Wednesday, September 12, 2007

The Conservatives Want to Invade Your Privacy

In the rush to catch up to the blatant civil rights violations instituted by our neighbours to the south, it seems the so-called "new" Conservative government now wants to get its hands on our personal information without a court order too.

Via CBC News:

Government agencies are moving to gain access to telephone and internet customers' personal information without first getting a court order, according to a document obtained by that is raising privacy issues.

Public Safety Canada and Industry Canada have begun a consultation on how law enforcement and national security agencies can gain lawful access to customers' information. The information would include names, addresses, land and cellphone numbers, as well as additional mobile phone identification, such as a device serial number and a subscriber identity module (SIM) card number.

The consultation also seeks input on access to e-mail addresses and IP addresses. An IP address is a number that can be used to identify a computer's location.

The document says the objective of the consultation is to provide law enforcement and national security agencies with the ability to obtain the information while protecting the privacy of Canadians.

The document says that under current processes, enforcement agencies have been experiencing difficulties in gaining the information from telecommunications service providers, some of which have been demanding a court-issued warrant before turning over the data.

"If the custodian of the information is not co-operative when a request for such information is made, law enforcement agencies may have no means to compel the production of information pertaining to the customer," the document says. "This poses a problem in some contexts."

Well, isn't that just too bad?? If they don't have enough of a reason to be granted a court order for the records, what makes them think they ought to be able to have access to it anyway? Flimsy excuses.

It says enforcement agencies may need the information for matters other than probes, such as informing next-of-kin of emergency situations, or because they are at the early stages of an investigation.

"The availability of such building-block information is often the difference between the start and finish of an investigation," according to the document.

Let's get real. Just how many times has that "next-of-kin" situation been a real problem? It seems to me that there's more than enough personal information of ours on file with the federal government that such an excuse has no bearing on what they really want to do with what they could collect with a warrant. It's those "investigations" that we should all be concerned about.

We do still have rights in this country, as much as the Conservative government seems to hate that fact.

CBC also notes that there is what's supposed to be considered as an adequate time for "public consultation" which is news to some of the stakeholders and privacy groups - not to mention the vast majority of Canadians whose privacy would be impacted by such a decision.

Geist said the other problem with the consultation is that it appears as if the government agencies have already made up their minds on how to proceed and are simply conducting it for appearances' sake.

"The fear is that law enforcement knows what it would like to do — it would like to be able to obtain this information without court oversight — and so it has pulled together this consultation in the hope that they can use that to say they have consulted, and here are the safeguards that the consultation thought was appropriate."

That type of behaviour from Conservatives like Stockwell Day and Stephen Harper comes as no surprise to those of us who live in Alberta where those two cut their political teeth. The Klein government was infamous for its so-called public consultations which consisted of province-wide meetings where they just presented their plans, put up with some inconvenient "input" from the peasants and then went back to Edmonton to implement what they had chosen to do in the first place. Faux democracy. Day and Harper were well-schooled.

Caught with their pants down by the CBC and with opposition being voiced by the privacy commissioner, the Conservative government is now doing damage control:

Mélisa Leclerc, a spokeswoman for Public Safety Minister Stockwell Day, said the government was not trying to keep the consultation secret and would post the document on the internet on Thursday. The deadline for submissions would also be extended, although no decision on a date has been made yet.

The previous "consultation" period was set to end on September 27th. So much for pulling a fast one with our privacy rights.

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