Proposed New Law Would Let Police Snoop On What You Do Online

CityNews | June 18, 2009

It's not exactly Big Brother and the overall intentions seem to have the public's best interest at heart. But many are very uncomfortable about a proposed new law being introduced in the House of Commons on Thursday that could affect anyone using the Internet in Canada.

The bill, with the unwieldy name of "An Act Regulating Telecommunications Facilities to Support Investigations," would allow police to force your ISP to hand over any records of your emails, chat room conversations, website history or surfing habits to authorities without a warrant.

Police across the country contend it's a necessity because the Worldwide Web has become a haven for criminals, pedophiles, terrorists, drug dealers and scam artists, who use its anonymity and the current regulations to plot and commit criminal acts that take advantage of the public.

They point out the old laws were written in a time before the world had ever dreamed of something called "the Internet" and that new rules are needed to fight new enemies and the technology they employ.

While some are taking the old "if you have nothing to hide, you have nothing to fear" route, the idea of granting near carte blanche access to the online habits of Canadians is very disturbing to others, no matter what the reason.

Privacy advocates are up in arms about the proposed change, arguing it will let law enforcement agencies run amok on your rights, and give cops the green light to see what you're up to armed with nothing more than their suspicions.

Public Safety Minister Peter van Loan disagrees, and apparently plans to introduce the legislation before the House rises for the summer this week.

Under the current rules, cops can listen in on private conversations with a warrant, but they have no right to demand access from ISPs. The change would force the providers to let them see what criminals - or you - are up to online.

There's no guarantee it will pass in a minority government, but the new law has been in the planning stages for years and police and other authorities have been asking for the beefed up powers for over a decade. They claim gathering such information is just one part of the investigation process - and they won't be breaking down doors just because of what such access might reveal.