#CyberFLASH: Canada greenlights an anti-terror law that hurts internet privacy

parliament-hill-2012-jon-fingas-flickrThe US government might be curbing its surveillance activities, but just the opposite is happening north of the border. Canada’s Senate has passed the heavily disputed Bill C-51 into law, granting spy agencies (like the Canadian Security Intelligence Service) greater powers to violate digital privacy in the name of fighting terrorism. The move lets government branches swap sensitive data like tax filings, and gives spies permission to load intrusive malware on suspects’ devices. It also raises the possibility of searching devices at the border to find “terrorist propaganda,” and should allow disruptive tactics like taking down websites. Moreover, there are worries that some online discussions wishing harm against Canada and its allies might be deemed illegal.

Some of the strategies greenlit here aren’t new — just ask the US’ National Security Agency. However, there’s a concern that C-51’s vague definitions of national security risks let the Canadian government snoop on people who are merely challenging authority, such as activists and religious leaders, rather than limiting the scope to extremists. Not surprisingly, the attempts at criminalizing certain kinds of discussion could easily tread on the country’s free speech rights.

The Senate move doesn’t mean that the law is set in stone. Two political parties (the NDP and Green Party) have promised to repeal C-51 if they can, and a third (the Liberal Party) is at least open to amendments. Those aren’t idle threats, either. There’s a federal election coming up in the fall, and even supporters of the ruling Conservative Party believe C-51 could be unpopular enough to usher in a change of leadership that either softens key measures or kills the law outright. In other words, the battle isn’t over yet.

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#CyberFLASH: Bill C-51 will bury supporters

n-ONLINE-SPYING-CANADA-large570This week’s topic: Does the passing of Bill C-51 ensure an NDP win in the federal election?

The federal Liberal and Conservative parties are in free fall. Although the Alberta election is a factor, the NDP surge in recent polls is likely a result of their strong opposition to Bill C-51.

As Canadians learn more about the bill, they will continue to turn away from the two parties responsible for passing it.

The Anti-Terrorism Act is perhaps the most disturbing piece of legislation in recent history.

It expands the power of government to spy on Canadians and arrest individuals who will never commit a violent act. Citizens can now be jailed for making statements perceived as advocating or promoting terrorism in general. News reports, poetry, or any other expression interpreted as glorifying terrorism could be subject to arrest and prosecution.

The government also granted itself new powers to censor Internet activity it deems “terrorist propaganda.” History has shown that such legal ambiguity will be exploited to harass, intimidate and silence citizens.

Read Brent Stafford’s column here.

The Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe published a legal analysis warning that Bill C-51 violates several international standards and treaties, including the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

Some argue that like America’s Patriot Act, Bill C-51 will keep Canadians safe. However, a recent Department of Justice report revealed the FBI’s expanded spying powers have not helped crack a single terrorism-related case.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper has abandoned the traditional Conservative ideals of individual rights and limited government. He should not expect Conservatives to flock to the polls to build their own cages.

Perhaps more offensive than the bill’s passing was not a single Liberal MP voted against it. Justin Trudeau agreed the bill was flawed, but cowered to the threat of Conservative attack ads. Through political calculation he lent Harper the support of the Liberal Party, thereby shielding Bill C-51 from criticism. Tom Mulcair’s NDP now stand nearly alone in Parliament, defending the people’s right to due process, privacy, and freedom of speech. Unsurprisingly their support across the country is skyrocketing.

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#CyberFLASH: How Canada Can End Mass Surveillance

c51protest610pxJust two short years ago, if you asked strangers on the street about mass surveillance, you’d likely encounter many blank stares.

Some would remember East Germany’s Stasi spy agency, or reference China’s extensive Internet censorship. But few would express fear that western democratic governments like the U.S., Britain, and Canada were engaged in the mass surveillance of law-abiding citizens.

That all changed in June 2013 when Edward Snowden, a contractor at the U.S. National Security Agency (NSA), blew the whistle on the spying activities of the NSA and its Five Eyes partners in Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and the U.K. Since then, we’ve seen a long stream of revelations about how Canada’s Communications Security Establishment (CSE) is engaged in extensive spying on private online activities.

To give just a few examples, we learned that CSE spied on law-abiding Canadians using the free Wi-Fi at Pearson airport, and monitored their movements for weeks afterward. We learned that CSE is monitoring an astonishing 15 million file downloads a day, with Canadian Internet addresses among the targets.

Even emails Canadians send to the government or their local MP are monitored — up to 400,000 a day according to CBC News. Just last week we discovered CSE targets widely-used mobile web browsers and app stores. Many of these activities are not authorized by a judge, but by secret ministerial directives like the ones MP Peter MacKay signed in 2011.

CSE is not the only part of the government engaged in mass surveillance. Late last year, the feds sought contractors to build a new monitoring system that will collect and analyze what Canadians say on Facebook and other social media sites. As a result, the fear of getting caught in the government’s dragnet surveillance is one more and more Canadians may soon face.

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#CyberFLASH: Want to Roll Back Bill C-51?

Surveillance_610pxIt’s clear Canadians are deeply unhappy with the way the federal government views the privacy rights of its citizens. Last week, Bill C-51 passed in the House of Commons. It’s now before the Senate and is expected to become law within weeks.

This is a piece of legislation so extreme that experts say it will lead to widespread violations of our charter rights.

Today, OpenMedia, which advocates for more Internet freedom, is launching a privacy plan aimed at rolling back Bill C-51, ending government-supported surveillance and restoring the privacy rights of Canadians.

The report, entitled Canada’s Privacy Plan, was the result of a crowd-sourced survey that gathered input from more that 100,000 Canadians. More than 10,000 of you used this crowdsourcing tool to provide detailed input on how you want to tackle our privacy deficit.

Bill C-51 has been widely criticized by Canadian civil liberties advocates. Among other things, it permits federal departments to exchange the private information of Canadians, and makes it easier for police to restrict the movement of suspects.

But Bill C-51 is just one aspect of the alarming privacy deficit the government has created. In the last 12 months, we’ve seen stunning revelations about how the Communications Security Establishment Canada (CSE) — the agency that collects foreign security intelligence from the Internet — is spying on Canadians’ private online activities and on private emails that Canadians send to members of Parliament.

And we’ve seen Justice Minister Peter MacKay’s online spying Bill C-13 become law, despite opposition from 3 in 4 Canadians.

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#CyberFLASH: For U.S. allies, paradigm shift in intelligence collection

dynamic_resizePARIS — Fearful of an expanding extremist threat, countries that for years have relied heavily on U.S. intelligence are quickly building up their own capabilities with new technology, new laws and — in at least one case — a searing debate on how much the American government should be allowed to spy on their own citizens.

Responding to a jihadi movement that is successfully recruiting people from around the world, France and Canada are both passing laws that would dramatically ramp up their surveillance apparatus. In France, lawmakers are on the verge of approving a bill that would let the government install “black boxes” to collect metadata from every major phone and Internet company.

Canada’s measures were rushed through after a two separate attacks in October 2014 on Canadian soldiers — including one that ended when the gunman stormed Parliament and was shot to death by guards and police. France’s law went into high gear after the January terror attacks on the satirical weekly Charlie Hebdo and a kosher supermarket that left 20 dead, including the gunmen.

Analysts say it’s not so much a question of diminishing cooperation with the U.S. — the revelations of Edward Snowden have ultimately done little to harm relationships between allies — as a push to increase domestic capacities ill-equipped to face the rising threat of Islamic State and other jihadi groups.

“These are not people coming from the outside, these are not people who are taking plane trips, they are not people who attracted notice outside our countries. These are people who come from the heart of our society,” said Alain Chouet, a former French intelligence official who recently returned from an extended trip to Canada where he debated the measures in both countries. “International cooperation in this area isn’t hugely useful.”

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#CyberFLASH: Local MPs support anti-terror bill

1297358843659_ORIGINALA bill that has brought with it much controversy and protests throughout the country has passed in Parliament.

Bill C-51, better known as the Anti-Terrorism Act, passed in the House of Commons on May 6, with the federal Conservatives and Liberals voting in favour of the bill.

First introduced by the Conservatives at the end of January and touted as legislation to protect Canadians from the threat of terrorism, Bill C-51 gives more power to the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS) in tracking and acting on what they deem as terrorist threats. The bill also allows for full sharing of personal information between government agencies, extends the length at which detainees can be held before being charged, allows for increased Internet monitoring, and makes the advocacy of terrorism a federal offence.

Prior to the bill being passed, on May 5 local MP Tim Uppal spoke in favour of the bill.

“We, as parliamentarians, have an obligation to do what we can to help (law enforcement) in that very important job that they have,” Uppal said in the House of Commons.

He described the bill as “legislation that would enable national security agencies to keep pace with the ever-evolving threats to our national security. Canada, like our allies, needs to modernize our laws to arm our national security agencies in the fight against Jihadi terrorists who we know have declared war on Canada.”

Uppal told the House that increasing CSIS’ power is necessary to disrupt threats to the country.

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#CyberFLASH: Bob Zimmer addresses Bill C-51 concerns

typing-image-genericThe following is an op-ed from local MP Bob Zimmer. In the piece Zimmer addresses Bill C-51, and the concerns associated with the bill.

Below are his comments:

Like most Canadians, I believe that jihadi terrorism is one of the most dangerous enemies our world has ever faced. The recently released annual report by the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS) reconfirmed what many of us already knew, that this type of terrorism is not just a threat somewhere else; it seeks to harm us on our own soil. In our cities. In our neighbourhoods. Canadians are targets by these terrorists for no other reason than that we are Canadians. They want to harm us because they hate our society, and the values it represents.

The recent terrorist attacks here and around the world have shown us that terrorists refine and adapt their methods, our police and national security agencies need additional tools and greater coordination. That is why our Government introduced Bill C-51, the Anti-Terrorism Act, 2015, legislation that includes measures similar to those already in place in countries like the United Kingdom, Norway, Finland, France, and Australia.

Unfortunately, I know there has been a lot of misinformation circulating about what the implementation of this important Bill will mean to everyday, law-abiding Canadians, and I wanted to take this time to further explain some of these measures and dispel some of the prevailing myths surrounding this legislation.

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#CyberFLASH: Your tax info at heightened risk, experts say

163520649-1024x683Critics denounced the passing of the Anti-Terrorism Act in the House of Commons last week, saying the legislation will impede on Canadians’ freedom of expression and religion. With all the uproar, a key change in the Income Tax Act went largely unnoticed.

Under Bill C-51, the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) has been given permission to share your income tax filings with 13 additional government agencies.

Experts say this could render your personal financial information less secure than it already is in today’s electronic age.

Until now, the CRA has only had permission to share this information with three other agencies (CSIS, RCMP and FINTRAC) and only under very specific conditions. That list has grown to 16 in total and now includes Canada Border Services, the Canadian Armed Forces and Citizenship and Immigration among others.

The more people that have access to taxpayer information under Bill C-51, the higher the risk of leaks, hacks and other foul play, according to Avner Levin, the director of Ryerson University’s Privacy Institute.

The change in legislation is “unprecedented,” he says. “It’s snooping and meddling of the worst kind.”

Anyone who has filed their taxes in recent years should recall the little box asking whether they’re willing to share their home address with Elections Canada. This small request for consent served as a reminder that, to date, the government has been respectful of taxpayers’ privacy. But amendments to the Income Tax Act under Bill C-51 changes all that. The CRA can now share not only your home address, but all of your financial information within the government, without any form of consent or a warrant.

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