'All for ourselves and nothing for other people' seems in every age of the world to have been the vile maxim of the masters of mankind. -Adam Smith "All the 'truth' in the world adds up to one big lie." Bob Dylan "Idealism precedes experience, cynicism follows it." Anon

September 17, 2011

Stop Online Spying

The Canadian government is trying to ram through an anti-Internet set of electronic surveillance laws that will invade your privacy and cost you money. The plan is to force every phone and Internet provider to surrender our personal information to "authorities" without a warrant.

This bizarre legislation will create Internet surveillance that is:
  • Warrantless: A range of "authorities" will have the ability to invade the private lives of law-abiding Canadians and our families using wired Internet and mobile devices, without a warrant or any justification.
  • Invasive and Dangerous: The laws leave our personal and financial information less secure and more susceptible to cybercrime.
  • Costly: Internet services providers may be forced to install millions of dollars worth of spying technology and the cost will be passed down to YOU.

Sign the petition at: http://stopspying.ca 


Article 12 presents a sharp look at the current state of privacy and debates around the rights and desires of individuals, governments, terrorism and the increasing accessibility and use of surveillance.

The film is a thought-provoking expos√© on our current obsession with voyeurism, surveillance technologies, power and control. Starting from our own private spying habits, Article 12 examines how vulnerable and exposed we have become in our relationship to each other and as a society and talks about those who are gaining from this condition. The film uses the twelfth article of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights to chart the current state of privacy around the world, arguing that without the right to privacy no other human right can truly be exercised. The film brings together the world’s leading academics, philosophers, cultural figures and technologists to highlight the devastating potency of surveillance and the dangers of public and individual complicity, and presents a growing movement fighting for the upkeep of our right to privacy.

Article 12 confronts these issues head-on to provide a powerful wake-up call as we sleepwalk into a worldwide surveillance society.

Related articles on this blog:

Constitutional expert says beware of coming Canadian police state


  1. Open Media petition sways government plan

    by Lindsey Pinto September 21, 2011


    Under the intense pressure of a 70,000+ signature petition, the government has omitted "Lawful Access" (Online Spying) bills from the larger omnibus crime legislation announced this week.
    The legislation -- which would introduce costly, warrantless spying of Internet activity in Canada -- is still before Parliament. But today's events mark a major milestone for the Stop Online Spying coalition and the eight in ten Canadians who oppose the Conservative government's new online surveillance legislation.
    The government previously told Canadians that the invasive electronic spying bills would simply be included as a part of an omnibus crime package in the first hundred days of Parliament.
    The government's move stems from the success of a petition and public education campaign -- Stop Online Spying -- which brought citizens together to join in the outcry from civil liberties groups, businesses, academics and every Canadian privacy commissioner. More than 70,000 Canadians have signed the petition and the campaign's citizen-made PSA videos have been viewed over 86,000 times in just a few days.
    "After months spent decrying the bills as invasive, costly, and poorly thought out the government's move to remove warrantless electronic surveillance from the omnibus is a clear step forward," says Steve Anderson, executive director of OpenMedia.ca, the coordinating organization behind the Stop Online Spying coalition.
    "This online spying plan is poorly thought-out and would could cost Canadian Internet users and businesses millions. We're pleased to hear that the online spying bills will receive proper scrutiny in the House of Commons," continues Anderson. "This is the first step in the government fixing this legislation -- now we need to put in privacy safeguards and ensure our data is safe and that the financial burden on Canadians is as minimal as possible"
    "This is a victory for Canadians," says Vincent Gogolek of the BC Freedom of Information and Privacy Association. "The government has been forced to listen to the eight in ten Canadians who are against online spying, and to the many experts -- including every provincial privacy commissioner -- who have pointed to the many serious problems with this radical approach. We look forward to the government finally making its case for why it wants these extraordinary powers and why we should all pay for them."

    Graeme Norton of the Canadian Civil Liberties Association also spoke about the bills:
    "Decoupling the government's controversial cyber-surveillance enhancements from the omnibus bill is a step in the right direction. These powers are very complex and have not received anything close to the level of Parliamentary scrutiny that they deserve. Hopefully the government will now heed the warnings of Canada's Privacy Commissioners and many concerned citizens, and either abandon these proposals or bring them more in line with the privacy expectations of most Canadians."
    About the Stop Online Spying Coalition
    The Stop Online Spying campaign is supported by a group of public interest organizations, civil liberties groups, businesses, and concerned academics that have come together to encourage the government to reconsider "Lawful Access" legislation. The group points out that this type of legislation enables warrantless surveillance that is invasive, excessive and costly. Over 70,000 Canadians have signed the Stop Online Spying petition at http://stopspying.ca

  2. Peering Closely at Tories' Online Spying Wishes

    By Michael Geist, 27 September 2011, TheTyee.ca

    Lawful access, the Conservatives' planned Internet surveillance legislation, has generated considerable attention over the past week as the government decided against including it in their first omnibus crime bill. That decision generated widespread media coverage, claims that the government had backed down in the face of a 70,000 signature online petition, and a debate in the House of Commons in which Public Safety Minister Vic Toews promised that warrantless online wiretapping is not planned.

    While lawful access critics likely feel like this is a cause for celebration, there is still every reason to believe that lawful access is only delayed, not dead. Justice officials have indicated that the government is "committed to reintroducing" the lawful access measures and Toews confirmed last week "the legislation will come." The exclusion from the omnibus crime bill is definitely a step in the right direction -- it should allow for the committee hearings that have never happened -- but lawful access will still be introduced and presumably passed at some point in the future.

    Moreover, the recent focus on warrantless online wiretapping may have galvanized public opinion, but it misstates the real concerns with the lawful access plans. Advocates rail against warrantless online wiretapping, which Toews effortlessly swats away by assuring everyone that the government has no plans to introduce such measures.

    If the prior lawful access bills are any indication, Toews is right. Lawful access won't include warrantless online wiretapping, at least not in the conventional sense. But to give the government a pass on those grounds is to overlook the real dangers that will be in the bill. If the Conservatives move forward with their complete lawful access package, it would feature a three-pronged approach focused on information disclosure, mandated surveillance technologies, and new police powers.

    Three prongs don't make a right

    The first prong will mandate the disclosure of Internet provider customer information without court oversight. ...

    The second prong will require Internet providers to dramatically re-work their networks to allow for real-time surveillance. ...

    Having obtained customer information without court oversight and mandated Internet surveillance capabilities, the third prong will create a several new police powers designed to obtain access to the surveillance data. ...

    Lawful access raises serious privacy and free speech concerns, particularly given the fact that the government has never provided adequate evidence on the need for it, it has never been subject to committee review, and it would cost millions to implement. There is enough to worry about in the real lawful access proposals that critics don't need to focus on problems that don't currently exist.

    read the full article at:


  3. Wall Street Firms Spy on Protesters in Tax-Funded Center

    By Pam Martens, CounterPunch October 26, 2011

    Wall Street’s audacity to corrupt knows no bounds and the cooptation of government by the 1 per cent knows no limits. How else to explain $150 million of taxpayer money going to equip a government facility in lower Manhattan where Wall Street firms, serially charged with corruption, get to sit alongside the New York Police Department and spy on law abiding citizens.

    According to newly unearthed documents, the planning for this high tech facility on lower Broadway dates back six years. In correspondence from 2005 that rests quietly in the Securities and Exchange Commission’s archives, NYPD Commissioner Raymond Kelly promised Edward Forst, a Goldman Sachs’ Executive Vice President at the time, that the NYPD “is committed to the development and implementation of a comprehensive security plan for Lower Manhattan…One component of the plan will be a centralized coordination center that will provide space for full-time, on site representation from Goldman Sachs and other stakeholders.”

    At the time, Goldman Sachs was in the process of extracting concessions from New York City just short of the Mayor’s first born in exchange for constructing its new headquarters building at 200 West Street, adjacent to the World Financial Center and in the general area of where the new World Trade Center complex would be built. According to the 2005 documents, Goldman’s deal included $1.65 billion in Liberty Bonds, up to $160 million in sales tax abatements for construction materials and tenant furnishings, and the deal-breaker requirement that a security plan that gave it a seat at the NYPD’s Coordination Center would be in place by no later than December 31, 2009.

    The surveillance plan became known as the Lower Manhattan Security Initiative and the facility was eventually dubbed the Lower Manhattan Security Coordination Center. It operates round-the-clock. Under the imprimatur of the largest police department in the United States, 2,000 private spy cameras owned by Wall Street firms, together with approximately 1,000 more owned by the NYPD, are relaying live video feeds of people on the streets in lower Manhattan to the center. Once at the center, they can be integrated for analysis. At least 700 cameras scour the midtown area and also relay their live feeds into the downtown center where low-wage NYPD, MTA and Port Authority crime stoppers sit alongside high-wage personnel from Wall Street firms that are currently under at least 51 Federal and state corruption probes for mortgage securitization fraud and other matters.

    In addition to video analytics which can, for example, track a person based on the color of their hat or jacket, insiders say the NYPD either has or is working on face recognition software which could track individuals based on facial features. The center is also equipped with live feeds from license plate readers. ...
    Wall Street is infamous for perverting everything it touches: from the Nasdaq stock market, to stock research issued to the public, to auction rate securities, mortgages sold to Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, credit default swaps with AIG, and mortgage securitizations. Had a public hearing been held on this massive surveillance sweep of Manhattan by potential felons, hopefully someone might have pondered what was to prevent Wall Street from tracking its employee whistleblowers heading off to the FBI offices or meeting with a reporter.
    One puzzle has at least been solved. Wall Street’s criminals have not been indicted or sent to jail because they have effectively become the police.

    read the full article at:


  4. Canadians know what they're doing when they oppose online spying


    Canadians who have called on the government to stop online spying have been labelled as confused and distracted. Reminiscent of Big Telecom's attempts to portray us as misinformed, we, as pro-Internet Canadians, now face a new hurdle on our path to an open and fair internet: a presumptuous government.
    Suggesting that we are confused, muffles our voices-if only a misled few oppose online spying, embedding it into our Criminal Code is a much less troublesome political manoeuvre. Through an irresponsible PR campaign, and countless on-the-record disclosers, the Government has done their best to obfuscate the online spying bills, despite the 8-in-10 Canadians who oppose warrantless surveillance in general, and the now 75,000+ who have signed the Stop Online Spying petition so far.
    The powers-that-be underestimate the savvy, pro-Internet community, and our understanding of the issues we face. Those who made videos, wrote to their MPs, and joined the discussions on our Facebook Page (among other places) are intelligent, highly engaged citizens who should not be discounted.

    From the start of the campaign, Canadians have had their eyes on bills C-50, C-51, and C-52. By reading the talking points we provide, many have spread the word and have evaluated the sweeping generalities of the bills. Clause 16 of Bill C-52 is becoming infamous; it clearly shows that the online spying bills allow for electronic surveillance that is invasive and excessive:

    "16. (1) Every telecommunications service provider must provide a person designated under subsection (3), on his or her written request, with any information in the service provider's possession or control respecting the name, address, telephone number and electronic mail address of any subscriber to any of the service provider's telecommunications services and the Internet protocol address, mobile identification number, electronic serial number, local service provider identifier, international mobile equipment identity number, international mobile subscriber identity number and subscriber identity module card number that are associated with the subscriber's service and equipment."

    As part of our public education campaign, OpenMedia.ca has put out a wide range of materials from engaging and accessible PSAs to a high-level comprehensive mini-documentary where Canada's leading legal and privacy experts speak out.
    Thankfully, many Canadians have become educated about the Government's troubling agenda, and have voiced their disapproval by signing the Stop Online Spying petition. Let's continue until we stop this invasive legislation.


  5. Privacy Commissioner Ann Cavoukian: Privacy invasion shouldn’t be ‘lawful’

    By Ann Cavoukian, National Post October 31, 2011

    I must add my voice to the growing dismay regarding the impact of impending “lawful access” legislation in this country. In my view, it is highly misleading to call it “lawful.” Let’s call it what it is — a system of expanded surveillance.

    At issue is the anticipated re-introduction of a trio of federal bills that will provide police with much greater ability to access and track information, via the communications technologies we use every day, such as the Internet, smart phones and other mobile devices. I have no doubt that, collectively, the legislation will substantially diminish the privacy rights of Ontarians and Canadians as a whole.

    Let’s take a brief look at the surveillance bills, which were introduced prior to the last election:

    Bill C-50 would make it easier for the police to obtain judicial approval of multiple intercept and tracking warrants and production orders, to access and track e-communications.

    Bill C-51 would give the police new powers to obtain court orders for remote live tracking, as well as suspicion-based orders requiring telecommunication service providers and other companies to preserve and turn over data of interest to the police.

    Bill C-52 would require telecommunication service providers to build and maintain intercept capability into their networks for use by law enforcement, and gives the police warrantless power to access subscriber information.

    I well understand the attraction for law enforcement officials — the increased ability to access and track our e-communications, with reduced judicial scrutiny, would put a treasure trove of new information at their fingertips.

    However, we must be extremely careful not to allow the admitted investigative needs of police forces to interfere with or violate our constitutional right to be secure from unreasonable state surveillance. The proposed surveillance powers come at the expense of the necessary privacy safeguards guaranteed under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. The federal government must be persuaded to acknowledge the sensitivity of traffic data, stored data and tracking data, and strongly urged to re-draft the bills. For a start, the proposal for warrantless access to subscriber information is untenable and should be withdrawn. If special access to subscriber information is considered to be absolutely necessary, it must take place under a court-supervised regime.

    The government needs to step back and consider all of these implications. A comprehensive cost-benefit analysis should precede the entrenchment of so many significant public policy decisions. Public Parliamentary hearings must also be scheduled to ensure that civil society, as well as the telecom industry, has a full opportunity to provide input.

    Canadians must press the federal government to publicly commit to enacting much-needed oversight legislation in tandem with any expansive surveillance measures. Intrusive proposals require, at the very least, matching legislative safeguards. The courts, affected individuals, future Parliaments and the public must be well informed about the scope, effectiveness and damaging negative effects of such intrusive powers.

    We can, and must, have both greater security and privacy, in unison. It cannot be one at the expense of the other. The true value of privacy must be recognized in any effort to modernize law enforcement powers. Imposing a mandatory surveillance regime on the public and its telecom service providers must not go forward without strong safeguards to protect the future of our fundamental freedoms.

    Ann Cavoukian is the Information Privacy Commissioner of Ontario


  6. Met police using surveillance system to monitor mobile phones

    Ryan Gallagher & Rajeev Syal, The Guardian UK
    October 30, 2011

    Britain's largest police force is operating covert surveillance technology that can masquerade as a mobile phone network, transmitting a signal that allows authorities to shut off phones remotely, intercept communications and gather data about thousands of users in a targeted area. The surveillance system has been procured by the Metropolitan police from Leeds-based company Datong plc, which counts the US Secret Service, the Ministry of Defence and regimes in the Middle East among its customers. Strictly classified under government protocol as "Listed X", it can emit a signal over an area of up to an estimated 10 sq km, forcing hundreds of mobile phones per minute to release their unique IMSI and IMEI identity codes, which can be used to track a person's movements in real time.

    The disclosure has caused concern among lawyers and privacy groups that large numbers of innocent people could be unwittingly implicated in covert intelligence gathering. The Met has refused to confirm whether the system is used in public order situations, such as during large protests or demonstrations. Nick Pickles, director of privacy and civil liberties campaign group Big Brother Watch, warned the technology could give police the ability to conduct "blanket and indiscriminate" monitoring: "It raises a number of serious civil liberties concerns and clarification is urgently needed on when and where this technology has been deployed, and what data has been gathered," he said. "Such invasive surveillance must be tightly regulated, authorised at the highest level and only used in the most serious of investigations. It should be absolutely clear that only data directly relating to targets of investigations is monitored or stored," he said.

    ... The company's systems, showcased at the DSEi arms fair in east London last month, allow authorities to intercept SMS messages and phone calls by secretly duping mobile phones within range into operating on a false network, where they can be subjected to "intelligent denial of service"...
    All covert surveillance is currently regulated under the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act (Ripa), which states that to intercept communications a warrant must be personally authorised by the home secretary and be both necessary and proportionate. ...
    ... Barrister Jonathan Lennon, who specialises in cases involving covert intelligence and Ripa, said the Met's use of the Datong surveillance system raised significant legislative questions about proportionality and intrusion into privacy. "How can a device which invades any number of people's privacy be proportionate?" he said. "There needs to be clarification on whether interception of multiple people's communications – when you can't even necessarily identify who the people are – is complaint with the act. It may be another case of the technology racing ahead of the legislation. Because if this technology now allows multiple tracking and intercept to take place at the same time, I would have thought that was not what parliament had in mind when it drafted Ripa." ...
    In May the Guardian revealed the Met had purchased software used to map suspects' digital movements using data gathered from social networking sites, satnav equipment, mobile phones, financial transactions and IP network logs. The force said the software was being tested using "dummy data" to explore how it could be used to examine "police vehicle movements, crime patterns and telephone investigations." The Met would not comment on its use of Datong technology or give details of where or when it had been used. ...

    read the full article at: http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk/2011/oct/30/metropolitan-police-mobile-phone-surveillance

  7. Governments must not censor internet

    by Nick Hopkins, The Guardian November 1, 2011

    The UK has issued a direct challenge to China and Russia over regulation of the internet, with William Hague insisting that cyberspace must not be "stifled by government control or censorship". In a strongly worded opening address to an international conference hosted in London, the foreign secretary told delegates that the internet "must remain open and not become ghettoised" – rebuffing the notion that new international treaties were needed to police online activity.

    "Nothing would be more fatal or self-defeating than the heavy hand of state control on the internet, which only thrives because of the talent of individuals and of industry within an open market for ideas and innovation," he said. Hague told delegates that cyberspace should not be "subject to separate rules and processes in different regions set by isolated national services, with state-imposed barriers to trade, commerce and the free flow of information and ideas". This, he said, would be deeply counter-productive. Both China and Russia have pushed for new international treaties governing cyberspace. China has also been heavily criticised for censoring the internet by blocking news or comment that it deems damaging.

    This summer, David Cameron appeared to blame social media for the spread of the London riots, raising the prospect that ministers may try to shut down sites such as Twitter during times of unrest. Hague, though, said that it was his "passionate conviction that all human rights should carry full force online". He added: "Not just the right to privacy, but the right to freedom of expression. Human rights are universal. Cultural differences are not an excuse to water down human rights … We reject the view that government suppression of the internet, phone networks and social media at times of unrest is acceptable."

    The London Conference on Cyberspace was the brainchild of Hague, and delegates from more than 60 countries, as well as pioneers of the internet, such as the founder of Wikipedia, Jimmy Wales, and the president of Facebook, Joanna Shields, among the speakers. Cybercrime, the spread of damaging malware, and the use of cyber warfare by states have pushed questions about the rules governing the internet to the fore. The conference is a first attempt to get all interested parties around the table to discuss potential ways forward, though it is not expected that anything binding will emerge during, or in the immediate aftermath, of the two-day meeting. ...

    read the full article at:


  8. What Happened When I Tried to Get Some Answers About the Creepy NYPD Watchtower Monitoring OWS

    By Nick Turse, AlterNet November 6, 2011

    LIBERTY SQUARE – ... But there was something special about Officer Guzman. He wasn’t one of the 25 police officers I counted standing on the perimeter of Liberty Square that first wintery day. He wasn’t one of dozens more shooting the breeze with their partners inside a police van or sitting alone in a cruiser texting. Officer Guzman spent the day suspended in the air, two stories up, at the corner of Trinity Place and Liberty Street, inside a little metal box that goes by the name Sky Watch.

    For the initiated, Sky Watch is like one of those mechanical forest walkers from the Star Wars movies without the lasers or the walking. Imagine an 7-foot by 6-foot metal box, with blacked out windows on its four sides, bristling with cameras, spotlights, and a small spinning anemometer (to calculate wind speed), atop spindly hydraulic legs that allow it to sit on the ground or rise up two stories. Inside that climate-controlled cube is a control panel with switches to turn on the lights, a joystick to raise and lower the unit, and various other remote controls that Officer Guzman or someone like him can use to direct the cameras and watch their feeds on video screens (while they are recorded on multiple digital video recorders).  ...
    Husain seemed to be getting flustered. Maybe nobody had bothered to explain to him why he needed to sit in a squad car at the base of a metal tower bristling with cameras. Maybe he never questioned why someone actually had his job. But he recovered and then played his trump card. “We’re not here for the protests. We’re here for counter-terrorism,” he said before lapsing into semi-incoherence about having to protect the Sky Watch, presumably from terrorists. “Wait, you’re saying someone is going to attack that?” I said gesturing to the Sky Watch tower. In a city filled with iconic structures, terrorists might target a metal box on stilts with, maybe, one cop inside. Really?  He seemed confused and ended our conversation abruptly with: “It’s much more than simple words.” 
    I doubt I’ll ever know what he meant by that. Chances are, he might not either. But his statement said a lot about the police response to Occupy Wall Street, about surveillance for surveillance’s sake, and about the increasing hollowness of using “terrorism” as a get-out-of-jail-free card in New York City. It also taught me something about how a person -- even packing a pistol, handcuffs, a nightstick, a radio to call countless numbers of similarly armed individuals, and the authority conferred by a badge -- can feel insecure if he doesn’t know what he is doing or why. 

    The activists across the street in Liberty Square have frequently been assailed for a lack of concrete demands and clear positions on issues, but they sure know what they’re doing. Surrounded by a ring of metal barricades, a not-so-thin-blue line of armed men and women who watch their every move, plainclothes officers and undercover cops who surreptitiously monitor them, a panoply of police vehicles, fixed cameras, mobile cameras, and all manner of other gear, they are building a new society. From what I’ve seen, it’s a society in which a somewhat surly, armed man sitting 25 feet up in a little metal box spying on people, protected by a similarly armed, perhaps slightly confused, young man in a car, would be considered odd and unnecessary. The fact that New York City is now a place where you’re not supposed to notice such things, much less question them (and, if you do, you’re questioned for it), says a lot about where the United States is as a society and why, perhaps, there are hardy souls braving the cold in Zuccotti Park to build a new one.
    read the full article at:


  9. The Lawful Access Deception

    By Michael Geist December 13 2011

    Early next year, the government will introduce lawful access legislation featuring new information disclosure requirements for Internet providers, the installation of mandated surveillance technologies, and creation of new police powers. Public Safety Minister Vic Toews, the chief proponent of the new law, has defended the plans, stating that opponents are putting "the rights of child pornographers and organized crime ahead of the rights of law-abiding citizens."

    Toews' stance in the face of widespread criticism from the privacy community and opposition parties is likely to be accompanied by a series of shaky justifications for the legislation. For example, the bill will mandate the disclosure of Internet provider customer information without court oversight -- that is, without a warrant. Under current privacy laws, providers may voluntarily disclose customer information but are not required to do so. Toews has argued that the mandated information is akin to "phone book data" that is typically publicly available without restriction.

    Yet the legislation extends far beyond phone book information by requiring the disclosure of 11 different items, including customer name, address, phone number, email address, Internet protocol address, and a series of device identification numbers. Many Canadian courts have recognized the privacy interests associated with this data.

    In fact, it isn't only Canadian courts, privacy commissioners, and civil liberties groups that believe striking the right balance on the issue necessitates requiring a warrant. Former Conservative Public Safety Minister Stockwell Day stated in 2007 that "we have not and we will not be proposing legislation to grant police the power to get information from Internet companies without a warrant. That's never been a proposal. It may make some investigations more difficult, but our expectation [of] rights to our privacy are such that we do not plan, nor will we have in place, something that would allow the police to get that information."

    Toews will also claim the changes are necessary to ensure that Canadian law enforcement has the tools it needs to combat online crime threats. While everyone agrees that the law must stay up-to-date with emerging technologies, neither the government nor law enforcement has provided credible evidence demonstrating how the current law has impeded active investigations.

    One of the only attempts at providing evidence came in 2009 from Toews' predecessor, former Conservative Public Safety Minister Peter Van Loan. Van Loan pointed to a 2009 kidnapping case in Vancouver as evidence of the need for legislative change, describing witnessing an emergency situation in which Vancouver police waited 36 hours to get the information they needed in order to obtain a warrant for customer name and address information. That sounds like a credible case, but according to documents obtained under access to information, no Internet provider records were actually sought during the investigation.

    While Toews will focus on the need to address online threats, he will likely avoid admitting that lawful access will come at an enormous cost. Some smaller Internet providers have warned that they may be forced to shut down if faced with requirements to install costly surveillance technologies with no ability to recoup the investment. Lawful access would not only lead to lost jobs at the affected companies, but the loss of competition could lead to higher Internet costs for all Canadians at the very time Industry Minister Christian Paradis has promised "globally competitive prices for consumers." ...

    read the rest at:


  10. New law could open window for police to view online habits


    The Conservative government plans to introduce a law next week that would allow police to better monitor web-surfing habits of Canadians and to track them with electronic surveillance.

    Entitled “an Act to enact the Investigating and Preventing Criminal Electronic Communications Act and to amend the Criminal Code and others Acts,” the law would require Internet service providers (ISPs) to install equipment that would allow them to monitor and preserve the Internet surfing activities of their customers. The providers could then be asked by police to collect and preserve surfing data of anyone suspected in engaging in criminal activity.

    Known as the Lawful Access law, Bill C-51 also would make it easier for law enforcement authorities to activate tracking mechanisms within cellphones so they can know the whereabouts of suspected criminals. If they’re suspected of being international terrorists, the law would allow such tracking to go on for a year, rather than the current 60-day limit, according to a previous incarnation of the law introduced last year.

    In recent months, open-Internet lobbyists and privacy advocates — including the privacy commissioner of Canada — have been warning the Conservative government not to adopt this bill, saying it is a serious infringement of civil liberties.

    Similar laws adopted in other countries have required ISPs to monitor the electronic communications of all their customers. While Canada would still require warrants to be issued for police to obtain data on the web surfing habits of Canadians, many are worried this law is invasive.

    Michael Geist, a law professor at the University of Ottawa, and an outspoken critic of the law, said he’s worried about all the information police will have access to without a warrant.

    “It could include anything from email addresses to IP addresses and cellphone-identified numbers,” Geist said. “The ability to use that kind of information in a highly sensitive way without any real oversight is very real.”

    As an example of the new powers, Geist said authorities would be able to use equipment to isolate cellphone numbers of people attending a protest, and then be able to ask a cellphone company to disclose personal information of the people attached to those cellphone numbers.

    Geist said Canadians also should be concerned that the information obtained by police here could be shared with their counterparts around the world.

    Previous versions of the bill also have included provisions that would allow law enforcement officials here to share personal information obtained when requested by authorities in other countries.

    While Canadians should be concerned about the invasion of privacy, Geist said this also could be a tremendous waste of money, because ISPs would be required to spend a lot to put in place advanced monitoring infrastructure.

    “One thing (the government) has never provided is the evidence to show how the current set of laws has stymied investigations or created a significant barrier to ensure that we’re safe in Canada.”

    An online petition against the law has been started by the net neutrality lobby group openmedia.ca.


  11. Online surveillance critics accused of supporting child porn

    CBC News February 13, 2012

    Critics of a bill that would give law enforcement new powers to access Canadians' electronic communications are aligning themselves with child pornographers, Canada's public safety minister says.

    "He can either stand with us or with the child pornographers," Vic Toews said of Liberal public safety critic Francis Scarpaleggia during question period on Monday, after Scarpaleggia asked about a bill expected to be tabled Tuesday.

    The "Act to enact the Investigating and Preventing Criminal Electronic Communications Act and to amend the Criminal Code and other acts" appeared Monday on the parliamentary website that lists bills scheduled to be introduced.

    The bill is expected to contain provisions from previous similar bills that have raised the concerns of privacy watchdogs and consumer advocates. Those "lawful access" provisions would:

    --Require internet service providers to give subscriber data to police and national security agencies without a warrant, including names, unlisted phone numbers and IP addresses.

    --Force internet providers and other makers of technology to provide a "back door" to make communications accessible to police.

    --Allow police to get warrants to obtain information transmitted over the internet and data related to its transmission, including locations of individuals and transactions.

    --Allow courts to compel other parties to preserve electronic evidence.

    Toews, Justice Minister Rob Nicholson and Senator Jean-Guy Dagenais are scheduled to make an announcement at 12:30 p.m. ET Tuesday that will likely be the introduction of the new bill.


  12. Online surveillance bill opens door for Big Brother

    By Terry Milewski, CBC News  February 17, 2012

    "There was of course no way of knowing whether you were being watched at any given moment. How often, or on what system, the Thought Police plugged in on any individual wire was guesswork. It was even conceivable that they watched everybody all the time." - George Orwell, 1984.

    It's often forgotten that, for Orwell, 1984 was far in the future — a distant and imaginary hell. Published 35 years earlier, in 1949, his book conjured up a surveillance state filled with chilling new concepts: "Big Brother," "Thought Police" and "Newspeak."

    Today, 1984 has come and gone but Big Brother is real and present in ways Orwell never imagined. In China, the very names of imprisoned dissidents are banned from the internet. In Saudi Arabia, an unholy tweet can bring you a death sentence.

    Here in Canada, though, freedom reigns. A sign of that may be that the government's new plan for policing cyberspace is in big trouble.

    Within 24 hours of its unsteady launch, the government pledged to send its new legislation straight to committee for amendments — some of which may come from the restive Conservative back benches. The bill is "too intrusive," said New Brunswick Conservative MP John Williamson.

    Conservative voices across the land agreed — to say nothing of NDP and Liberal ones.

    Conservative MPs don't usually grumble about Conservative legislation — especially when one of their front-line cabinet ministers has declared that Canadians must "either stand with us or with the child pornographers."

    That remarkable statement by Public Safety Minister Vic Toews may have much to do with the anger at his bill — but it hardly accounts for all of it. When his critics described the comment variously as "stupid," "insulting" and "disgusting," Toews at first denied having said it — which, of course, led everyone to replay the tape of him saying it.

    But it was not the only comment made by Toews that he may have cause to regret.

    Just as remarkable were the unequivocal statements made by him and by his senior officials that the bill, known as C-30, includes no extension of the state's power to conduct warrantless searches. None at all, said the officials — and the minister agreed.

    "In terms of access, nothing has changed in the law," Toews declared.

    But his bill would, in fact, dramatically change the law to allow the government much, much more access to our online lives and identities.

    To date, much of the commentary has focused on one aspect of this change: the fact that information identifying internet users must be disclosed to the government, upon demand and without a warrant, by internet service providers, or ISPs. Those facts include your name, address, phone number, email address and IP address — the latter being the unique code identifying your computer so that a webpage you click on is sent to you, not someone else.
    In that sense, the bill would definitely change the law on government access, which currently provides for voluntary, not mandatory, disclosure of your identity by ISPs. And, let it be said, the information can be crucial to the police. If an investigator sees a crime on the internet — be it fraud, hate or child pornography — he may be able to get the IP address of the source computer. But that does not reveal whose computer it is. Connecting the number to a name makes all the difference and, under the new law, the officer would be spared the bother of going to a judge and getting a warrant to find that name.

    But, then, there's Section 34. After reading it, you wonder whether it's just pandas we're getting from China.

    Among other things, the bill requires ISPs to install surveillance technology and software to enable monitoring of phone and internet traffic. Section 34 is there to make sure ISPs comply.

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  13. [...]

    So what, exactly, does it say? Essentially, it says that government agents may enter an ISP when they wish, without a warrant, and demand to see absolutely everything — including all data anywhere on the network — and to copy it all. If that seems hard to believe, let's walk through it. First, Section 33 tells us that, "The Minister may designate persons or classes of persons as inspectors for the purposes of the administration and enforcement of this Act." So we're not talking about police officers necessarily. We're talking about anyone the minister chooses — or any class of persons. (Musicians? Left-handed hockey players? Members of the Conservative Party? Sure, that's absurd — but the bill allows it...)

    Next, Section 34 spells out the sweeping powers of these "inspectors." And, if they sound Orwellian, welcome to the world of Section 34. The inspectors may "enter any place owned by, or under the control of, any telecommunications service provider in which the inspector has reasonable grounds to believe there is any document, information, transmission apparatus, telecommunications facility or any other thing to which this Act applies."

    And, once he or she is in, anything goes. The inspector, says the bill, may "examine any document, information or thing found in the place and open or cause to be opened any container or other thing." He or she may also "use, or cause to be used, any computer system in the place to search and examine any information contained in or available to the system." You read that right. The inspector gets to see "any" information that's in or "available to the system." Yours, mine, and everyone else's emails, phone calls, web surfing, shopping, you name it. But, if that sounds breath-taking enough, don't quit now because the section is still not done.

    The inspector — remember, this is anyone the minister chooses — is also empowered to copy anything that strikes his or her fancy. The inspector may "reproduce, or cause to be reproduced, any information in the form of a printout, or other intelligible output, and remove the printout, or other output, for examination or copying." Oh, and he can even use the ISP's own computers and connections to copy it or to email it to himself. He can "use, or cause to be used, any copying equipment or means of telecommunication at the place." In short, there's nothing the inspector cannot see or copy. "Any" information is up for grabs. And you thought the new airport body scanners were intrusive?

    Finally, note that such all-encompassing searches require no warrant, and don't even have to be in the context of a criminal investigation. Ostensibly, the purpose is to ensure that the ISP is complying with the requirements of the act — but nothing in the section restricts the inspector to examining or seizing only information bearing upon that issue. It's still "any" information whatsoever.

    Even before seeing the above details of the bill, many privacy advocates were concerned about its scope. "It does not even mention that there should be a criminal investigation behind the request — it's completely broad," says Chantal Bernier, the federal deputy privacy commissioner. "As the legislation is written now, it could impact any law-abiding Canadian citizen."

    Another expert, Michael Geist of the University of Ottawa, adds that "This legislation is building and mandating the creation of an extensive online surveillance infrastructure within Canada's internet." In the past, the government's critics have often complained that it seems exquisitely sensitive to the privacy concerns of citizens compelled to fill out long census forms, or to register their hunting rifles. Perhaps that line of criticism will now fade. Section 34 gives a resounding answer.


  14. SCOC ruling on wiretapping may undermine Internet surveillance bill: critics


    OTTAWA — The Supreme Court of Canada's landmark ruling that emergency wiretapping without a warrant is unconstitutional — which could pave the way for a new federal law that better safeguards privacy rights — is being used by critics to revive their attacks on the Harper government's controversial Internet surveillance bill.

    "It's a huge blow to the Conservative's Internet snooping bill," NDP justice critic Jack Harris told Postmedia News.

    "I think we can expect that their legislation will face similar challenges if they put it in place. We can go after criminals aggressively without treating ordinary citizens like criminals."

    Bill C-30 would require telecommunications companies to hand over customers' personal information to police without a court order.

    A spokeswoman for Justice Minister Rob Nicholson said the government will be reviewing the court's decision "carefully to determine next steps," but declined to comment further.

    In a unanimous ruling, the country's top court said police have an obligation to "give notice to intercepted parties" in the form of a court-issued warrant; that notice can be issued after the investigation.

    This would "enhance the ability of targeted individuals to identify and challenge invasions to their privacy and seek meaningful remedies," according to the judgment released Friday.

    Until now, police have been able to use wiretaps without a warrant if they believe there is an urgent need in order to prevent an unlawful act that would cause serious harm, and if judicial authorization cannot be quickly obtained.

    The Supreme Court said it would suspend its declaration of the law's invalidity for 12 months "to afford Parliament the time needed to examine and redraft the provision."

    The decision comes after the court dismissed the appeal of a group of B.C. men who were involved in the kidnapping of a convicted drug lord. They had argued that their charter rights were violated by the interception, through police wiretaps, of their private phone calls to Peter Li's daughter when they were holding her father for ransom.

    Li was held and tortured for 25 days in 2006 by six men. They also kidnapped his wife and friend.

    Yat Fung Albert Tse, Nhan Trong Ly, Daniel Luis Soux, Myles Alexander Vandrick and Viet Bac Nguyen were found guilty in 2010 of extortion, kidnapping and unlawful confinement.

    Huong Dac Doan was found guilty of unlawful confinement and extortion but not guilty of kidnapping.

    The men received sentences ranging from 10 to 18 years.

    Liberal public safety critic Francis Scarpaleggia said the decision highlights how "proper safeguards must always be in place and that the government of the day must always bear the burden of justifying invasions of privacy."

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  15. continued from previous comment:

    Prof. Kent Roach, a constitutional law expert at the University of Toronto, called the decision "significant."

    "It's really the first decision that the court said that even in an emergency situation, there has to have some kind of accountability mechanism," he said.

    Roach said the court hinted that Parliament may tweak the emergency wiretapping law to make it mandatory for police to let wiretapping subjects know about the investigation 60 or 90 days after it has concluded.

    "At that point, it would be up to the person whose privacy has been invaded to decide whether he or she wants to take some remedial action, like bringing a lawsuit," he said.

    Natalie Des Rosiers, general counsel of the Canadian Civil Liberties Association, said it's difficult to know how many warrantless search-and-seizures are occurring in Canada.

    "That's the reason why the court intervenes here . . . There's no way the public, the court or the minister could know how often it is being used because there is no obligation to report anywhere about whether it has been used or not," she said.

    Meanwhile, police groups welcomed the ruling but noted some caveats.

    Toronto Police Association president Mike McCormack said the union agrees with the court's suggestion of post-investigation notifications and legislation changes as long as public safety and protection of property are not "outweighed by protecting the rights of a criminal."

    "The whole point of a quick process of an emergency wiretap is to do it quickly and efficiently. Our concern is if they made it too cumbersome, that would cause a delay in an emergency situation which could jeopardize somebody's safety," he said.

    Ron Bain, executive director of the Ontario Association of Chiefs of Police, said the ruling confirmed the need for emergency provisions "to do the kind of work the police need to do."


  16. Big Telecoms Glad to Play Big Brother

    How Canada's telecom companies secretly supported Internet surveillance legislation.

    By Michael Geist, Today, TheTyee.ca May 22, 2012

    Canada's proposed Internet surveillance was back in the news last week after speculation grew that government intends to keep the bill in legislative limbo until it dies on the order paper. Public Safety Minister Vic Toews denied the reports, maintaining that Bill C-30 will still be sent to committee for further study.

    Since its introduction in mid-February, the privacy and law enforcement communities have continued to express their views on the bill, but Canada's telecom service providers, which include the major telecom carriers and Internet service providers, have remained strangely silent. The silence is surprising given the enormous implications of the bill for the privacy of their customers and the possibility of millions of dollars in new surveillance equipment costs, active cooperation with law enforcement, and employee background checks.

    While some attribute the Internet surveillance silence to an attempt to avoid picking sides in the high stakes privacy and security battle, newly obtained documents under the Access to Information Act offer a different, more troubling explanation. In the months leading up to the introduction Bill C-30, Canada's telecom companies worked actively with government officials to identify key issues and to develop a secret Industry-Government Collaborative Forum on Lawful Access.

    The secret working group includes virtually all the major telecom and cable companies, with representatives who have been granted Government of Canada secret level security clearance and signed non-disclosure agreements. The group is led by Bell Canada on the industry side and Public Safety for the government.

    The inaugural meeting, held just three weeks before Bill C-30 was introduced, included invitations to 11 companies (Bell Canada, Cogeco, Eagle, MTS Allstream, Quebecor, RIM, Rogers, Sasktel, Telus, Videotron, and Wind Mobile) along with two industry associations (Canadian Wireless Telecommunications Association and the Canadian Network Operators Consortium).

    The secret working group is designed to create an open channel for discussion between telecom providers and government. As the uproar over Bill C-30 was generating front-page news across the country, Bell reached out to government to indicate that "it was working its way through C-30 with great interest" and expressed desire for a meeting to discuss disclosure of subscriber information. A few weeks later, it sent another request seeking details on equipment obligations to assist in its costing exercises.

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  17. continued from previous comment:

    Months before the Jan. 2012 meeting, officials worked with the telecom companies to identify many concerns and provide guidance on the government's intent on Internet surveillance regulations, information that has never been publicly released.

    For example, a Dec. 2011 draft lawful access issues list features dozens of issues including questions about surveillance of social networks, cloud computing facilities, and wifi networks. The telecom companies raise many questions about compensation, such as "a formula for adequate compensation" for the disclosure of subscriber information as well as payment for testing surveillance capabilities and providing surveillance assistance.

    At a Sept. 2011 meeting that included Bell Canada, Cogeco, RIM, Telus, Rogers, Microsoft, and the Information Technology Association of Canada, government officials provided a lawful access regulations policy document that offered guidance on plans for extensive regulations that will ultimately accompany the Internet surveillance legislation.

    The 17-page document indicates that providers will be required to disclose certain subscriber information without a warrant within 48 hours and within 30 minutes in exceptional circumstances. Interceptions of communications may also need to be established within 30 minutes of request with capabilities that include simultaneous interceptions for five law enforcement agencies.

    The close cooperation between the government and telecom providers has created a two-tier approach to Internet surveillance policy, granting privileged access and information for telecom providers. Meanwhile, privacy and civil society groups, opposition MPs, and millions of interested Canadians are kept in the dark about the full extent of the government's plans. The public has already indicated its opposition to the bill. The secrecy and backroom industry talks associated with Bill C-30 provides yet another reason to hit the reset button.


  18. Why are we eliminating the CSIS watchers?

    By Brian Stewart, special to CBC News May 31, 2012

    For over 30 years our domestic intelligence agency has been haunted by the memory of a massive scandal that revealed how Canada's government had lost control of its own spies.

    In the late 1970s, the problems that beset the RCMP Security Service — illegal break-ins and wiretaps, intimidation of suspects, damage to property, political interference and lying to cabinet ministers — were seen as Canada's Watergate.

    They shook the faith of Canadians in our security service and in the protection of civil rights, and contributed to the fall of the Trudeau government in 1979.

    Today we should reflect on just how bad this was, for it reminds us of the critical need for government to ensure that our spies never run amok again.

    In the early 1980s, after a damning report by the McDonald Commission into the RCMP, Parliament took two critical "never again" intelligence reforms.

    First, the national police were stripped of the responsibility for domestic security and a civilian Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS) was created with firm orders to obey the law.

    Second, an independent inspector general for CSIS was established, with enough clout to monitor secret operations and so ensure that cabinet does not get blindsided again by unlawful intelligence gathering.

    The inspector general has unique access to inspect CSIS operations so that — let's be absolutely clear here — he or she can protect the federal government from any possible misadventures.

    This has been so sensible a safeguard for government, for our democracy and, ultimately, for CSIS itself that it is hard to believe Ottawa ever did without such a watchdog. So why does it want to do that now?

    Enter our often surprising Minister for Public Safety Vic Toews, the person the IG reports directly to.

    Toews recently decided that Canada has no further need of an independent inspector general and is scrapping the tiny office to save a mere $1 million — an amount so small it lay unnoticed for the longest time inside the government's massive 420-pages budget implementation bill.

    It is a move that has totally baffled those who follow these things closely.

    "The government has been entrusted with a valuable tool to ensure the integrity of its intelligence agency, and it is throwing that tool away for reasons no one can understand," wrote Liberal Senator Colin Kenny, who has a unique perspective. (He was a top aide to Pierre Trudeau when the RCMP Security Service was found to be out of control, and has long been an advocate for greater accountability.)

    Adds University of Toronto's Wesley Wark, one of Canada leading security experts: "The inspector general's office was meant to resolve a dilemma for all cabinet ministers charged with responsibility for CSIS — that dilemma being that they could neither afford to be too involved in the operational activities, nor kept too much in the dark."

    Indeed, when you consider that only two years ago Toews himself was extolling the inspector general's vital function — "that ensures that CSIS is operating within the law and complying with current policies" — you have to wonder if this move is only about saving money.

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  19. continued from previous comment:

    The first thing to consider here is that CSIS has grown substantially, by 50 per cent since 2001, and today has about 3,100 employees and spends almost $350 million a year.

    Yet now, to save just $1 million, the government is erasing its most critical oversight mechanism.

    Toews argues that the IG office is not being eliminated per se, it is merely being folded into another body that also watches CSIS — the Security Intelligence Review Committee (SIRC), which reports to Parliament, not the minister.

    The problem here, though, as everyone in Ottawa knows, is that SIRC, to be blunt, has become about as toothless an agency watchdog as you can find.

    It is composed of civilian appointees, often very intelligent people, but with nothing like the oversight powers or professional expertise of the IG's office and its eight staff.

    These are critical considerations when dealing with the closed-off world of intelligence. You have to know where the files are and what questions to ask.

    SIRC's job has mainly been to answer civilian complaints, and its annual reports to Parliament rarely cause a ripple of interest.

    Perhaps the surest indication of how little the government cares about SIRC is that its last chairman, Arthur Porter, resigned last November under a cloud after media stories about his overseas business interests, yet Prime Minister Stephen Harper still hasn't bothered to appoint a successor.

    Shoving the hollow remains of the inspector general's office into SIRC will effectively end its relevant existence. It also means that another independent voice of warning and periodic criticism in Ottawa will have been snuffed out by a government that does not appear to take institutional criticism kindly.

    Paul Kennedy, the former head of the RCMP Public Complaints Commission who was dumped by the government in 2009, says this is a trend we should all be familiar with by now.

    This latest move is particularly concerning to some spy-watchers because the former inspector general, Eva Plunkett, who retired in December, raised some disturbing concerns about CSIS in her frank annual reports.

    Most alarmingly, she warned in her final 2012 report of the "reoccurring and high rate of non-compliance with policy, and the ever increasing rate of errors in what is a relatively small review sample" — something, she said, that "should be a serious concern of the service."

    We don't know exactly what those errors were — but they apparently showed up in CSIS's own reports about its operations.

    Much of Plunkett's reporting to the minister remains secret, but Canadian Press obtained sections of one report that observed "at least 19 instances of CSIS failure to comply with its own policies."

    One would think that such troubling conclusions from an experienced official like Plunkett, a civil servant with almost 30 years experience in this field, would unnerve a government enough that it would want an even tougher, expanded inspector general's office. Instead, it seems simply to want to eliminate the bearer of bad tidings.

    I'm not sure that any of us who follow these things have a sense of what really might be behind this move.

    Perhaps the government thinks CSIS needs a freer hand without nagging criticism from savvy overseers? Or maybe it is a case of ministers preferring not to be too well-informed, and thus responsible, if secret things start to go wrong.

    I'll just add, as someone who was heavily involved covering the original RCMP scandals all those years ago, that I sure hope it's not the latter. That's how that whole mess came about.


  20. The Internet, Human Rights, and U.S. Foreign Policy: The Global Online Freedom Act of 2012

    by David P. Fidler, American Society of International Law May 24, 2012

    On March 27, 2012, the Subcommittee on Africa, Global Health, and Human Rights of the U.S. House of Representatives approved the Global Online Freedom Act of 2012 (“GOFA”).[1] This proposed legislation seeks to prevent U.S. businesses from cooperating with governments that use the Internet for censorship and repression, to strengthen U.S. promotion of freedom of expression on the Internet, and to improve corporate responsibility concerning human rights and the Internet.[2] GOFA represents a development in the prominent controversy concerning human rights in cyberspace. This Insight describes the context in which GOFA arose in Congress, the content of the proposed bill, and implications of this congressional activity for the relationships between the Internet, human rights, and U.S. foreign policy.

    Internet Freedom as a Global Human Rights Issue

    The Internet’s emergence as a global communications technology has intersected with efforts to promote and protect many human rights. The Internet’s importance to human rights is such that some experts have debated whether access to the Internet itself represents a human right.[3] An important aspect of this debate has involved the Internet’s growing significance in the enjoyment of the freedoms of opinion, expression, and association protected by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, and regional human rights treaties.[4] Controversies involving governments restricting Internet access, censoring Internet content, using information obtained from Internet communications to intimidate and punish individuals, and engaging in cyber attacks against Web sites and email accounts of political opponents have raised the Internet’s global human rights profile.

    In response, many governments, international organizations, and non-governmental organizations (“NGOs”) have increased their attention on “Internet freedom”—the freedom to access and use the Internet as a means of exercising the freedoms of opinion, expression, and association. In 2011, the Obama administration heightened the importance of Internet freedom in U.S. foreign policy.[5] The Group of Eight’s 2011 Declaration on Renewed Commitment for Freedom and Democracy highlighted the Internet’s importance for “political liberty and emancipation[.]”[6] The UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Freedom of Opinion and Expression asserted in 2011 that the Internet has “become a key means by which individuals can exercise their right to freedom of opinion and expression[.]”[7] Various NGOs have documented governmental efforts to turn the Internet into a tool of political repression, including Freedom House’s 2011 assessment of Internet freedom in thirty-seven countries around the world.[8]

    The Global Online Freedom Act

    a. Background ...

    read the rest of this article at:


  21. Stop the Trap: OpenMedia's campaign to oppose the Trans Pacific Partnership

    BY OPENMEDIA.CA | JUNE 28, 2012


    Imagine a world where you could be dragged to court and receive a large fine for simply clicking on the wrong link, where service providers would hand over information about your online activities without privacy safeguards, and where online content could be removed by big media conglomerates at will.

    This scenario could become a reality before we know it. In just a few days, a group of 600 lobbyist “advisors” and un-elected trade representatives are scheming behind closed doors to decide how the Internet will be governed, including whether you could get fined for your Internet use. Instead of debating this openly, they’re meeting secretly to craft an Internet trap through an international agreement called the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). Our government just signed Canada onto this arrangement, without our consent.

    In short, it appears that it will be big-media lobbyists -- not citizens -- who get to decide whether Canadians will be fined as suspected copyright criminals. Please help us raise a loud call before it’s too late. Visit: http://stopthetrap.net

    We know from leaked documents that industry lobbyists intend to blanket these new restrictions and laws around the world, without us having any say in the matter. How can they do this?

    Instead of an open, public process, they’ll use international tribunals to go around domestic judicial systems. And once the trap is set, there’s no going back. That's why OpenMedia.ca and SumOfUs are launching this campaign today.

    Here are the details -- the TPP’s Internet trap would:

    Criminalize some of your everyday use of the Internet,

    Force service providers to collect and hand over your private data without privacy safeguards, and

    Give media conglomerates more power to fine you for Internet use, remove online content -- including entire websites -- and even terminate your access to the Internet.

    The TPP is secretive, it’s extreme, and it will criminalize your daily use of the Internet.

    Don’t let Big Media lobbyists lure you into this Internet trap. Speak out now.

    We deserve to know what will be blocked, and what we and our families will be fined for. If enough of us speak out now, we can prevent the Canadian government from slow-walking us into an Internet trap. Make your voice heard today.

    Sign the petition at: http://stopthetrap.net/

  22. Trans-Pacific Partnership: Under Cover of Darkness, a Corporate Coup Is Underway

    By Lori Wallach, AlterNet June 29, 2012

    Have you heard about the small U.S. government agency engaged in years of closed-door negotiations that could undermine the Obama administration’s declared goals of creating jobs, reregulating the financial sector and lowering healthcare costs?

    With the direct participation of 600 corporations and shocking levels of secrecy, the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) is rushing to complete the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). Branded as a trade agreement (yawn) by its corporate proponents, TPP largely has evaded public and congressional scrutiny since negotiations were launched in 2008 by the George W. Bush administration.

    But trade is the least of it. Only two of TPP’s 26 chapters actually have to do with trade. The rest is about new enforceable corporate rights and privileges and constraints on government regulation. This includes new extensions of price-raising drug patent monopolies, corporate rights to attack government drug formulary pricing plans, safeguards to facilitate job offshoring and new corporate controls over natural resources.

    Also included are severe limits on government regulation of financial services, zoning and land use, product and food safety, energy and other essential services, tobacco, and more. The copyright chapter poses many of the threats to Internet freedom of the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA), which was stalled in Congress under intense public pressure.

    The proposed pact is so invasive of domestic policy space that it would even limit how governments can spend tax dollars. Buy America and other Buy Local procurement preferences used to reinvest our tax dollars in the American economy would be banned and sweat-free, human rights or environmental conditions on government contracts would be subject to challenge in closed-door foreign tribunals.

    Indeed, signatory countries would be obliged to conform all their domestic laws and regulations to TPP’s rules, effecting a quiet corporate coup d’√©tat. And, regardless of election outcomes or changes in public opinion, these extreme rules could not be altered without the consent of all signatory countries. Failure to conform to these rules would subject countries to indefinite trade sanctions.

    A recent leak of one of TPP’s most controversial chapters reveals that the pact would elevate individual corporations and investors to equal status with sovereign nations to privately enforce this treaty. U.S. negotiators are among the greatest champions of this “investor state” enforcement system. It would give any foreign firm incorporated in any TPP country new rights to skirt U.S. courts and laws, directly sue the U.S. government before foreign tribunals and demand compensation for financial, health, environmental, land use and other laws they claim undermine their TPP privileges.

    After Obama’s election, U.S. trade officials were instructed to withdraw from the TPP negotiations Bush had launched – supposedly to sort out a new approach that implemented candidate Obama’s campaign commitments to fix the damaging old NAFTA model. But after a kabuki dance of ears-closed check-the-box “consultations” with a minimal number of congressional representatives and civil society groups, Obama’s trade officials picked up where Bush left off. Actually, they doubled down -- pushing even more extreme positions than the Bush administration on issues like Internet freedom and access to medicines.

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  23. continued from previous comment:

    Now a thirteenth round of TPP negotiations involving the Obama administration will occur next week in San Diego. There negotiators from the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative will meet behind closed doors with their counterparts from eight Asian and Latin American countries. What’s on the table is a 1 percenters’ dream – a corporate power tool of unprecedented scope and might. Think NAFTA on steroids with the whole world.

    How could something so extreme get so far? Because the entire process has occurred under conditions of unprecedented secrecy. And, the goal is to sign a final deal before the election.

    Why the rush? It's because these sorts of corporate-power-grabs via “trade” agreements do not fare well in the sunshine. Last month, U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk defended the extreme secrecy of TPP negotiations by noting that when the draft of a major regional trade pact was released previously, it became impossible to finish the deal as then proposed.

    Yes, in a moment of candor, the top U.S. trade official admitted that TPP must be kept secret because otherwise they won’t be able to shove this deal past the public and Congress.

    We’re talking about truly unprecedented secrecy. Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore) is the chair of the Senate committee with official jurisdiction over TPP and he always supports these sorts of agreements – and yet USTR has denied him access even to the U.S. proposals for the talks.

    If all of this were not sufficiently dire, TPP may well be the last trade agreement that the U.S. negotiates. Getting these rules right is essential, because TPP, if completed, would have a new feature relative to past U.S. trade pacts: It would remain open for any other country to join later. Last month, USTR Kirk said that he "would love nothing more" than to have China join TPP.

    The TPP offered an opportunity to develop a new model of trade agreement that could deliver the benefits of expanded trade without unduly undermining signatory nations’ domestic policies or establishing special privileges for foreign corporations. Candidate Obama and countless members of Congress campaigned on replacing the damaging NAFTA trade pact model.

    Instead, Obama’s USTR has doubled down. Does the president or even the White House political shop know the real story about the politics of TPP? (Majorities of Democrats, GOP and Independents oppose these sorts of agreements, polling consistently shows.) If they do, do they assume that we do not?

    Either way, there’s only one way forward. We must force their attention to TPP and make President Obama decide whose side he is on. Either he can let his negotiators finish this TPP in secrecy and slam the 99 percent. Or, he can stand with us, release the current texts and order his staff to start over with large doses of congressional and public guidance to develop a new deal that benefits the majority.

    On this week's AlterNet Radio Hour, Joshua Holland spoke with Lori Wallace about the Trans-Pacific Partnership and the larger mythology of "free trade." You can listen to their discussion at the following link:


  24. NYPD Unveils Crime- And Terror-Fighting Domain Awareness System

    Mayor: State-Of-The-Art Venture With Microsoft Puts Police 'In The Next Century'

    CBS August 8, 2012

    A dramatic new way to track criminals and potential terrorists was unveiled Wednesday by Mayor Michael Bloomberg and NYPD Commissioner Ray Kelly.

    It melds cameras, computers and data bases capable of nabbing bad guys before they even know they’re under suspicion.

    If a suspicious package is left at a location by a terrorist the NYPD will now be able to instantly tap into video feeds to look back in time to see who left it there, and that’s just one of the many things the NYPD’s new high-tech “Domain Awareness System” can do, CBS 2′s Marcia Kramer reported

    “We are not your mom and pop police department anymore. We are in the next century. We are leading the pack,” Bloomberg said.

    The new crime-fighting apparatus was built by the NYPD and Microsoft, developed by police officers for police officers. Officials said it represents a sea change for the NYPD.

    “When I came back to the Police Department in 2002 I found that the Department was still a very big user of white out and carbon paper,” Kelly said. “The technical revolution had bypassed the Police Department.”

    The system uses 3,000 cameras positioned in Lower Manhattan south of Canal Street, river to river, and between 30th and 60th streets, river to river. It links up to license plate readers, 911 calls and other NYPD data records.

    It will enable investigators to do things like:

    * Identify whether a radiation alarm was set off by actual radiation, a weapon, or a harmless medical isotope

    * Track where a suspect’s car is located, and where it has been in the past few days, weeks or months

    * Instantly see a suspect’s arrest record, and 911 calls related to the crime

    “It’s a tool that meets the needs of the Department, one that will help protect New Yorkers and keep us safe from crime and terrorism for years to come,” Kelly told reporters, including WCBS 880’s Marla Diamond. “[The system will help] to generate and refine leads, to identify patterns, and to optimally deploy manpower.”

    “The bad guys have everything that we do, too. And if you really want to worry about security and freedoms, that’s the first thing,” Bloomberg added.

    Because the system was co-developed by the city the NYPD will get 30 percent of the revenue that comes from selling it to other localities.

    The system also has mapping features that allow cops to develop crime patterns in a particular neighborhood or borough.


  25. WIKILEAKS: Surveillance Cameras Around The Country Are Being Used In A Huge Spy Network

    David Seaman, David Seaman Online Business Insider August 10, 2012

    The U.S. cable networks won't be covering this one tonight (not accurately, anyway), but Trapwire is making the rounds on social media today—it reportedly became a Trending hashtag on Twitter earlier in the day.

    Trapwire is the name of a program revealed in the latest Wikileaks bonanza—it is the mother of all leaks, by the way. Trapwire would make something like disclosure of UFO contact or imminent failure of a major U.S. bank fairly boring news by comparison.

    And someone out there seems to be quite disappointed that word is getting out so swiftly; the Wikileaks web site is reportedly sustaining 10GB worth of DDoS attacks each second, which is massive.

    Anyway, here's what Trapwire is, according to Russian-state owned media network RT (apologies for citing "foreign media"... if we had a free press, I'd be citing something published here by an American media conglomerate): "Former senior intelligence officials have created a detailed surveillance system more accurate than modern facial recognition technology—and have installed it across the U.S. under the radar of most Americans, according to emails hacked by Anonymous.

    Every few seconds, data picked up at surveillance points in major cities and landmarks across the United States are recorded digitally on the spot, then encrypted and instantaneously delivered to a fortified central database center at an undisclosed location to be aggregated with other intelligence.

    It’s part of a program called TrapWire and it's the brainchild of the Abraxas, a Northern Virginia company staffed with elite from America’s intelligence community.

    The employee roster at Arbaxas reads like a who’s who of agents once with the Pentagon, CIA and other government entities according to their public LinkedIn profiles, and the corporation's ties are assumed to go deeper than even documented. The details on Abraxas and, to an even greater extent TrapWire, are scarce, however, and not without reason. For a program touted as a tool to thwart terrorism and monitor activity meant to be under wraps, its understandable that Abraxas would want the program’s public presence to be relatively limited.

    But thanks to last year’s hack of the Strategic Forecasting intelligence agency, or Stratfor, all of that is quickly changing."

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  26. continued from the previous comment:

    So: those spooky new "circular" dark globe cameras installed in your neighborhood park, town, or city—they aren't just passively monitoring. They're plugged into Trapwire and they are potentially monitoring every single person via facial recognition.

    In related news, the Obama administration is fighting in federal court this week for the ability to imprison American citizens under NDAA's indefinite detention provisions—and anyone else—without charge or trial, on suspicion alone.

    So we have a widespread network of surveillance cameras across America monitoring us and reporting suspicious activity back to a centralized analysis center, mixed in with the ability to imprison people via military force on the basis of suspicious activity alone. I don't see how that could possibly go wrong. Nope, not at all. We all know the government, and algorithmic computer programs, never make mistakes.

    Here's what is also so disturbing about this whole NDAA business, according to Tangerine Bolen's piece in the Guardian: "This past week's hearing was even more terrifying. Government attorneys again, in this hearing, presented no evidence to support their position and brought forth no witnesses. Most incredibly, Obama's attorneys refused to assure the court, when questioned, that the NDAA's section 1021 – the provision that permits reporters and others who have not committed crimes to be detained without trial – has not been applied by the U.S. government anywhere in the world after Judge Forrest's injunction. In other words, they were telling a U.S. federal judge that they could not, or would not, state whether Obama's government had complied with the legal injunction that she had laid down before them. To this, Judge Forrest responded that if the provision had indeed been applied, the United States government would be in contempt of court."

    If none of this bothers you, please don't follow me on Twitter, because nothing I report on will be of interest to you. Go back to watching the television news network of your choice, where you will hear about Romney's latest campaign ads, and whether Obamacare will increase the cost of delivery pizza by 14 to 16 cents.

    To view the links embedded in this article go to:


  27. Is Your Car Being Tracked by a License Plate Scanner?

    The government can now track your movements when you drive and, over time, put together a profile of how you lead your life

    By ADAM COHEN |TIME | August 13, 2012

    If you drive through Maryland, the state may be using an automated reader to photograph your license plate — and storing your movements away for future use. Maryland is not alone. ACLU offices in 38 states are looking into how the government is using license plate readers across the country — and what it is doing with the data. The ACLU is already calling the license plate readers “the next big thing in government tracking.”

    There are some uses of automatic license plate readers that most people would agree are relatively unobjectionable — looking for cars that fled crime scenes or have been stolen, for example. The real problem is that when the government stores that information, it is not trying to solve an ongoing crime — it is building a database. These databases can quickly fill up with all sorts of details about how people lead their lives. By piecing together the locations of a particular license plate over time, the government may be able to determine if someone goes to church, synagogue, or mosque regularly; whether they go to meetings of a particular political group; and whether they participate in protests, or even if they are having an affair.

    It’s hard to know how widespread the technology is, but to give one example, Los Angeles county alone is using hundreds of license plate readers. According to LAWeekly, which got its numbers in part through public records requests, Los Angeles police have recorded more than 160 million data points about the movements of millions of drivers.

    It would be troubling enough if the license plate data stayed instate, but it doesn’t. Maryland, for example, shares its records with a “fusion center” — an anti-terrorism office that is run jointly by federal, state and local governments. That means that the federal government can combine data from different states and track people’s movements across the entire country.

    The federal government is also using license plate readers. The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, which has been trying to get permission to use the readers in Utah, stated publicly that it is already operating scanners along drug trafficking corridors in Texas and California. The federal government is also making money available to states to acquire license plate readers. The ACLU of Massachusetts has filed a federal Freedom of Information Act request to learn more about how the federal government is using and funding license plate readers.

    But are scanners a violation of privacy? There used to be general agreement that activities like driving, which occur on public streets, are not private — and that people have no right to complain when their movements are being tracked. But the rise of highly invasive technology and databases is changing that. As one federal appeals court put it in an influential ruling involving the police planting GPS devices on people’s cars, these high-tech instruments allow the government to put together a “mosaic” of how people live their lives — a massive privacy violation.

    Bottom line: License plate reading should not be done in secret. The public has a right to know what kind of monitoring the government is doing, and there should be a public discussion of the appropriate tradeoffs between law enforcement and privacy rights. If the ACLU offices get the information they want about how the federal and state governments are using license plate readers, that discussion can begin.


  28. Axing CSIS watchdog huge loss for Canadians, says former inspector general

    By Jim Bronskill, Canadian Press
    The Tyee August 9, 2012

    OTTAWA - The Conservative government's decision to abolish the CSIS inspector general's office is a "huge loss" to the important task of keeping an eye on Canada's spy service, says the woman who held the job for the last eight years.

    Eva Plunkett retired last December and the Conservative government subsequently scrapped her watchdog role, saying it would save money and eliminate duplication.

    She had a staff of eight and a budget of about $1 million.

    The government says the Security Intelligence Review Committee — a panel of federal appointees — will take over the inspector general's functions.

    In her first public comments on the matter, Plunkett said it is "ridiculous" to think the review committee, known as SIRC, could do the same job of probing the Canadian Security Intelligence Service that her office did.

    "They don't do the same kind of work at all," she said in an interview. "They don't go into the same depth, the same detail. And they're basically part-time people."

    The two watchdogs were different bodies with distinct roles, Plunkett said — the same message she delivered to federal officials last fall when they first approached her with the idea of merging the two organizations.

    As inspector general, Plunkett, 60, served as the public safety minister's eyes and ears on the intelligence service — a sort of early warning system to point out brewing problems.

    The review committee, as the name suggests, carries out studies of CSIS activities and looks into complaints, issuing public findings in an annual report.

    "SIRC is a public forum for people to complain. It's also a forum to make the public aware of problems," Plunkett said.

    "The IG's office was, get in there and identify the problems and point them out to the minister and say, 'You have to fix this before it becomes an issue for the public.'

    "There's no minister that's going to be able to know everything about everything. And I can guarantee you that no director (of CSIS) will point out the flaws."

    Plunkett, who's enjoying retirement in the countryside with her horses, says she's not bitter about her office's demise. "I feel bad for Canada. And I feel kind of bad for the minister, because I think it was poor advice to suggest to him that this wasn't worth having."

    She noted that SIRC, while served by an executive director and staff, is composed of appointees who work part-time and meet in Ottawa only periodically.

    She suggested that's no substitute for taking on the task full-time, as she did, meeting with CSIS officials regularly at the agency's headquarters.

    "It takes you at least a year in the job to learn the right questions to even ask the service," Plunkett said.

    "(The SIRC members are) all very qualified, intelligent people in their own field, but it does to take a while to understand the environment."

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  29. continued from previous comment:

    Plunkett denies there was duplication in the work of the two watchdogs.

    "We co-ordinated. We gave SIRC every year a copy of our work plan," she said. "So they knew exactly what we were doing. Because there were so limited resources in either shop, it would be just stupid not to share."

    The inspector general's key function was to produce an annual certificate stating whether CSIS had strayed outside the law, contravened ministerial direction or exercised its powers unreasonably.

    In her final certificate, Plunkett found CSIS continued to flout policy and made a serious number of reporting errors. She warned that CSIS's reputation and effectiveness would suffer if the problems weren't addressed.

    The review committee will receive the equivalent of two extra staff positions to help it assume the job of preparing the annual certificate, said SIRC spokesman Adam Green. One is likely to be a former member of Plunkett's staff.

    Green defended the quality and depth of the review committee's work, suggesting it was comparable in style if not content to that of the inspector general. "From what I've seen, SIRC already does a lot of what the IG was doing."

    Plunkett doubts SIRC will fill the void left by her office.

    "If they staffed up with the proper kind of people and they had the will and a full-time chair, possibly they could do it, sure," she said. "But not the way they currently function."

    Plunkett acknowledged most Canadians had little or no idea what her office did, but said those who understood the role "should feel a huge loss and should be concerned."

    She said she takes pride in having served as inspector general — and makes no apologies for being something of a thorn in the side of CSIS director Dick Fadden.

    "I'm sure Dick Fadden went home and thanked the Lord that I was gone."

    She predicted that some day, there will be a scandal that ignites a call for more scrutiny of CSIS.

    "The people who work at the service are all really hardworking, dedicated people," Plunkett said.

    "But they're people, and people make mistakes."


  30. Privacy watchdog probes automated licence plate scanning

    The Canadian Press | CBC July 30, 2012

    B.C.'s privacy commissioner has launched an investigation into whether police are complying with privacy laws when they use cameras mounted on patrol cars to scan passing vehicle licence plates, and collect the plate numbers in a database.

    Privacy commissioner Elizabeth Denham says the so-called automated licence plate recognition program (ALPR) extracts plate numbers from the photos, and matches them against a list of licence plate numbers associated with people who are of interest to police.

    The program instantly notifies police when there is a match in any of several databases, including stolen vehicle information in the Canadian Police Information Centre, expired licences in ICBC's registry, and outstanding warrants in the PRIME-BC police database.
    Denham says members of the public have raised concerns about the use of the technology and its implications on people's privacy.

    She says the investigation will focus on the use of the program by the Victoria Police Department, but a report expected to be published later this summer will provide guidance to all B.C. law enforcement agencies that use it.

    The privacy commissioner will also conduct a second investigation in August into whether public bodies are complying with regulations when they disclose public-interest information, such as environmental harms or risks to health and safety.

    That investigation was prompted in part by the Cowichan Valley Regional District withholding information about contaminated groundwater near Cobble Hill.


    External Links

    Office of the Information and Privacy Commissioner press release:


    Canadian Police Information Centre (CPIC):


  31. Trapwire is watching you in Ottawa

    by Jesse Brown, Maclean's August 15, 2012

    Have you heard of Trapwire? It’s a formerly obscure counter-terrorist surveillance network, created by a company run by ex-CIA agents, that links together thousands of ordinary, privately owned security cameras, digitally analyzing the footage they generate and delivering it to various police departments and branches of the U.S. federal government. It’s been making headlines in the U.S. since Wikileaks exposed its existence, and online chatter has been obsessively focused on it ever since. There’s been endless analysis, opinion, misinformation and clarification (here’s a credible run-down of the story so far). Everyone from NBC to Anonymous is talking about it, but the Canadian media has yet to take notice. Which is surprising, since Trapwire is apparently live in Ottawa.

    Wikileaks has leaked emails from private security firm Stratfor, who market Trapwire. One of them, written by Stratfor vice president Fred Burton, says:

    “Trapwire is in place at every HVT in NYC, DC, London, Ottawa and LA.”

    In U.S. Military parlance, an HVT is a “high-value target,” like a federal government building, a military structure or a travel hub. Ottawa has lots of those, and apparently they all house cameras that are spying on Canadians and feeding the footage to Trapwire.

    Trapwire’s menace has been overhyped. It does not collect facial recognition data, as has been rumoured. Neither does it allow authorities to track individuals as they move from camera site to camera site. These myths have been debunked, as journalists and security analysts learn more about what the Trapwire network does in fact do. The language around that is pretty fuzzy. Trapwire claims to “detect patterns of behavior indicative of pre-operational planning.” What does this mean? Does Trapwire watch for individuals who visit and stake out several possible targets? How can it tell them apart from sight-seeing tourists? What exactly indicates “pre-operational planning”? Have there been enough terrorist operations to provide a viable dataset on which Trapwire can base its scrutiny? The mechanics and effectiveness of the system is very much in doubt.

    Regardless of whether or not Trapwire works, it’s still a cause for concern. By piggybacking on privately owned cameras and linking them to government authorities, Trapwire circumvents privacy laws and law enforcement protocols. Annalee Newitz at Gawker’s i09 blog argues persuasively that the whole thingprobably violates U.S. Constitutional law. Noah Scachtman at Wired documents the sleazy dealings between Trapwire and Stratfor as they colluded to sell expensive licenses (starting at $20,000) to government agencies and private clients.

    Add to this the one crucial question for us Canadians. If Trapwire’s activity does indeed extend to Ottawa, who’s on the receiving end of the data flow? Is it our government or is Homeland Security spying on Canadians as well?

    To view the links embedded in this article go to:


  32. Privacy complaints skyrocket by 39 per cent


    OTTAWA -- An RCMP and House of Commons security proposal to more than double the number of video cameras on Parliament Hill, without warning the public it's being watched, alarms the privacy commissioner, who says it's an ironic symbol of how pervasive government surveillance is becoming.

    The plan, part of a massive security overhaul, combined with the Harper government's hotly debated Internet surveillance legislation contributes to a growing sense of unease among Canadians, Jennifer Stoddart said Thursday.

    The privacy commissioner's office saw a spike in complaints and an increase in data breaches at federal departments and institutions last year, according to Stoddart's annual report.

    She said she's skeptical about the massive use of video surveillance, but her report underscores not only privacy but democratic concerns.

    "We were concerned about the scope of the project and its potential impact on the privacy rights of parliamentarians, parliamentary staff, guests and visitors to Parliament Hill, and of those engaging in peaceful protests and assemblies," said the report.

    "According to the preliminary (privacy impact assessment) a deliberate decision was made to not post signs notifying inpiduals of video surveillance on Parliament Hill."

    There are already 50 cameras operating on the roofs of the Parliament Buildings, but security officials are proposing to install an additional 134 video cameras over the next three years and to monitor them on 24/7 basis.

    "Any of these massive surveillance programs are a real infringement on citizens' rights and have not necessarily proven their worth," Stoddart said in an interview.

    "There have been quite egregious misuses of video surveillance cameras in public places."

    She pointed to Quebec police, who were caught focusing the cameras outside the National Assembly on nearby hotel windows.

    The RCMP was not immediately available to comment.

    Stoddart renewed her criticism of Bill C-30, the Internet surveillance bill, which caused a firestorm of criticism in the House of Commons and across the country.

    The bill is still in legislative limbo with justice officials reconsidering retooling it, but the privacy commissioner says it needs to be either completely "re-tailored" or scrapped.

    "It needs an oversight and reporting mechanism minimally, (and) it needs a clear justification as to why this is the only way to go," she said.

    The commissioner's office accepted 986 complaints in 2011-12, an increase of 39 per cent from the previous year, most of them directed at Corrections Canada, National Defence, the RCMP and Veterans Affairs.

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  33. continued from previous comment...

    In addition to her annual report, Stoddart tabled a separate privacy audit of Veterans Affairs, whose officials were caught in 2010 rifling through the medical files of an outspoken veterans advocate and stitching the private information into briefing notes.

    The audit suggests the department has mostly cleaned up its act, but a survey of 88 briefing notes prepared after the Harper government said it tightened the use of "need-to-know" information found two of them "contained information that extended beyond what was strictly required."

    Stoddart made a series of recommendations for improvement, all of which were accepted by Veteran Affairs Minister Steven Blaney.

    "Our government recognizes that building and maintaining a strong culture of privacy demands ongoing vigilance," Blaney said in a statement.

    "We are pursuing the highest standards in privacy protection so that all veterans can be confident their personal information is safe and their rights are being fully respected."

    But the man at the centre of the privacy scandal said he was disappointed by Stoddart's audit. Sean Bruyea said it was too narrow in scope and focused too heavily on the bureaucratic process, rather than on the political motives at the heart of his case.

    "There's nothing in her findings today that will prevent senior managers from doing what they did in my case," he said. "It overlooks the many risks, which includes the main risk; anyone that chooses to attack someone politically is not prevented from doing so."

    Stoddart's review should have looked at the penalties veterans affairs dishes out to those who mishandle information and whether they're appropriate, he said.

    The commissioner also took aim at Canada Revenue Agency, singling it out for a special audit following reports over the last few years of privacy breaches involving employees inappropriately accessing taxpayer information.


  34. Police Departments Won't Say if They Use Cellphone ID Tech

    Device that pegs your phone in a crowd reflects a 'massive invasion of privacy' says BC civil liberties director.

    By Andrew MacLeod, October 30, 2012

    Police in three major Canadian departments have declined to confirm whether they have the technology to identify people in a crowd based on the unique identifiers on their cellphones.

    "It reflects a massive invasion of privacy," said David Eby, the executive director of the B.C. Civil Liberties Association, speaking about the technology which can be used to capture the International Mobile Subscriber Identity or International Mobile Equipment Identity on cellphones and other devices.

    Eby said the BCCLA became interested in whether the technology was being used here after reading about it in a British newspaper article.

    During a presentation to a B.C. legislature committee last week, on a day when some 3,000 people gathered on the lawn to protest Enbridge's Northern Gateway pipeline proposal, he described the IMSI or IMEI catcher as "a suitcase-sized device that can capture the identifying signature of cellphone devices that acts as basically a portable cellphone tower that allows the identification of people in rallies or at meetings."

    Paired with the federal government's lawful access bill as earlier proposed, the technology would allow such access without a warrant, he said.

    Vancouver Police Chief Jim Chu, by the way, this week announced he strongly supports the controversial bill, saying the police are handcuffed by current laws.

    Police refuse to answer

    Eby submitted information requests to the Vancouver Police Department, the RCMP's 'E' Division in Vancouver and the Ontario Provincial Police, noting that in recent years each has listed purchases from Dyplex Communications Ltd., the Canadian distributor of the equipment made by Datong plc.

    None of the departments would confirm or deny whether they had or were using the technology.

    "I am writing to inform you that we do not disclose electronic surveillance techniques or equipment on the primary grounds of concern for officer safety and the integrity of current or future investigations," wrote the RCMP's Mark Fleming.

    The department would be guided by the Charter of Rights and Freedoms and the Criminal Code in deciding what technologies to use, he said.

    "Due to the nature of the inquiry around covert surveillance equipment or techniques and due to operational sensitivities, I am not at liberty to comment or disclose information as requested at this time on behalf of the department," wrote Dean Robinson from the Vancouver Police Department.

    "I will not discuss OPP operational matters or respond to questions about the OPP's investigative equipment, since, you will understand, disclosing such information may hinder the OPP's effectiveness and abilities to carry out its policing mandate," said Scott Tod with Ontario's provincial police force.

    "The OPP recognizes and respects the constitutional rights of all Canadians," he said. "It will not do anything in its operations or investigations that will compromise those rights."

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  35. continued from previous comment...

    Lack of oversight

    Eby said the response is "totally unacceptable" on something that would affect so many people. The technology would capture information from people who are not targets of investigations and would allow the police to build lists of everyone at a rally or a meeting, he said.

    "For anyone other than a police officer to do it would be a criminal offence," he said, adding that it may well turn out to be a criminal offence for a police officer to do it as well.

    There is a general lack of oversight when the police adopt new technologies, said Eby, who spoke to the legislature committee on conducted energy weapons, or tasers, this week.

    "It appears to be whatever the police can afford, they're allowed to use," he said. Instead, when there's a new technology police want to use, "elected officials should look at it and weigh the costs and benefits," he said.

    Justice Minister Shirley Bond said it was the first she'd heard about the technology but would make some enquiries.

    "It's very concerning," said NDP attorney general critic Leonard Krog. "I look forward to the Attorney General finding out what she can given she has more authority than David Eby or myself."

    Krog said the technology raises several serious questions, including what exactly the machines do, how the police might be using them and what records they could keep from them. The Attorney General should be able to say whether or not the police are using a technology that "invades the natural privacy of people when normally a court order would be required."

    Asked about the police departments' suggestion that answering the question would compromise law enforcement, Krog said, "We're supposed to live in an open democratic society." People know that police officers can carry weapons and that they can get warrants for wiretaps without hampering police doing their job, he said.

    There is "absolutely" a need for oversight when the police adopt new technologies, said Krog. "If new tools are given, there should be an effort to assess their efficacy and legality," said Krog. "There has to be a balance between law enforcement and privacy... They may well be off the balance."


  36. Senate bill rewrite lets feds read your e-mail without warrants

    Proposed law scheduled for a vote next week originally increased Americans' e-mail privacy. Then law enforcement complained. Now it increases government access to e-mail and other digital files.

    by Declan McCullagh November 20, 2012

    A Senate proposal touted as protecting Americans' e-mail privacy has been quietly rewritten, giving government agencies more surveillance power than they possess under current law.
    CNET has learned that Patrick Leahy, the influential Democratic chairman of the Senate Judiciary committee, has dramatically reshaped his legislation in response to law enforcement concerns. A vote on his bill, which now authorizes warrantless access to Americans' e-mail, isscheduled for next week.

    Leahy's rewritten bill would allow more than 22 agencies -- including the Securities and Exchange Commission and the Federal Communications Commission -- to access Americans' e-mail, Google Docs files, Facebook wall posts, and Twitter direct messages without a search warrant. It also would give the FBI and Homeland Security more authority, in some circumstances, to gain full access to Internet accounts without notifying either the owner or a judge. (CNET obtained the revised draft from a source involved in the negotiations with Leahy.)

    It's an abrupt departure from Leahy's earlier approach, which required police to obtain a search warrant backed by probable cause before they could read the contents of e-mail or other communications. The Vermont Democratboasted last year that his bill "provides enhanced privacy protections for American consumers by... requiring that the government obtain a search warrant."

    Leahy had planned a vote on an earlier version of his bill, designed to update a pair of 1980s-vintage surveillance laws, in late September. But after law enforcement groups including the National District Attorneys' Association and the National Sheriffs' Association organizations objected to the legislation and asked him to "reconsider acting" on it, Leahy pushed back the vote and reworked the bill as a package of amendments to be offered next Thursday. The package (PDF) is a substitute for H.R. 2471, which the House of Representatives already has approved.

    One person participating in Capitol Hill meetings on this topic told CNET that Justice Department officials have expressed their displeasure about Leahy's original bill. The department is on record as opposing any such requirement: James Baker, the associate deputy attorney general, has publicly warned that requiring a warrant to obtain stored e-mail could have an "adverse impact" on criminal investigations.

    Christopher Calabrese, legislative counsel for the American Civil Liberties Union, said requiring warrantless access to Americans' data "undercuts" the purpose of Leahy's original proposal. "We believe a warrant is the appropriate standard for any contents," he said.

    An aide to the Senate Judiciary committee told CNET that because discussions with interested parties are ongoing, it would be premature to comment on the legislation.

    Marc Rotenberg, head of the Electronic Privacy Information Center, said that in light of the revelations about how former CIA director David Petraeus' e-mail was perused by the FBI, "even the Department of Justice should concede that there's a need for more judicial oversight," not less.

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  37. Markham Erickson, a lawyer in Washington, D.C. who has followed the topic closely and said he was speaking for himself and not his corporate clients, expressed concerns about the alphabet soup of federal agencies that would be granted more power:

    There is no good legal reason why federal regulatory agencies such as the NLRB, OSHA, SEC or FTC need to access customer information service providers with a mere subpoena. If those agencies feel they do not have the tools to do their jobs adequately, they should work with the appropriate authorizing committees to explore solutions. The Senate Judiciary committee is really not in a position to adequately make those determinations.

    The list of agencies that would receive civil subpoena authority for the contents of electronic communications also includes the Federal Reserve, the Federal Trade Commission, the Federal Maritime Commission, the Postal Regulatory Commission, the National Labor Relations Board, and the Mine Enforcement Safety and Health Review Commission.

    Leahy's modified bill retains some pro-privacy components, such as requiring police to secure a warrant in many cases. But the dramatic shift, especially the regulatory agency loophole and exemption for emergency account access, likely means it will be near-impossible for tech companies to support in its new form.

    A bitter setback

    This is a bitter setback for Internet companies and a liberal-conservative-libertarian coalition, which had hoped to convince Congress to update the 1986 Electronic Communications Privacy Act to protect documents stored in the cloud. Leahy glued those changes onto anunrelated privacy-related bill supported by Netflix.

    At the moment, Internet users enjoy more privacy rights if they store data on their hard drives or under their mattresses, a legal hiccup that the companies fear could slow the shift to cloud-based services unless the law is changed to be more privacy-protective.

    Members of the so-called Digital Due Process coalition include Apple, Amazon.com, Americans for Tax Reform, AT&T, the Center for Democracy and Technology, eBay, Google, Facebook, IBM, Intel, Microsoft, TechFreedom, and Twitter. (CNET was the first to report on the coalition's creation.)

    Leahy, a former prosecutor, has a mixed record on privacy. He criticized the FBI's efforts to require Internet providers to build in backdoors for law enforcement access, and introduced a bill in the 1990s protecting Americans' right to use whatever encryption products they wanted.

    But he also authored the 1994 Communications Assistance for Law Enforcement Act, which is now looming over Web companies, as well as the reviledProtect IP Act. An article in The New Republic concluded Leahy's work on the Patriot Act "appears to have made the bill less protective of civil liberties." Leahy had introduced significant portions of the Patriot Act under the name Enhancement of Privacy and Public Safety in Cyberspace Act (PDF) a year earlier.

    One obvious option for the Digital Due Process coalition is the simplest: if Leahy's committee proves to be an insurmountable roadblock in the Senate, try the courts instead.

    Judges already have been wrestling with how to apply the Fourth Amendment to an always-on, always-connected society. Earlier this year, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that police needed a search warrant for GPS tracking of vehicles. Some courts have ruled that warrantless tracking of Americans' cell phones, another coalition concern, is unconstitutional.

    The FBI and other law enforcement agencies already must obtain warrants for e-mail in Kentucky, Michigan, Ohio, and Tennessee, thanks to a ruling by the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals in 2010.


  38. Government killing online surveillance bill

    By Laura Payton, CBC News February 11, 2013

    Federal Justice Minister Rob Nicholson says the controversial Bill C-30, known as the online surveillance or warrantless wiretapping bill, won't go ahead due to opposition from the public.

    The bill, which was known as the Protecting Children from Internet Predators Act, was designed to help police combat child pornography. But civil liberties and privacy groups — even the federal privacy commissioner — said the bill violated the rights of Canadians.

    Opponents lobbied strenuously against C-30, saying it was an overly broad, "Big Brother" piece of legislation that would strip all Canadians of the right to privacy.

    The bill would have required internet service providers to maintain systems to allow police to intercept and track online communications without a warrant.

    Canadians rallied against the bill after Public Safety Minister Vic Toews famously told an opposition MP that he could "either stand with us or with the child pornographers." Those explosive comments outraged many Canadians and helped to galvanize the opposition to C-30.

    "We will not be proceeding with Bill C-30 and any attempts that we will continue to have to modernize the Criminal Code will not contain the measures contained in C-30, including the warrantless mandatory disclosure of basic subscriber information or the requirement for telecommunications service providers to build intercept capability within their systems," Nicholson said.

    "We've listened to the concerns of Canadians who have been very clear on this and responding to that."

    OpenMedia, which waged a vigorous online campaign against C-30 through its stopspying.ca website, hailed the decision to kill the bill.

    "It came as a quite a surprise," said Lindsey Pinto of OpenMedia.ca.

    "It looks like the government has finally heard the voices of Canadians who have been expressing themselves online in stating that C-30 is invasive, costly and poorly thought out," she said.

    Nicholson made the announcement after introducing a bill to update provisions that would allow for warrantless phone tapping in emergencies.

    Canadian law allows police to wiretap without authorization from a court when there is the risk of imminent harm, such as a kidnapping or bomb threat, but the Supreme Court last year struck down the law and gave Parliament 12 months to rewrite another one.

    The new bill, C-55, would give peace officers the right to secretly intercept private communications without a warrant in relatively rare, urgent situations. Someone whose communications had been intercepted in situations of imminent harm would have to be notified by police within 90 days.


  39. Intrusive Surveillance Software FinSpy Found In 25 Countries Including America [and Canada]

    By DSWright, Fire Dog Lake March 15, 2013

    According to a report by Citizen Lab https://citizenlab.org/2013/03/you-only-click-twice-finfishers-global-proliferation-2/ the intrusive and surveillance software FinSpy sold to governments to spy on their citizens has been found in 25 countries. The investigation was launched based on analysis of a suspicious email that was targeting Bahraini activists.

    Summary of Key Findings

    --We have found command and control servers for FinSpy backdoors, part of Gamma International’s FinFisher “remote monitoring solution,” in a total of 25 countries: Australia, Bahrain, Bangladesh, Brunei, Canada, Czech Republic, Estonia, Ethiopia, Germany, India, Indonesia, Japan, Latvia, Malaysia, Mexico, Mongolia, Netherlands, Qatar, Serbia, Singapore, Turkmenistan, United Arab Emirates, United Kingdom, United States, Vietnam.

    --A FinSpy campaign in Ethiopia uses pictures of Ginbot 7, an Ethiopian opposition group, as bait to infect users. This continues the theme of FinSpy deployments with strong indications of politically-motivated targeting.

    --There is strong evidence of a Vietnamese FinSpy Mobile Campaign. We found an Android FinSpy Mobile sample in the wild with a command & control server in Vietnam that also exfiltrates text messages to a local phone number.

    --These findings call into question claims by Gamma International that previously reported servers were not part of their product line, and that previously discovered copies of their software were either stolen or demo copies.

    This is not the first time that Gamma International, owners of FinFisher and thus FinSpy, has been under scrutiny for violating the rights of activists. Privacy International leveled a complaint against Gamma to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD)

    The complaints contend that, if it is confirmed that the companies have supplied spyware to Bahrain, then they may be guilty of complicity in (“aiding and abetting”) human rights abuses perpetrated by Bahraini authorities. The right to privacy, and freedom from torture and arbitrary arrest find recognition in several international human rights instruments, including the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, and the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, all of which are ratified by Bahrain. In addition, these rights are recognized in the Constitution of Bahrain.

    Private companies helping governments violate human rights is nothing new (see Blackwater), but to have firms engaging in hacking on this scale is unprecedented. It also provides another opportunity for the charge of hypocrisy as governments, including the United States, contract with private companies that are engaging in criminal hacking while charging political dissidents and private individuals with major felonies for the same activity.

    Maybe if Aaron Swartz or Matthew Keys worked for a private security firm all would be well.