Hackers give Tories a needed diversion

When it comes to the Tories’ attempt to legislate a new Draconian e-society overseen by federal cyber cops, hard to say who is more stupid

When it comes to the Tories’ attempt to legislate a new Draconian e-society overseen by federal cyber cops, it’s hard to say who is more stupid — the Public Safety Minister Vic Toews who introduced the legislation, or the internet hackers who are helping the government make its case.

Bill C-30 is the kind of invasive attack on privacy rights that would make Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad blush with envy. Its sinister intent was made more offensive when Toews told Canadians they had two choices — support the Conservatives or “stand with the child pornographers.”

The bill is titled “the Protecting Children from Internet Predators Act,” as if that can mask its broad powers to establish a cyber police force with boundless powers to pry and spy.

In a matter of days, more than 100,000 Canadians have signed an OpenMedia.ca petition opposing the bill, and Internet comment boards are alive with outrage over the privacy implications of C-30.

When critics described Toews’ remarks as “insulting” and “disgusting,” the minister’s first impulse was to deny ever making such an offensive threat. That stopped when the media started replaying the tape.

Even so, the government’s buffoonery continued with Toews and his senior staff, claiming C-30 contained no extension of the state’s power to conduct warrantless searches.

In fact the bill, as introduced, would require Internet service providers (ISPs) to disclose the full identity of clients upon demand and without a warrant. Further, C-30 requires ISPs to install surveillance technology and software to permit monitoring of phone and internet traffic. Section 34 says government agents may enter an ISP when they wish, without a warrant, and demand to see absolutely everything.

It also says government 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.”

The public push back has been so vociferous that the Harper government has said it will immediately send the bill to committee where it will entertain a number of changes. Nevertheless, it is critical to keep in mind that this is a piece of legislation introduced by a majority government, not a white paper designed to encourage thoughtful debate prior to the drafting of new law.

Buoyed by the public shockwave, a cabal of hackers called “Anonymous” posted a YouTube video threatening to reveal personal information about Toews if the legislation isn’t scrapped. After that, excerpts from Toews’ divorce affidavits were posted on Twitter.

Unfortunately, this stunt gave Toews the opening he needed to divert attention from a debate about public policy and privacy privileges to a parliamentary witch hunt. The minister asked the Speaker of the House to investigate the origin of the Tweets about his divorce. And a report in the Ottawa Citizen connected an e-mail address associated with the Twitter account to a House of Commons IP address.

This allowed the Conservatives to accuse the NDP of being behind the posts. As well, the RCMP was asked to investigate “threatening communications” against the minister. Of course, the NDP are taking no credit for this tactical faux pas.

While this mess plays out in the committee rooms, I urge all Monday readers to join forces with OpenMedia.ca and fight this invasion of privacy from the ground up. M

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