint inspectors who will have access to all data gathered by that monitoring equipment. So instead of the police, they could appoint anybody they want and then that person would have access to all gathered data without a warrant.

I have a lot of problems with this approach.
Warrants exist for a reason. They exist to prevent authorities from doing things they aren’t supposed to, and at least provide a paper trail of what was allowed and what wasn’t. Giving up they right to people who aren’t legal authorities is the stupidest thing I’ve ever heard of. Also, if the whole point is to stop child pornography, why does anybody besides the police need this access at all? Who’s doing the investigating if not the local police or RCMP?

This is a lot of power to give someone. I do network management, I know what this network surveillance equipment is capable of. It can keep statistical logs but it can also track and store the contents of every single packet in a data conversation. Some can even dynamically keep track of voice conversations and can play them back later. In network administration, this is useful for when people complain about VOIP call quality. You can play back the conversation and hear the same jitter the customer did, then you can find the problem. Giving investigators the authority to listen in on Skype calls goes well beyond the concept of protecting children. If police need a warrant to tap my phone line, why does the government think it’s a good idea to give non-police the authority to listen in on IP calls, or any data conversation for that matter?

It’s caused a lot of noise on the Internet, because people like their privacy. People like being able to keep secrets, and I think people should have the right to keep secrets if they want, even from the government.

Comically, it’s started a movement whereby people are tweeting MP Vic Toews with all kinds of mundane information, using the hashtag #tellviceverything. I think it’s awesome. You want to know everything about me, Vic? Here’s an HD pic of the dump I just took, geo-tagged and with a time-stamp synced to an atomic clock. It’s only too bad you can’t smell it. There’s even been a twitter account where it seems someone within the house of commons is sending out Vic’s own sordid personal details. He’s pissed, of course, nobody should have access to Vic’s personal information without his permission, or without having obtained a warrant, right?

Maybe now he understands why the rest of us are pissed off, too.

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