Bill C-13: Cyberbullying and Lawful Access

This week I appeared as a witness before the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights to discuss Bill C-13 - the lawful access and cyber bullying bill (I will post a transcript when available).

A summary of my testimony can be found in Josh Wingroves excellent Globe and Mail article: Law groups urge government to revamp cyber bullying bill. 

It is interesting to note that Conservative MP (and former RCMP officer) David Wiliks believes that a police officer 'spidey senses' is enough justification to conduct intrusive data searches:

Conservatives on the committee took exception to some of the lawyers’ critiques during the two-hour session. ‎Mr. Spratt at one point sparred with David Wilks, a former Mountie who is now a Conservative MP, over Mr. Spratt’s suggestion the bill opens the door to police abuse.

“What we want to avoid is police obtaining personal and private information based on their spidey senses, which happens all the time‎ and the courts have a dim view on that,” Mr. Spratt said, speaking about the new powers in the bill.

Mr. Wilks, interrupting, said: “As a police officer, my spidey senses, as you [call] them, are the one and only thing that will allow me sometimes to move forward in an investigation that will eventually bring forward more information” in a case.

“Well, unfortunately, spidey senses don’t amount to reasonable and probable grounds [to justify seizing data], and the courts have found that acting on spidey senses and your suspicions is what leads to evidence being excluded,” or ruled inadmissible, Mr. Spratt replied.

I have previously written that this bill is a wolf in sheep clothing - Mr. Wiliks comments do nothing to address my concerns.

My comments to the committee focused on the inappropriately low and unconstitutional standards contained in C-13 which would allow the state to liberally access highly private data.

There is legitimate reason to be concerned about the measures contained in C-13.  

Adding to the concern is the fact that groups that advocate for privacy rights - the Canadian Civil Liberties Association, the British Columbia Civil Liberties Association, and CIPPIC - have been denied the opportunity to testify at committee.

As preeminent expert and Canada Research Chair in Internet and E-commerce Law - Michael Geist points out on his site:

The exclusion of these groups - along with the absence of any federal or provincial commissioners - undermines the entire review process. There may be differing views on the lawful access provisions (the bill is certainly far better than the prior Bill C-30 and its predecessor but still needs improvement), but a fair and effective legislative process should ensure that leading experts are given the opportunity to voice their views.

Debate should not be stiffed on this important issue.

I also spoke with Rob Breakenridge - host of the Rob Breakenridge show on News Talk 770 - to explain the issues with C-13 and why the public should be concerned.

Lawful access and appropriate privacy protects is an issue that is not going away any time soon - definitely more to come....

UPDATE - Interesting development: