#CyberFLASH: We’ve Got a Plan to Restore the Privacy Rights of Canadians

10712553For anyone who cares about privacy, the past few months have been one hell of a ride:We’ve seen startling leaked documents confirming that Canada’s spy agency CSE is monitoring our private online activities on a massive scale — and even spying on private emails Canadians send to their MPs. We’ve seen Peter MacKay’s online spying Bill C-13 become the law of the land, despite huge opposition from Canadians.

And, most famously, we’ve seen the government push forward Bill C-51, a reckless, dangerous, and ineffective piece of legislation that experts say will criminalize free expression, create a secret police force, and lead to widespread violations of our most basic Charter Rights.

But hold on to your hats — our community is about to make a significant intervention in this debate. Next Wednesday we’re launching a crowdsourced pro-privacy action plan packed with positive ideas from our community about how to stop out-of-control surveillance, roll back Bill C-51, and restore the privacy rights of every Canadian.

Even casual followers of current affairs will know from recent developments that Canada faces a stark privacy deficit. And anyone who’s been within hailing distance of OpenMedia these past months will know we’ve been pushing back hard against the way the government is shredding our privacy rights, working with groups like Leadnow.ca and the BCGEU to organize massive nationwide rallies, co-hosting a petition with over 225,000 people speaking out against Bill C-51, and all in all throwing ourselves with gusto into what’s become one of the largest political campaigns in Canadian history.

It’s absolutely crucial that we push back with everything we’ve got against these government plans. But saying no is not enough: Canadians deserve positive solutions, and a comprehensive approach to tackling our privacy deficit.

That’s why, late last year, we reached out to you, our community, to ask for your ideas on how we can turn our privacy situation around. Working with experts, we created an innovative crowdsourcing tool to let Canadians tell us their priorities when it comes to privacy — and we were blown away by the response.

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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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#CyberFLASH: Another reason to resist C-51: Canada’s invasive financial war on terror

numbersA recent run-of-the-mill telemarketing call from one of Canada’s largest credit companies took on a threatening tone. Who knew that owning a credit card whose purchases produced redeemable points for free groceries also entailed an insidious trade-off that invaded our privacy and left a chilling aftertaste?

Informed that failure to answer certain questions would result in forfeiture of the card, I resigned myself to 10 minutes of wasted time and, following the usual gobbledygook about disclosure, was asked if anyone in my immediate and extended family had ever “held one of the following offices or positions in or on behalf of a foreign country: a head of state or government; a member of the executive council of government or member of a legislature; a deputy minister (or equivalent); an ambassador or an ambassador’s attaché or counsellor; a military general (or higher rank); a president of a state-owned company or bank; a head of a government agency; a judge; or a leader or president of a political party in a legislature.”

The question was chilling, for though I could honestly answer no, whose business was it to ask? It concerned me that immigrants might be flagged if they answered affirmatively, and perhaps asked further questions about their relationship to, for example, overseas political parties that the Canadian government deemed unsavoury.

Recovering my composure, I asked to speak with a supervisor, who informed me that “like any financial institution in Canada we are required by law to collect this information,” and that the answers would have no effect on my credit rating. If that were the case, I pressed, why were they asking these personal questions, and with whom were they sharing the answers?

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#CyberFLASH: It’s time for Canadians to fight for their privacy

1297236821813_ORIGINALWay back in 1996, a Reform Party MP questioned the privacy implications of an electronic voter registry, saying:

“The first and main concern is the privacy issue … since the information is to be shared by different levels of government and different governmental bodies. There is a risk that privacy can be compromised. The more information is transferred and shared, the greater the risk of security of the information.”

That MP was Stephen Harper.

Needless to say, times have changed.

Today, Prime Minister Harper and his Conservative government are trying to steamroll Bill C-51, its anti-terrorism bill, through Parliament.

Bill C-51 raises some serious privacy-related concerns.

The Security of Canada Information Sharing Act, a bill within the bill, is particularly troubling. The bill permits information sharing for an incredibly broad range of reasons, most of them unrelated to terrorism. This information would be shared across 17 government institutions.

The bill also allows the prospect of cabinet expansion to other departments as well as further disclosure “to any person, for any purpose.” It basically gives the government carte blanche to share your information with whoever they choose.

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#CyberFLASH: List of protests tracked by government includes vigil, ‘peace demonstration’

hi-bc-archive-surveillance-camerasOTTAWA — What do Canadian veterans, advocates for the disabled and the country’s largest union have in common? Their activities were monitored and reported on by police and government agencies over the last year.

Documents show the central Government Operations Centre received reports on more than 160 protests, community events, and demonstrations between May 2014 and February 2015. The RCMP, Public Safety Canada, and the Privy Council Office prepared reports for the GOC — which co-ordinates the federal government’s response to national emergencies and natural disasters.

While much of the monitoring focused on First Nations causes and environmental activism, the GOC showed a diverse set of interests, including:

• A rally on Parliament Hill pushing for better benefits for Canadian veterans.

• A “die-in” protesting police brutality against black Americans, including vigils for Ferguson, Mo. shooting victim Michael Brown organized by the Black Lives Matter movement.

• An event called “Paddle for Peace” in Fort St. Jean, B.C., where the report noted “public order issues are not expected.”

• Canadian Doctors for Refugee Care’s national day of action.

• An “interfaith peace demonstration” in Mississauga.

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#CyberFLASH: Canada, the Five Eyes – and the hackers’ arms race

RTX186RGIs Canada engaged in cyberwarfare? Should it be? Until now, it had seemed that the business of the Communications Security Establishment was gathering electronic information, not turning bits and bytes into weapons.

But a report from The Intercept and CBC News, based on documents from 2011, appears to show the U.S. National Security Agency and CSE working together on hacking into foreign networks, not only in the Middle East and North Africa, but also in Europe and Mexico. The document says that CSE can defend against electronic attacks, and can also carry them out, to “disable adversary infrastructure,” “control adversary infrastructure,” or “destroy adversary infrastructure.”

CSE has responded, saying that the documents do “not necessarily reflect current CSE practices or programs.” That sounds awfully close to a “Yes.”

This news comes while a House of Commons committee is studying Bill C-51, which would give much greater powers to another one of Canada’s intelligence agencies, CSIS. This convergence of events underlines the importance of clarifying and limiting the powers of the intelligence agencies, and putting in place robust oversight.

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