Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Editorial Exchange: Conservative Cyberlaws Threaten Privacy Rights

Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Editorial Exchange: Conservative Cyberlaws Threaten Privacy Rights

Article excerpt

Editorial Exchange: Conservative cyberlaws threaten privacy rights

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An editorial from the Toronto Star, published Nov. 23:

Cyberbullying is bad. So are other cybercrimes, including child pornography, stalking and harassment. And every thug planning a robbery, carjacking or drug deal is equipped with a cellphone, tablet, Facebook page or Twitter account. Then there are the spies, credit card scammers, identity thieves, hackers, money-launderers and others who exploit the Internet.

Cyberspace has its mean streets, and no one is going to disagree with Prime Minister Stephen Harper's Conservative government that the police need up-to-date tools to track down the bad actors who prowl them.

But as the Star's Alex Boutilier reports, federal Privacy Commissioner Daniel Therrien has just reminded us that we should not surrender our constitutional rights to nail the bad guys. Despite a recent Supreme Court ruling that came down strongly on the side of digital privacy the government persists in pressing ahead with excessively intrusive cyber legislation that erodes that privacy. While claiming to fight cyberbullying and enhance digital privacy, the Tories are writing flawed law that will come back to bite us.

Parliament is currently considering two key pieces of legislation: Bill C-13, the Protecting Canadians from Online Crime Act, a.k.a. the cyberbullying law; and S-4, the Digital Privacy Act. While elements of each bill are good, other aspects needlessly erode privacy rights.

Therrien warns that Bill C-13 sharply lowers the bar to police obtaining court orders to pry into citizens' private computer lives and digital activity. Instead of needing serious "grounds to believe" wrongdoing is going on, the police need only have "suspicion."

On that desperately thin basis they can get a court order to obtain a person's name, address, banking card use, car movements, financial accounts, email addresses, Internet pages visited, files shared, web search history, and more. …

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