On February 14, 2012 government of Canada introduced Bill C-30, the Protecting Children from Internet Predators Act. This is the latest attempt of the government to bring forward a stronger legislation to identify cyber criminals and eliminate the problem of online predators. But bringing such legislature raises some serious questions.
In the late twentieth century we have been witnessing a widespread, massive technological change. Such phenomenons as new technology, political realignment, global operations, mass media and rise of consumerism have produced a different world from that of nineteenth century. But the true wonder of it all has unquestionably been the creation of internet. The growing spread of internet has also witnessed a growing rate of cybercrime and illegal activities. With all that shouldn’t we be happy to accept tougher legislation to control and govern internet activity.
However while the conservative government tries to sell this legislation, calling it a legislation to protect, many others see it as a corrosive pathway around the law to have all of us under surveillance. Anyone complained of passive Canadian laws? Well, here is your order of a more active government.
At the core of this legislation is the idea of allowing police to obtain customer data and other information from internet service providers (ISP) and other telecom providers without obtaining a warrant from a judge. While this is a reasonable government attempt to fight online crime and provide a safer online environment for the population and specifically the younger segment of population, this bill undermines the rights of Canadians for privacy. As a response to the emerging bill many have been voicing their opinion that such provision may affect their lives negatively. This provision not only targets pornographers and buyers, but every one of us. This bill gives police vast power to have information on every person online. In Canada we enjoy and treasure our freedom and privacy that has been the strong pillar of democracy and Canadian Charter.
One thing for sure. Canadian laws are behind the quickly developing internet technology. Therefore this bill can be argued to be the improvement to Canada’s ability to fight online crime and terrorism. In fact the supporting voice of the bill, such as Cape Breton Regional Police Chief Peter McIsaac says “I totally 100 per cent support it”. It’s not a surprise that he and other officials would support the bill. Access to more information will make investigation and solving crime more effective. But to counter argue that, opposition has been leading an active debate on the negligence and loopholes in the bill. “We’re not seeing a very strong need for these bills, and we’re seeing an expansion of surveillance powers that basically begs for abuse,” said Lindsey Pinto, a spokeswoman for OpenMedia.ca.
The effects of surveillance go deeper than the issues related to privacy. At risk are the benefits of urban social interaction. Surveillance can also cause a shrinking perception of accountability among those present together in urban space. While our fear for privacy is clear, our online activity seem to create a paradox. As we openly share our information through Facebook or Google, we wouldn’t want our online activity to be collected. Why are we so particular about our rights and freedoms when it comes to this bill? In reality it should be simple: if one who has nothing to hide, he shall not be afraid. At the end it seems that the growing critique of the bill is not in the idea of invasion of privacy, but the growing fear of the abuse of power.
“Online surveillance critics point to foreign experience” CBC news. http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/ottawa/story/2012/02/21/pol-c30-surveillance-caution.html
“Revisit Surveillance bill” Cape Breton Post. http://www.capebretonpost.com/Opinion/Editorial/2012-02-23/article-2905141/Revisit-surveillance-bill/1
Haggerty, K.D. (2010). Surveillance and Democracy. New York: Routledge.