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PM Must Heed Concerns About Online Spying Bill

Privacy Coalition experts urge Prime Minister to heed serious concerns about Online Spying Bill C-13 and to rethink Privacy Commissioner nomination


Letter to PM from leading Privacy Coalition experts sets out detailed critique of how Bill C-13 undermines privacy and calls for rethink of Privacy Commissioner nomination


May 30, 2014 – A group of leading privacy experts have written to Prime Minister Stephen Harper to demand he tackle Canada’s growing privacy deficit, remove online spying provisions from Bill C-13, and rethink his controversial nomination of Daniel Therrien as Canada’s new Privacy watchdog. The group is joining a growing chorus of opposition to Bill C-13, which experts say would open the door to widespread warrantless spying on Canadians.


The letter is signed by leading privacy experts and civil society groups including OpenMedia.ca, the Samuelson-Glushko Canadian Internet Policy and Public Interest Clinic (CIPPIC), B.C. Civil Liberties Association, B.C. Freedom of Information and Privacy Association, and the Public Interest Advocacy Centre (see below for full list). These groups are part of the Protect Our Privacy coalition, which is demanding effective legal measures to protect Canadians’ privacy from government surveillance.


The letter to the Prime Minister highlights a number of ways in which the Government is letting Canadians down on privacy. These include rushed and inadequate committee hearings on privacy-invasive Bill C-13, a list of ongoing privacy issues that the government has ignored or failed to address, and the recent and highly controversial nomination of Canada’s next Privacy Commissioner.


Explaining why he launched the initiative, CIPPIC’s Tamir Israel said: “Privacy is essential for a healthy democracy. If left unchecked, the activities of Canada’s state surveillance apparatus are harmful to all Canadians. We’re calling on the government to take its obligation to protect privacy seriously. Specifically, we are calling for removal of the excessive online spying provisions from Bill C-13, for action in addressing Canada’s serious privacy deficit, and for a reconsideration of its recent nomination for Privacy Commissioner.”


“Canadians have been absolutely appalled by their government’s secretive and reckless spying activities,” says OpenMedia.ca Executive Director Steve Anderson, who will testify before key MPs next Tuesday about C-13. “Our current system is a shambles, with Canadians being spied on by the government every 27 seconds. Bill C-13 would make things even worse by enabling the government to spy on any Canadian, at any time, without a warrant, and without even informing citizens when their privacy is breached.”


Anderson continued: “We're taking these concerns directly to Prime Minister Stephen Harper, who is ultimately accountable for the actions of his government. He should listen to the serious concerns being expressed by Canadians, including elder statesmen in his own party such as Stockwell Day, and take action to get this problem under control. There’s no longer any excuse for government stonewalling and inaction. Canadians deserve transparency, robust privacy protections, and an end to blanket online spying against law-abiding citizens.”


The letter points to a growing erosion of privacy rights through:


• Bill C-13, currently being rushed through committee, elements of which will “dramatically expands the state’s capacity to invade the privacy of Canadians”;
• The government’s refusal to address well-documented problems that have permitted the Communications Security Establishment of Canada (CSEC), Canada’s foreign intelligence body, to indiscriminately collect large amounts of our private data;
• Failure to update core and aging privacy and transparency laws in order to make sure privacy protections keep pace with technological developments; and
• The controversial appointment of a Privacy Commissioner of Canada who lacks the demonstrated dedication and experience historically required of that position.


OpenMedia.ca’s Steve Anderson is testifying before Parliament’s Justice and Human Rights Committee on Tuesday about Bill C-13. He is crowdsourcing input from Canadians to shape his testimony.


Tens of thousands of Canadians are speaking out to demand effective legal safeguards to protect privacy at OurPrivacy.ca

Groups and experts signing on to the letter:


Groups and experts signing on to the letter include: OpenMedia.ca, Samuelson-Glushko Canadian Internet Policy & Public Interest Clinic (CIPPIC), British Columbia Civil Liberties Association (BCCLA); British Columbia Freedom of Information & Privacy Association (BCFIPA), Privacy and Access Council of Canada – Conseil du Canada de ‘Accs et la vie privée, Canadian Access and Privacy Association (CAPA); Canadian Institute of Access and Privacy Professionals (CIAPP); Canadian Civil Liberties Association (CCLA), Sharon Polsky (MAPP, President, Privacy and Access Council of Canada), AMINA Corp., Prof. Andrew Clement (University of Toronto), Prof. David Lyon (Queen’s Research Chair in Surveillance Studies), Kevin McArthur, Darrell Evans (The Open Government Project), Democracy Watch, National Council of Canadian Muslims, Public Interest Advocacy Centre (PIAC), International Civil Liberties Monitoring Group (ICMLG), Rocky Mountain Civil Liberties Association (RMCLA), John Wunderlich (Open Notice Project), Kevin McArthur, Dr. Kate Milberry, Dr. Adam Molnar, Connie Fournier (Free Dominion), David Murakami-Wood (Canada Research Chair in Surveillance Studies, Queen's University), Prof. Ian Kerr (Canada Research Chair in Ethics, Law & Technology, University of Ottawa), Prof. Colin Bennett, Prof. Lisa Austin, Dr Benjamin Muller, Eric Lawton (MAPP, Director, Privacy and Access Council of Canada), Claire Milne (Executive Director, David Asper Centre for Constitutional Rights), Prof. David Murakami-Wood (Canada Research Chair in Surveillance Studies, Queen's University), Rocky Mountain Civil Liberties Association (RMCLA), Kris Constable (PrivaSecTech), Dr. Chris Parsons (Citizen Lab, University of Toronto).


ends

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