Friday, November 04, 2011

Ontario Commissioner corrects Public Safety Minister on "lawful access"

In the ongoing battle over "lawful access", the Information and Privacy Commissioner of Ontario fires back in today's National Post in response to the Public Safety Minister's response (see here) to her original criticism of the faulty plan (see here).

Privacy war (III):

National Post · Nov. 4, 2011 | Last Updated: Nov. 4, 2011 3:09 AM ET

Re: Minister of Public Safety Responds, Nov. 2.; Privacy Invasion Shouldn't Be 'Lawful,' Anne Covoukian, Oct, 31.

I must correct the inaccuracies in Minister Vic Toews' letter.

The proposed surveillance bills will capture information that bears little resemblance to "phone book information." The public does not have access to this information, nor should they - it goes far beyond address and phone number. Consider just one of the new threats to our fundamental freedoms: police could force telecoms to provide the name, address and unique device number of people (enabling online tracking) who posted comments on newspapers' websites under pseudonyms - without a warrant, without explanation and in secret. This should only be accessible through a courtordered, judicial warrant. This is unacceptable: 88 pages of new powers, without matching judicial safeguards.

One of the many complexities glossed over, the government's surveillance capacity, risks transforming telecoms into agents of the state. Much of our online activity is an extension of our in-home personal life. Everyone wants to stop child predators, but responding to this by eroding our online privacy illustrates a dated zero-sum mentality. Subjecting innocent individuals to unwarranted surveillance can have devastating consequences. Properly designed powers can assist law enforcement and also respect the rights of ordinary Canadians - we must have both. We must resist any further erosion of our fundamental freedoms and liberty.

Ann Cavoukian, Information and Privacy Commissioner, Ontario

I have to say I agree with this 100%.

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