Vic Toews, Canadas public safety minister, recently issued a blunt declaration about his new Internet spying bill.
Anyone who opposes Bill C-30 can either stand with us or with the child pornographers, Toews declared.
Well, to reassure Mr. Toews that I am not a child pornographer, perhaps I should pre-emptively reveal some of my recent online activities.
- Youll be glad to know that I have about 30 Facebook friends. Thats 15 times more than I have in real life!
- Ive been catching up on Twin Peaks via Netflix. Yep, just 22 years late to that party.
- I frequently play online games, particularly Team Fortress 2. I find it soothing to have snot-nosed eight-year-olds repeatedly shoot me in the head with rocket launchers and then taunt me.
- I am this close to winning that forum debate about which season of Buffy the Vampire Slayer was the best.
- I have been plotting the overthrow of the Canadian government with my army of genetically engineered wombats.
I might as well lay my cards on the table now, as Bill C-30 is going to allow the police to gather all kinds of interesting data on us, without warrants.
The bill will force Internet service providers (ISPs) to hand over info such as addresses and phone numbers of subscribers to police.
The information will allow police to monitor us, in exactly the ways they can now, but without warrants. The police will also be able to track us using our cellphones.
Privacy and technology blogger Michael Geist notes that this will allow police to scan crowds of people, collect identity info from their cellphones, and then get names from their phone and internet companies.
So if youve ever gone to a protest, union meeting, or controversial public hearing, rest easy knowing that you could soon be on a government watch list.
Did I mention that this will mean ISPs will have to upgrade their technology and screen their employees more thoroughly, to handle the ability to spy on us? To pay for this, they will hold us by our ankles and shake vigorously. I hope you didnt think Internet service was ever going to get cheaper in Canada.
Why the police would need the power to do things like this has not been explained, except by Mr. Toews repeating the child porn over and over like a mantra.
Which somewhat overlooks the fact that traditional methods of investigation have been finding child porn peddlers, including a massive bust recently in Ontario that snared 60 people.
Mr. Toews doesnt much talk about other types of crime. He doesnt mention white-collar scam artists, or pot-dealing gang members, or tax cheats. Its almost as if hes just focussing on the most heinous members of society in an effort to force the debate down a narrow channel.
If Mr. Toews wants to catch pedophiles and who doesnt? maybe he should give police more resources to do long-term investigations. The officers in the recent Ontario busts actually wrote their own software to help them track down their perps. It sounds to me like that kind of thing could go a long way to protecting kids if it was backed with some federal money and used Canada-wide.
If C-30 passes, well have less privacy. Police from across Canada will be able to snoop into our online lives in ways we would never accept in the physical world. And unlike a knock on the door, we might never know how much data theyve collected on our lives.
Visit Matthew Claxtons blog at http://tinyurl.com/7mwo2qj and www.langleyadvance.com.