Friday, February 17, 2012

A Canadian Protest

Last January 18 saw the largest online protest in history when Americans (and many Canadians) staged the Stop SOPA event.  The "Stop Online Piracy Act" before the US Congress would have censored websites and impeded creativity. 

In Canada, people were horrified that the United States government would infringe on the rights of its citizens that way.  They were still clucking their tongues about the Patriot Act and complaining about the added border security and fees.  There was no shortage of Canadians ready to offer advice on how to better run a country.

On January 20, both houses of Congress backed down.

Meanwhile in Canada the Conservatives had finally formed a majority government, and were ready to prove that they could do whatever they wanted now that they didn't have to worry about offending members of the other parties.  It takes some getting used to.

So what they did was they cooked up Bill C-30, which sounds a lot like the Patriot Act, except they call it the "Protecting Children from Internet Predators Act."  The CBC sums it up:

The bill includes no mention of children or predators except in the title, which appears to have been changed after it was sent to the printers.

Like similar legislation introduced in the past by both Conservative and Liberal governments, the new bill includes provisions that would:
  • Require telecommunications and internet providers to give subscriber data to police, national security agencies and the Competition Bureau without a warrant, including names, phone numbers and IP addresses.
  • Force internet providers and other makers of technology to provide a "back door" to make communications accessible to police.
  • Allow police to get warrants to obtain information transmitted over the internet and data related to its transmission, including locations of individuals and transactions.
  • Allow courts to compel other parties to preserve electronic evidence.
However, unlike the most recent previous version of the bill, the new legislation:
  • Requires telecommunications providers to disclose, without a warrant, just six types of identifiers from subscriber data instead of 11.
  • Provides for an internal audit of warrantless requests that will go to a government minister and oversight review body.
  • Includes a provision for a review after five years.
  • Allows telecommunications service providers to take 18 months instead of 12 months to buy equipment that would allow police to intercept communications.
  • Changes the definition of hate propaganda to include communication targeting sex, age and gender.

This really got under people's skin, and the Harper government is already beginning to backpedal, stating that they're willing to "entertain amendments."  It might not be enough.  Canada's Public Safely Minster, Vic Toews (pronounced "Taves") stood up in the House of Commons and said, "He can either stand with us or with the child pornographers."

It was too George W. Bushian for many Canadians, especially users of Social Media.  A uniquely Canadian protest has broken out on Twitter.  Using the hashtag #TellVicEverything, people are flooding the @ToewsVic account with the minutia of their lives.

It's absolutely wonderful.