You’ve likely heard the story by now. If you haven’t, you might want to read the article also linked to at the end of this entry and then return.
There’s a rational debate to be had here, between the right to privacy of individuals, and the need for the police to have modern tools to fight modern problems associated with technology. In an age of emails and data encryption and online video the police no doubt feel their abilities and reach are hampered; no longer can they rely on merely shoe leather and witness statements to get the job done.
So the Conservatives have stepped in to help. Perhaps a new law was needed, but if we’re to erode people’s privacy rights I’d argue that law should be a scalpel, not a broadsword. And in implementing it perhaps we could avoid statements like “he can either stand with us or with the child pornographers,” which Canada’s Public Safety Minister Vic Toews made about his Liberal opposition critic.
What would be the threshold of evidence needed before the police could make a warrant-less application for information from an ISP? Would they have to have evidence that an illegal communication (ie. child porn) had been sent to or from a customer of that ISP? Would a simple complaint from someone with a beef be enough, without other follow up? Would an anonymous complaint be all that was needed?
And while they’re arguing from the standpoint that this is about child pornography and organized crime, the reality is that it’s likely going to be used against people committing the dreaded crime of downloading music or videos. And there are certainly no guarantees that political opposition and protest won’t be viewed as possible terrorist talk—if a First Nations knitting circle can find itself the subject of RCMP scrutiny and warnings then just about anyone can.
Prime Minister Harper, Minister of Public Safety Vic Toews, and Justice Minister Rob Nicholson need to answer these and other questions before this bill is passed by Parliament. It’s time for the Conservative government to admit that they either represent us or they stand with the totalitarians. In this one regard at least.