“Investigative Powers for the 21st Century (IP21C) Act”

Bills C-46 and C-47 will authorize sweeping internet surveillance powers for Canadian police and intelligence services

by S. da Silva BASICS #15 (Sep/Oct 2009)

On June 18, 2009, the Conservative government introduced two bills in Parliament that will give Canadian intelligence and police forces unprecedented powers to monitor the communications and internet browsing of Canadians.

The “Investigative Powers for the 21st Century Act” will force Internet Service Providers (ISPs) and other telecommunications providers to install hardware to track all the communications they handle and to turn over to police forces the personal information of their subscribers.

Canadian Public Safety Minister Peter Van Loan said that the bills would not give the police any new interception powers, since they already have the authority to intercept communications. But this obscures the fact that sweeping internet surveillance will provide the police with a whole new form and degree of snooping capabilities over Canadians. Furthermore, the package of legislation will also give police the power to remotely activate the tracking devices embedded in most new cell phones and cars.

Is there any chance of the Canadian telecom giants putting up a fuss to the impositions of this new legislation? Not likely.

Provisions in Bill C-46 will open the door to criminalizing the maintenance of open Wi-Fi networks, preventing small businesses from providing free internet to customers and neighbours from sharing their expensive internet services. The legislation can also be interpreted as aiming at those looking to set up proxy servers in Canada, which are online networks that redirect web traffic to allow surfers to search the web anonymously without leaving a trace of their presence.

Furthermore, the legislation will also criminalize individuals who interfere “with the lawful use of computer data”, which could open the door to the criminalization of the hundreds of thousands of Canadians who download music and pirated software.

If this legislation prevents Canadians from accessing free internet, free music, and free software, then it is clear that the big Telecom and software monopolies will score billions from regular Canadians through this legislation. And what’s worse is that tax payers are going to be picking up the bill for the spyware “expenses that the Minister considers are necessary for the service provider to incur initially to comply with an order made under” the Act.

Bill C-47 goes even further to authorize the government to pay service providers “a prescribed fee for providing information”. So the Telecom companies, like Bell and Rogers, will be making money off of selling your personal information to the government.

According to Privacy International, “It is recognized worldwide that wiretapping and electronic surveillance are a highly intrusive form of investigation that should only be used in limited and unusual circumstances. Nearly all major international agreements on human rights protect the right of individuals from unwarranted invasive surveillance.”

Bills C-46 and C-47 will deal a serious blow to the civil rights of Canadians. With Canadian domestic and foreign policy veering further to the right in recent years, Canadians have reason to worry about the government and the monopolies having sweeping surveillance powers like the ones being proposed. As Bills C-46 and C-47 go to their second reading in Parliament in the Fall of 2009, Canadians must get organized and take a stand against the scrapping of their most basic civil liberties.

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