Canada is close to passing a new law that allows police to access user IP addresses, names, addresses and telephone numbers, without need for a warrant or any evidence of wrongdoing.
Unlike recent headline-grabbing bills such as ACTA and SOPA, the “Protecting Children From Internet Predators Act” was not devised by the entertainment industry and copyright lawyers. This bill comes directly from the Canadian police force under the guise of helping law enforcement officials catch paedophiles and prevent online suicides.
However, the bill is facing strong opposition within Canada, as it gives the police unprecedented access to private online user data and new powers of online surveillance. Under the act ISPs must provide a “back door” to allow police to monitor user communications. Furthermore, telecommunication providers have 18 months to equip their networks with the technology to allow police to intercept communications. ISPs also have to provide user information, such as IP address, telephone number, name and address to police “quickly” - in case of an emergency - and hold on to private user data for up to 90 days.
Online privacy activists in Canada have said that the new law risks criminalising innocent internet users and puts every internet user’s privacy at risk for the sake of catching a few criminals.
Canadian internet security expert and University of Calgary professor, Tom Keenan, told CBC News that the bill is based on a culture of suspicion. “I think our police have a lot of tools and they know how to use them,” said Keenen. “This bill takes it completely out of balance putting the onus on everybody, that all of our surfing history should be preserved and that’s just not a good thing.”
Numerous law experts have also said that the Protecting Children From Internet Predators act may violate section 8 of Canada’s charter and will be challenged in the courts for being unconstitutional.
In response to criticisms of the bill, Vic Towes, Canada’s public safety minister, made the following ridiculous statement to reporters - “either you stand with us or with child pornographers”. Such a skewed mentality amongst policy makers demonstrates just how important it is to remain vigilant anytime government tries to interfere with online privacy laws.