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Op-Ed: The privacy & anti-bullying bills that ruin privacy and bully us

By George Arthur     May 9, 2014 in Politics
Two conspicuously named bills that are currently being reviewed in the Senate and House of Commons are quite troublesome — Canadians need to take note.
It was reported last week that Canadian government agencies issued 1.2 million requests for customer information in 2011, which works out to one request every 27 seconds, or information on 1 in every 35 Canadians. Again, this was in just one year! What the information was used for, we don’t exactly know.
If that doesn’t worry you, perhaps new laws being considered in both the Senate (Bill S-4, the Digital Privacy Act) and the House of Commons (Bill C-13, dubbed the “cyber-bullying bill”) will pique your Spidey-surveillance-sense.
As noted by renowned University of Ottawa Law professor Michael Geist, the implications of S-4 and C-13, taken together, are frightening. In a blog post describing the proposed laws, Geist concluded with a few bullet points that underscore the main takeaways from S-4 and C-13:
- organizations could disclose subscriber or customer personal information without a court order to law enforcement with full legal immunity from liability
- organizations could disclose subscriber or customer personal information without a court order to any other organization claiming investigation of an actual or potential contractual breach or legal violation
- the disclosures would be kept secret from the affected individuals
- the disclosing organizations would be under no obligation to report on their practices or past disclosures
In other words, the Canadian federal government — led by Stephen Harper — is redefining privacy from top to bottom. For Harper and those sponsoring the bills, it’s not enough that law enforcement agencies (LEAs) are covertly collecting information on private citizens once every 27 seconds; they want more, and that 'more' is to empower corporations to act as their own private investigators.
By allowing corporations to share private customer data amongst each other, the Harper government is basically promoting the idea that big business can act as deputies to LEAs. This proposal is an encroachment on free speech and thought, and will serve to engender the idea of Panopticon, to homogenize society, to stifle free-thought and expression as Canadian citizens wearily consider whether their actions will be analyzed for potential wrong doing by not only the government, but also by the corporations that provide the products and services they use.
In our post 9/11 world, a world driven by technology and inter-connectivity, a faulty argument has been made by Five Eyes nations which essentially proposes that the cyber-world is a battlefield; cyber-space is not a battlefield, it is a massive communications network that caters to a wide range of communities. Sure, there are certainly nasty elements abound, however, targeted monitoring of such bodies is far more sensible than the installation of a system that eliminates any sense of meaningful privacy for private, lawful citizens.
Yet, through the lens of those that claim to act in the name of national security, any and all community members in the cyber-sphere are treated as a threat and, as such, are potentially subject to excessive and constant monitoring, each internet-capable device akin to a probationary anklet. In such an environment, reasonable expectations for security of person are checked at your log-in. It’s as though the cost of admission to the greatest tool for learning and expression is your right to freely learn and express.
And while Canadians are already surreptitiously monitored at alarming rates by law enforcement agencies that are scooping up data pell-mell as part of “regular operations,” of which we know little to nothing, this is no excuse to allow things to worsen...
If S-4 and C-13 do manage to reach the Governor General and receive “royal assent” (that’s our silly terminology for “becoming the law”), not only will Canadian citizens have to consider the proposition that there is a 1 in 35 chance that their activities will be the target of a clandestine law enforcement operation, but also that the organizations and corporations that facilitate their activities may be trying to nail them for god (and possible Harper) knows what.
What happens in this environment? Do Canadians become more lawful? Or do Canadians become distrustful of government and business? For me, it’s nothing but the latter.
To be clear, the Digital Privacy Act and the “Cyber-Bullying Bill” eliminate privacy and allow both the government and big business to bully Canadians; it goes without saying that this should not be remotely palatable to anyone, and so it’s time to go all Bill C-30 on these mo-fo’s (Bill C-30 was berated by the public when being considered, and this public outrage is largely considered to be the cause for its rejection).
It shouldn’t be that hard to do; hell, if just one person in every 35, or one person every 27 seconds were to write their Member of Parliament and voice their concerns with S-4 and C-13, it’s likely these gross violations to personal and reasonable privacy expectations would be shot down.
So write to those who will shape the future of Canadian state surveillance! To find out who your MP is, please visit the following link. To e-mail Claude Carignan, leader of the Senate and sponsor of S-4, write to To e-mail Peter MacKay, sponsor of C-13, write to
(A request for comment on S-4 sent to Canadian Senators in Ontario was widely ignored. Among those who did respond, there was but one who was willing to say they had concerns over privacy protection, but would not provide a detailed comment until they have had more time to fully review the bill.
Concerning C-13, it appears that a wide swath of NDP and Liberal MPs are vehemently opposed to the bill, however, the House of Commons is dominated by Conservatives, and their numbers alone may be enough push C-13 through reviews and readings toward royal assent. It's worth noting that the Senate, too, is currently controlled by the Tories.)
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of
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