Bill C-30 killed by Conservatives but Internet privacy may still be at risk

The bill was characterized by Public Safety Minister Vic Toews as “either stand with us or with the child porn …Earlier this week, the federal Tories put to rest the ‘Protecting Children from Internet Predators Act,’ a bill which sought to fight child pornography by allowing police to intercept and track online communication.

Largely characterized by Public Safety Minister Vic Toews standing in the House of Commons and saying “either stand with us or with the child pornographers,” the bill was initially characterized as the best means the government had of tracking those conducting illegal activity online.

Unfortunately, the powers that the bill granted police were far-reaching, and its implementation would have meant that police could watch anyone’s Internet activity at any time across Canada.

Privacy and civil rights groups fought back, and with the death of Bill C-30, it looks like they’ve won their battle.

But the war is far from over.

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OpenMedia.ca, an online privacy group that has been active in the fight for protecting rights online through telecommunications systems, proclaimed “We Won!” on its website when Bill C-30 was officially killed:

“The government has finally listened to Canadians and killed online spying bill C-30! Way back in June 2011 when we worked with Canadians from across the country to launch the StopSpying.ca campaign all the pundits and experts said we couldn’t win. Well Canada, you just proved them all wrong,” The Vancouver Sun reports the website as posting on Monday when the bill met its demise.

As positive as this turn of events is for those who were seeking to keep the Internet activity of Canadians private, however, there are still other government policies that have privacy activists nervous.

According to RT.com, Bill C-12 remains before parliament, which would allow ISPs, email hosts and social media sites to share personal information about their customers and users with police on a voluntary basis.

Canadians should also be aware of Bill C-11, also known as the Copyright Modernization Act, which came into effect at the end of November. Shortly following its passing into law, Canadian Internet service provider TekSavvy received a request from a U.S. movie studio to hand over the personal information of as many as 2,000 of its subscribers. TekSavvy sided with its customers, stating that it would not supply any of the requested information until ordered to do so by a court order.

The judge ruled in January to adjourn the case until CIPPIC (the Canadian Internet Policy and Public Interest Clinic) has time to have its motion to intervene heard. While that was a major short-term win for TekSavvy’s customers, it is likely a sign of other legal battles that Canadians will be faced with as Internet regulation and policy is fully fleshed out in Parliament.

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And those are just the deliberate means of making digital information less private. It says nothing of the recent data breaches, including the loss of thousands of student loan files, resulting in a class action lawsuit. As Jesse Brown points out in Maclean’s, it’s just one incident in a long line of privacy breaches that have been caused by public or private sector negligence. Brown goes on to say that criminal charges can’t be laid against federal government employees if they expose the private of Canadian citizens, whether knowingly or by accident.

So really, with the end of Bill C-30, have we made any gains in the effort to keep our private data truly private?

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