#CyberFLASH: There Has Been a ‘Sea Change’ in Privacy Rights in Canada, Warns Watchdog

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The man tasked with defending Canadians’ personal information, once decried as a government stooge, directly chastised the federal government over its efforts to track and surveil Canadians — and recommended that the new government put safeguards on how the government uses “big data” to spy on its citizens.

In his annual report, Daniel Therrien, the Privacy Commissioner of Canada, looked at three pieces of legislation that “taken together, these initiatives have resulted in what can only be described as a sea change for privacy rights in Canada.”

The first, C-44, allows Canadian spies to operate abroad and gives them more ability to obtain information without disclosing its origins; C-13, which creates new legal authority for cops and public servants to obtain Canadians’ personal data without a warrant; and C-51, the anti-terrorism legislation that opens the door for wide new intelligence-gathering and sharing.

All three bills, which are now law, were introduced by the Conservatives, but supported by the Liberals.

The Liberals have said they will change aspects of C-51, but have said little about the other two pieces of legislation.

In his report, released last week, Therrien recommended fixes for each bill — that the government include language to prevent CSIS from obtaining and using data that has been obtained through torture; that the law be updated to clarify when police are allowed to obtain Canadians’ data from their internet or cellphone companies without a warrant; and that legislation be introduced to toughen protections for Canadians’ privacy when departments want to share their information.

C-51 especially raised the ire of the commissioner.

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