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Does the proposed law to allow police easier identification of Internet users go too far?

Sunday on Cross Country Checkup: Internet privacy
A proposed law that would make it easier to track online criminal activity such a child porn is drawing cries of foul from critics.
They say it's an intrusion that will violate the privacy of citizens.
What do you think?  Does the proposed law go too far?
Join host Rex Murphy, Sunday on Cross Country Checkup.

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This past week in Parliament, a government bill landed on the floor of the House of Commons with a loud thud. When Public Safety Minister Vic Toews presented Bill C-30 ...a proposed law the government calls 'Protecting Children from Internet Predators Act' ...the reaction was strong and swift. Accusations of big brother surveillance and the government creeping into people's e-mail quickly appeared. The partisan atmosphere in the House and Canadians' growing sensitivity to regulations concerning their activities online especially related to tracking or limiting those activities easily explains the outrage.

Very notable in the response to this bill, was Minister Toews' introduction of it - that you were with this legislation or with the child pornographers. Not since Edsel has there been such a launch. He has since backed down, but not before there was an avalanche online - through social media - mocking the Minister, or releasing details of his divorce.

The online response of social media shows the force of the internet ...appropriately in this case involving the Internet.

We'd like to talk about Internet privacy and how to balance that with the need for police to keep up with the increasing level of crime that is conducted over the Internet. Nobody likes the idea of big brother tracking your moves online ...but neither do people like the idea of children being abused, frauds being perpetrated, older people victimized, or other crimes being committed without adequate resources to find the offenders.

The two key features of the proposed legislation involve requiring Internet Service Providers to do two things. They would have to give police (without a warrant) identifying information about the people who subscribe to their service ...information such as name, address, e-mail address, phone number, and IP address (the number that identifies a computer online). They would also have the ability to record all online activities of any subscriber and hold the data in the event that a criminal investigation would require the details. Those details would only be accessible to police with a warrant approved by a judge.

Critics say that is too much information without proper justification. They say the subscriber identity information should only be available only through a proper warrant and that it is not necessary to collect so much personal information just in case it is useful in a criminal investigation.

Supporters say freely giving police IP addresses is like having licence plates on a car ...and when the car is involved in a crime police can trace the owner. They say criminals are successfully hiding their activities online and police need faster ways to chase after them.

We'd like to hear your opinion on all this.

Surveillance is, and always has been, a topic that makes people uneasy. The explosion over the past decade of public and private activity online has meant that many people have had to re-think their attitude towards privacy, and define exactly what should be public and what should be private. Any parent with kids on Facebook is frequently surprised at how little they worry about it.

What do you think? Is the internet a wide open place that should be free from authority and surveillance? Or must there be an update of police powers to keep up with the evolution of crime and criminals in an Internet age? What about the proposed law ...do Canadians need to give the police powers that are better tuned to the electronic realities of today? Or, should Canadians be more vigilant than ever about protecting their privacy in a time when it can be compromised with the click of a mouse?

Our question today: "Does the proposed law to allow police easier identification of Internet users go too far?"

I'm Rex Murphy ...on CBC Radio One ...and on Sirius satellite radio channel 159 ...this is Cross Country Checkup.


  • Ann Cavoukian
    Information and Privacy Commissioner of Ontario

  • Paul Gillespie
    Former detective-sergeant in the Toronto police sex crime unit, now president and CEO of KINSA (Kids' Internet Safety Alliance)

  • Steven Penney
    Professor at the Faculty of Law, University of Alberta

  • Ian Kerr
    Professor of law at University of Ottawa, Canada Research Chair in Ethics, Law and Technology



Public Safety Canada

National Post

Globe and Mail


Ottawa Citizen

Toronto Sun

Vancouver Province

Edmonton Journal


Michael Geist


Getting a warrant means there has to be some credible evidence of a crime presented a judge (and thereby is put on record),  Before  a search of a person, a premise, or anyone's communications by way of opening mail or wiretapping phones. If a search is made absent such evidence then there is, de facto, no reason for the search. In other words - it is an un-reasonable search.   Are we or are we not protected from "unreasonable" searches in this country?

Evidence of a crime obtained by illegal means, for example after application of torture or by an illegal unreasonable search, is "tainted" and cannot be used in Canadian courts.

Police who assure us that the content of our communications will not be available to them are being disingenuous about the level of intrusion they can still inflict upon us all. They are already prohibited from opening my mail or tapping my phone without legal cause, for example, but with this legislation they might easily compile a record of where all my mail was coming from or going to. They could, without accessing content, compile lists of my bank accounts, credit card companies, and other business, social, or political relationships. They could, without listening to my conversations, track my movements via cell phone records.

Are Canadians comfortable with all this? Then I guess we'd have been comfortable under the Soviet NKVD, the East German Stasi, the gestapo and other such regimes. Harper and company are showing their true colours.

Marty Hykin
Victoria, British Columbia


I think this is a good time to remind everyone that this bill has been introduced by a government who in last May's election threw a student out of a campaign event after investigating her online persona. The greatest concern to me is the coziness of the Conservative government to the police and the potential for surveillance of activities that the government feels oppose its grip on power.

Mark Shields
Calgary, Alberta

Benjamin Franklin said it best."They that can give up essential liberties to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety."Bill 30 is not about going after pedophiles, it's about spying on Canadians, pure and simple.

Frank A. Pelaschuk
Alexandria, Ontario

First off I describe myself as a pragmatic libertarian and I am supporter of the conservatives. If the intention is that the police can quickly get the address or identification of the user of an IP address then I am ok with it. This is basic info. From my understanding the police would still need a warrant to get more than basic information. If that is not the case then I am very opposed.

Kevin K
Edmonton, Alberta

Listening to the comments from the retired police officer, it is obvious that the problem which needs to be addressed is that it takes 2-3 week for the police to obtain a warrant! That is the part of the system which needs to be fixed; but not by allowing the police access to private information without a warrant. Perhaps warrant applications regarding child pornography should be considered top priority and handled very quickly. There would then be no need for the new law

Anita Rackham
Austin, Quebec

I am not in favor of un-warranted monitoring and surveillance of our citizens. I have no problem with law authorities continuing an investigation with a warrant. Being a small country already paying premium prices for communications; I think serious attention needs to be paid to the costs to users of their telecom companies maintaining access to such warrant accessible information.  These are businesses.  Don't unduly burden them.  We pay.

Art Mosher
Bedford, Nova Scotia

Rex, perhaps I have missed some information during the broadcast but it is my understanding that is not only the police that are authorized to investigate without a warrant but those persons who may be authorized by the Minister to do so.  Perhaps it is worth checking the bill to confirm this.  If indeed correct, this makes the bill as it currently is worded even worse.

Williams Lake, British Columbia

I'm concerned about what the Harper Government is doing while they have us distracted with this latest outrageous Bill C-30.  Oh no!  I've submitted this and now the government knows I don't trust them.  And they know where I live.  I'm doomed.

Merle Martin
Edmonton, Alberta


As a retired policeman horrified at the extent of child sexual abuse in this country I would support appropriate counter measures. but why are the government letting the companies profiting from selling access to the Internet continuing to provide the means for criminals to use their services without being required themselves to monitor the use of their facilities.  Other companies are
required to maintain security departments to protect their interests and their clientele, why not Internet Service Providers  ?

Donald Cobb
Ottawa, Ontario

If the police get into my computer and snoop about, I would hope that if they find anything interesting, they'd have the courtesy to let me know about it. Although I strongly support helping the police to do their job, my concern would be that they would very quickly begin use their new freedom to invade the private space of citizens for other, nefarious purposes.  If I were to believe that the police are always the good guys, I'd be all for it, but unfortunately, there are just too many incidents of police inciting or enabling law breaking for their own dark purposes, too often seemingly at the service of politics and/or industry, not justice.

Baxter Huston
Terrace, British Columbia

I'm a psychologist and have worked with sexually abused children and teens as well as young offenders.  I support efforts to prosecute those who abuse children and child pornographers.  I am also concerned about protecting the privacy of innocent citizens. If the problem is not being able to get a warrant in time to get evidence, then the solution is to look at the process of getting a warrant.  We need more court-rooms and more judges, in my view, in order to speed up the justice process in general and specifically to do with child abuse. We need more trained police, social workers, judges and other professionals.  We need more treatment programs for victims of child abuse and for perpetrators in order to break the cycle of abuse.  My questions are, what will happen to people who write about their own experience of being abused on the internet?  Will they be prosecuted as child pornographers? As well, what happens when someone has a common name and everyone with that name gets branded as a child pornographer?  Mistaken identity has sometimes ended up with police arresting and even killing innocent people, killing a person's reputation can lead to horrendous consequences, including suicide.

Colleen Eggertson
Calgary, Alberta


This has been going on for years. A little agency in the US called the National Security Agency (NSA) has a budget of billions. They monitor all overseas telephone calls and much more. There are agreements between various countries to monitor each other so that politicians can stand up and say they don't snoop. Back in the 60's I was told by an RCMP that he would make a note on my file that I was not guilty of importing a stereo. When I asked him "What file?" the response was I can't tell you that.

Malcolm Barnes
North Vancouver, British Columbia

It's not the proposed legislation, it's the disconnected arrogance with which it was presented to parliament. The concept of radical absolutes - you are either with us or the terrorists - speaks to a political culture we as Canadians must reject. It's a slippery slope once such a discourse is embraced - who knows? Next we might hear some politician saying anyone opposing a pipeline is anti-Canadian.

David Hauka
Vancouver, British Columbia


I wish that there was a way that the people that already have good reason to doubt that our court system ( which couldn't find Justice in a one word dictionary, some days ) can be trusted, couldn't get into this discussion. At least, without having to fear retributions and further attacks from the very parts of our Society that are supposed to be supporting them.
If you want to say that I don't know what I am talking about, then what has gone on, is going on, and will go on regarding the murders of women that our court system is proving that it cannot even be relied on to find out about after the fact and after years have gone bye? As a member of the community of people with disabilities, I could tell you stories that would destroy any confidence that you may have in our society's systems at so many levels, but particularly within the court system.
This is what I think that you will find many people are concerned about. Particularly when you are dealing with people who can make the kinds of fascist statements that have been said more and more in public lately.
Ken Westlake
Penticton, British Columbia

Let me start by saying that I believe the crimes committed by sexual predators and child pornographers are as serious and in many ways worse than murder. They leave their victims scarred for life. The internet provides these criminals with almost limitless access to new victims and anonymity to commit their crimes.

I also believe that allowing the police access to our private lives without judicial oversight is unacceptable in Canadian society. I was a police officer for twenty years. I was required to obtain warrants for searches far less intrusive than going into a person's internet use. Having to obtain a warrant never bothered me. It was part of my job. It was reassuring to know that my reasons for requesting a warrant had been looked over by a judge and were accepted.

Let the police continue to do their homework, obtain warrants and gather evidence the way they always have. 

Catch the online predators. Prosecute them. Do it a way that is consistent with the free and democratic society that we live in.
Geoff Page
Saskatoon, Saskatchewan


Perhaps before I get too excited about this, I should get some clarification.  A couple of months ago the news was full of reference to Google tailoring search responses to the profile of the user.  It seems that Google keeps every keystroke we put in on some database, and knows where we go, what we look at.  If we're prepared to let some corporate entity collect all this information, then in my opinion there is no privacy anyway.   The minister's confrontational posturing was not helpful, but perhaps the hysteria also misses the point.   Many people do internet banking and funds transfers.  Perhaps the discussion should be about what kind of oversight will be provided to ensure that people getting our personal and financial information are qualified, know how to protect information and don't misuse it.

Vic Janz
Medicine Hat, Alberta

I've been listening to the individuals taking about how it is critical that police be given the power to monitor and review your internet access without a warrant in the pursuit of child pornographers. The assertion is that they need to act quickly to catch these people as the data disappears too quickly. This is just not the case. Individuals taking part in child pornography spend weeks, months and years building their collections. The only way they are going to delete their collections is if they receive a tip that they are being observed. If this is happening then the police better take a cold hard look at themselves. There is no need to change the law. Get a warrant.

Gordon McCague

It was reported by Ontario Privacy Commissioner Ann Cavoukian that all provincial and the Federal privacy commissioners signed a document that was presented to the Federal government that advised against the introduction of Bill C-30

Minister Toews admitted to not knowing what is in Bill C-30 but came out guns-blazing telling Canadians that if you're against Bill C-30 you're with the child pornographers.

These two facts show me that the government has an agenda and they don't care what people think. I'm afraid the Canadian Government is going to push Bill-30 through regardless of Canadians concerns. This Federal policy will be added to the growing list that includes the omnibus bill, the fighter jets no matter what the real cost, Copenhagen and the Kyoto Accord, the loss of our seat at the UN and the list goes on as the government will again bank on the fact we have a short memory.

Marilyn Walker
Winnipeg, Manitoba

I empathize with all the victims/families of such horrendous crimes such as child pornography.  However government and policing agencies such as the RCMP are already guilty of abusing their respective authorities by surveilling select First Nations groups.  There have been stories in the news exposing such activities.  There needs to be a paper trail which would include the issuance of a warrant to ensure an individual's rights are protected.  I hold a Bachelor's degree in Information Technology and have a very strong sense as to how the powers associated with this Bill can be exploited and ultimately abused!

Thank You.

Mike Christian
Spallumcheen, British Columbia

If 95% of police requests for personal information are granted, how many requests are being made? Do people whose information has been requested get any notification of this breach of their privacy?How many actual crimes are being uncovered by this investigation? What oversight to prevent abuse is there?

Richard Simpley
Toronto, Ontario

I think we have good reason to be very concerned about this legislation. No one can take issue with the need to control the abuse of the internet for criminal purposes, that is a given. However as with all policing measures the potential for abuse is considerable and the justification for the abuse is frightening. We need only take a look back at the hasty implementation and justification for the No Fly List. Lives are still being seriously impacted by that initiative. The handling of protesters at the G8 is another example of citizens being denied their rights for the so called greater good. Canadians who object to the Northern Gateway Project were recently called terrorists by the Harper government. Do we now have to be watching our every tweet, post, email to make sure that we are not scrutinized by CSIS? Perhaps.

Susan McLoughlin
Peachland, British Columbia


I am very opposed to this legislation. There are already methods for obtaining a warrant.  The legislation goes too far.

I grew up in the McCarthy era.  In fact, Joseph McCarthy was from me home town.  He managed to ruin many reputations with his innuendos.

Our present government does not seem to tolerate opinions different from its own ideology.  Whistle blowers get fired if their ideas differ from the government's plans.  Now we have been told that the Enbridge pipeline is going ahead, period.  If we look up various opinions on the matter and don't agree with the government, we could possibly be put on some sort of list.  The investigations into private Internet use could morph into regions far beyond crime and develop into lists of people against government plans.

Marilyn Hansen
Summerland, British Columbia


Here's one more typically inconsistent and stupid aspect of the Conservative agenda: everyone with an internet connection should be open to police online supervision, but there is no reason that police should know who owns a gun? Are we surprised.

Joyce Mason
Toronto, Ontario

I am curious if this along with the soon to be announced copyright legislation will be used to enforce copyright instead of actually protecting children.  With a warrant, or valid oversight, and the requirement that ISP's retain logs for a set period of time, the issues discussed by Mr. Gillespie should be fixed.

Darrell Wright
Thunder Bay, Ontario

Bill C-30 has very little to do with child pornography.  It is a smoke screen for political control.  Remember the news items we heard from Libya, Syria, Egypt and other nations where people are trying to overthrow oppressive regimes and we were told that protestors could be traced through their use of electronic media, then arrested, tortured, and/or executed.  These countries have the legislation that our government is now trying to impose on the Canadian population.

Verda Petry
Regina, Saskatchewan


I have worked in the area of treatment and assessment of sexual offenders for over 18 years. This bill along with the omnibus crime bill is quintessential American politics imported north. They all have a common theme. These measures are emotionally compelling and intellectually simplistic. A politician's dream. Crime has been decreasing in third country steadily for over a decade. On the other hand, reporting on crime has increased many hundredfold over the same period. Stars Canada has reported that most Canadians feel safe in their own neighborhoods. It is my view that the Harperites are engaging in wedge politics at the expense of the real issues which face this country.

Terry Nicholaichuk
Saskatoon, Saskatchewan

As well as all of the other objections raised on your show about ineffectiveness and the invasion of privacy associated with this impending internet legislation, I think it is important to note that the bill will be particularly ineffective at protecting children. When child pornography is found on the internet, it has already been produced and a child has already been violated As with the Harper government's crime bill, it claims to speak for victims but relies on victimization for its legitimacy.  Who said that "an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure"? Perhaps that person should give our Prime Minister a call and remind him that perpetually responding to problems rather than preventing them is a very expensive prospect - and hardly fiscally conservative.

Pam Hanington
Benmiller, Ontario

One of the last callers brought up the point that people should be more aware of where they are supplying information - to install apps, for example.

My bit - I was surprised, when we got our home wireless, that the customer support rep who was helping us (my wife, actually) was told to use the simplest security setting. I would hope they would recommend the strongest - even if it is a bit more difficult to explain.

Trevor Baillie
Ottawa, Ontario

There are numerous problems with the bill as written, granting incredibly invasive powers which simply aren't needed.  Warrantless powers should be limited to a data preservation mechanism, in order to allow police time to obtain a warrant for the data that they're after, without risk of it being destroyed.  There is no reason why an inspector, without a warrant, should be allowed to enter any telecommunications facility and remove any data kept on their servers, as per s. 34(2) of the bill.

The other troubling issue is the complete lack of ministerial responsibility  Mr. Toews now claims that he was unaware of powers which existed in the bill which he tabled.  While it is perfectly acceptable and common practice for the bills to be authored by bureaucrats, the government, in the form of the Prime Minister and his responsible Cabinet Minister should be well versed in the
effect that legislation which they table will have.  Mr. Toews has demonstrated himself to either be a liar, in that he did know of the powers, or incompetent, in that he should have known.   In either case, he should be removed from his cabinet post over this.

Joe Seatter
Arnprior, Ontario

Just caught tail end of your program.  I feel this bill should proceed.  If it is being abused, it can be repealed.  I am sure the police will only target the criminals and if we find they are abusing the privilege granted by the bill the voters can repeal the bill by making it an election issue.  Police need tools to catch these people and I, for one, do not giving up a bit of privacy to allow the police the tools they ask for.  I am not doing anything I am worried or ashamed of so I have no problem if one of my e-mails or searches is intercepted.  I would also like a bill passed at the same time to have a minimum jail sentence of anyone convicted of at least 20 years with no parole.  Give the police some support after tracking down the pedophiles.  How many people do not protect their systems now that allow anyone access to their computers.  Let's keep getting tougher on crime and not put the handcuffs on the police.

Jack Masterman
Port Hardy, British Columbia


Most of us want child predators and pornographers stopped and prosecuted.  However, we should not give up the rights and freedoms that many brave Canadians have fought two world wars to protect.  This legislation should be scrapped and started with specific intent to deal with child abuse, pornography, and child predators.  Whether someone has done nothing wrong is only in the eyes of the beholder, ie. 1930's and 40's  Germany and Russia,  etc.

Carole Eriksson
Woodstock, Ontario

Is this new bill not just a more invasive, more expensive and more useless effort by the Tories than the infamous long gun bill they are bragging about removing?

David Robinson
Cape Spear, Newfoundland

How much more considered and productive the callers' remarks might have been, if ONLY you had moved the interview with the law professor, aired at around 5:15 pm EST, up to the top of the program.  He authoritatively and clearly outlined the fact that the content of emails cannot be got at without a judge's warrant, and that Bill-C-30 is intended principally to obtain those warrants in a more timely manner. (The government didn't do quite so clear a job in introducing this proposal.)   In the 75 minutes or so before the interview ran, your callers dispensed a huge volume of hot air that added not very much to the debate.  In the interests of a better educated public, I hope for more careful planning of future programs.

Jim White
Kanata, Ontario

Most families have one internet service provider (ISP) under one name and address. If there is any transgression of the law by anyone on that account, even by accident, everyone in the family would be under suspicion  So, when police have the need to retrieve the information about the account in question, it would not necessarily link to a single person in the first instance.  One can imagine that relaxing the legal standard for obtaining ISP information will adversely affect many people.

Richard Stern
Edmonton, Alberta


Our firm works with clients on income assistance.   A couple of years ago we discovered that one of our clients was not a Canadian citizen, although he had been receiving some form of government benefits since he came to Canada from US - employment insurance, income assistance, etc and was in the process of applying for CPP.  His work permit expired, no one ever bothered to check his SIN number (they are flagged) and he had never filed an income tax return.  So I don't think we really need to worry about government becoming a big brother and watching us... if they can't keep track of illegal immigrants and in fact, pay them the stay here!

Barbara ONeil
Cranbrook, British Columbia


I haven't been able to listen to all of today's broadcast, so you may have addressed this point, but it's my understanding that the bill as proposed enables the minister to designate anyone he wants as an "inspector" who is then empowered to obtain private information like IP addresses, traffic volumes and the like, without warrant.

This would enable Mr. Toews to grant political operatives these powers if he chose, and I have no reason to believe he would not so choose. But even if he didn't, the law would presumably still apply to future governments, and does Mr. Toews trust them as much as he wants us to trust him? This is simply bad and stupid legislation.

Dave Macmurchie
Shawnigan Lake, British Columbia

The basic premise here is that the internet is somehow different - that effective law enforcement requires new provisions.  This is false. People who commit internet crime also have a non-virtual, physical presence somewhere.  that is where surveillance should take place.  if they have good reason they can get a warrant to install a key logger on my computer, or snoop my network connection at my house, or monitor my monitor.  you know, the techniques that "surveillance" always used to mean (before wiretaps, basically.)  it's really just laziness when law enforcement claims they need greater powers, as if the internet somehow defeats old-fashioned surveillance.

yes, point-and click, automatic, always-on network surveillance would be a powerful tool, but that is a completely invalid argument for doing it, since there are perfectly functional alternatives.

I'm a computer expert.  I fully understand how encryption can make life hard for law enforcement.  however, old-fashioned physical surveillance still works fine, since the human interface is still inherently unencrypted.

Mark Hahn
Hamilton, Ontario 


Another in a very long line up of politicians who claim ignorance in the face of responsibility.  There should be a rule whereby every elected official, upon using the "what? I didn't know!" excuse should be immediately and powerfully expelled from their position like explosive diarrhea.  The Canadian prime minister knows this,  and is quietly waiting for his own inevitable scandal to use it. I eagerly await that time;  as his penchant for extreme micro-management is well known.

Morgan Hanam
Sydney, Nova Scotia


The more venal elements of both government and policing showed us starkly what they think of our civil liberties during the Toronto G20. I wouldn't put it past anyone in the conservative spin machine, CSIS or any of the police members who took off their nametags so they could beat, jail, mock and leer at peaceful protestors on that day, to spy on perceived enemies for any reason they see fit, to leak personal photos or correspondence, to plant kiddie porn in a computer so they can say they found it there, so they can send their critics to the gulag under cover of protecting children. I do not trust them with anyone's safety.

Kev Corbett
Halifax, Nova Scotia


Something that has not been covered yet is pedophilia itself.  I believe that it is a separate sexual orientation since the majority of adults thankfully have no attraction to children.
Therefore I believe that our society would benefit from a thorough study of this terrible affliction for the purpose of eradicating it.  We should know all about this orientation, including the percentage of the population it affects.  This would prevent the victimization of millions of children and it would also help the children of today who will someday  become perpetrators.
Isabelle Prenat

I am a computer science professor  and take exception to the technical underpinning of the bill. IP addresses are irrelevant because they are transitory. They are assigned each time a computer asks  for access to a TCP/IP server. For that session the IP is assigned to the enquiring computer. if the computer user logs off the network the network router reassigns the IP and returns it to the router pool for assignment to the next enquiring computer.

A user is identified by IP for only a short period. Think of an internet cafe.....the IP's are assigned randomly to each computer user in the café and again it is reassigned after the cafe user drops their connection.

What they want is the criminals MAC address which is permanently part of the network hardware of his//her computer. It is comparable to a VIN number on a car, the IP address is changeable like a license plate.

But ,without a warrant I object to the potential of abuse of power.

Don Hilmam
Victoria, British Columbia


This makes it oh so obvious. "The state must declare the child to be the most precious treasure of the people. As long as the government is perceived as working for the benefit of the children, the people will happily endure almost any curtailment of liberty and almost any deprivation." from Mein Kampf

Kris Vieaux
Nanaimo, British Columbia 

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