Thursday, September 10, 2009

Big Brother inches closer....

Planned Internet, wireless surveillance laws worry watchdogs

Reprinted courtesy of The Globe and Mail

Canada's federal and provincial privacy watchdogs are expressing concern about two proposed laws that would give authorities much greater surveillance powers over Internet and wireless communications.

Led by federal privacy commissioner Jennifer Stoddart, privacy commissioners and ombudspersons are calling on federal Parliament “to ensure there is a clear and demonstrable need to expand the investigative powers available to law enforcement and national security agencies to acquire digital evidence.”

In June, the Conservative government introduced two bills – the Investigative Powers for the 21st Century Act and the Technical Assistance for Law Enforcement in the 21st Century Act – that would give police sweeping new powers to collect information about Canadian Internet users without a warrant, and activate tracking devices in their cellphones and cars, among other things.

“Canadians put a high value on the privacy, confidentiality and security of their personal communications and our courts have also accorded a high expectation of privacy to such communications,” Ms. Stoddart said in a statement Thursday.

“The current proposal will give police authorities unprecedented access to Canadians' personal information.”

Canada's privacy commissioners are in St. John's, Newfoundland, for their semi-annual meeting.

Ed Ring, Newfoundland and Labrador's privacy commissioner and host of the meeting, said the government has not yet shown compelling evidence to justify the new powers proposed in the bills.

“We feel that the existing legal regime governing interception of communications – set out in the Criminal Code and carefully constructed by government and Parliament over the decades – does protect the rights of Canadians very well,” Mr. Ring said.

The commissioners are asking that if new powers are introduced, Parliament ensure that they are “minimally intrusive” and include a five-year Parliamentary review.

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