The past few weeks have been filled with outrage over a proposed bill in the House of Commons. The Protecting Children From Internet Predators Act would give law enforcement agencies unprecedented access to the Internet usage of Canadians. Specifically, it would allow for the acquiring of logs on user activity, based on the IP address assigned by the Internet service provider at that time. These logs would be available without the need for a warrant. Public Safety Minister Vic Toews even went so far as to deal in absolutes: “You can either stand with us [the government] or with the child pornographers.”
I’m with the privacy advocates. Child pornography is a horrific crime, but violating standard civil liberties, such as the due process of getting a warrant, does not bode well for a free-minded society like Canada. After reading through the actual law, it is clear that the victims are being used as cover, essentially creating a license to snoop.
Besides, Mr. Toews has proved to the Canadian public how incompetent and hypocritical he is. When a Twitter account popped up, delivering juicy details of the Manitoba MP’s divorce (which were public record), he quickly proposed an investigation into the leak. Strange, coming from the man who wants us to give up a part of our right to privacy. When asked about some of the more draconian elements of the legislation, he admitted he did not even read the bill before introducing it. Really, and yet he is willing to risk his reputation, and more importantly, Canadian citizen rights, over its passing?
Margaret Wente pointed out perfectly in her column in The Globe and Mail that these are the same Conservatives who “whipped up moral panic over the gun registry and the long-form census…they told us our right to privacy was threatened by egregious intrusions from the state.”
There have been those who agree with Mr. Toews’ proposed legislation. Lorna Dueck, in a column for The Globe and Mail, stated that “if we don’t get this right, more children will be violated […] With this kind of cyber crime, surfing the Internet is akin to driving your car. The car is your private property and you know how to use it, but some people keep making the road dangerous […] that’s how police see access to your IP address―it will help them to identify lawbreakers.”
Asinine. Why don’t we extend the provisions to give the government access to every transaction we make? After all, by that logic, some people might be making dangerous purchases. Why not extend the reaches even further, requiring logs of citizens’ whereabouts, since some might potentially be breaking the law?
Violating civil liberties, such as warrant-less snooping, is never acceptable, even in the name of protecting children. The question is how do we, as Canadians, stop child predators while protecting our right to privacy? It is a hard question, one I do not have the answer to. Rest assured, however, that it is not by giving unfettered access to the logs. To me, treating your populace as criminals is a feeble response to the problem.
I’m sorry, Mr. Toews. I am not a pervert. If you want to see what I post on Reddit, what I share on Facebook, who I email in Gmail, and what I share in uTorrent, get a warrant. Otherwise, mind your own business.
As Rick Mercer, in his weekly rant on the Rick Mercer Report put it: “Vic, you can call us all the names you want. But that doesn’t change the fact we’re not going to let you peek. That doesn’t make us criminal. It makes us Canadian. It’s why we shut our blinds at night. The State has no business in the hard drives of the nation. You want a peek, Vic? Convince a judge. Get a warrant.”