Canada’s proposed cyber security legislation, Bill C-51, will “erode the relationship between individuals and their government” by granting powers that are too sweeping in scope, says one notable watchdog of internet policy initiatives.
Writing for Mozilla’s Open Policy & Advocacy blog, writer Jochai Ben-Avie compared the cyber security bill in front of the U.S. Senate Select Committee, the Cybersecurity Information Sharing Act (CISA) to its would-be doppelganger currently being considered by Canadian Parliament, C-51, the “Anti-Terrorism Act of 2015”.
Ben-Avie says that while CISA is improved from its earlier iterations, it still has “substantive” problems. He says the proposed legislation is too “vague and expansive” and could potentially be used for purposes outside its original intent. He also says it has insufficient privacy safeguards. And, pointing to the example of Edward Snowden, the author says the government’s failure to secure its own data means there can be no guarantee that surveilled data is not at risk.
The open-ended internal information-sharing exceptions contained in the bill erode the relationship between individuals and their government by removing the compartmentalization that allows Canadians to provide the government some of their most private information…
But Canada’s proposed anti-terror measures, said Ben-Avie, are “even more concerning”.
“The open-ended internal information-sharing exceptions contained in the bill erode the relationship between individuals and their government by removing the compartmentalization that allows Canadians to provide the government some of their most private information (for census, tax compliance, health services, and a range of other purposes) and trust that that information will be used for only its original purposes. This compartmentalization, currently a requirement of the Privacy Act, will not exist after Bill C-51 comes into force,” he said.
Ben-Avie says the bill will give Canadian intelligence agencies CSIS and CSE access to “significant” amounts of Canadian government information and will empower them to conduct practices such as taking down websites and introducing malware.
Mozilla is an open-source software community that is best known for producing the FireFox browser. The community is supported by The Mozilla Foundation, which describes itself as “a non-profit organization that promotes openness, innovation and participation on the Internet.” The Mozilla Foundation ascribes to principals called “The Mozilla Manifesto”, which include the idea that an “Individuals’ security and privacy on the Internet are fundamental and must not be treated as optional.”
Bill C-51 is the first comprehensive reform proposed to Canada’s Criminal Code since 2001. The bill is supported by the Conservative Party and the Liberal Party, and opposed by the official opposition, the NDP. Support for the bill amongst Canadians was initially as high as 82%, but has since dropped sharply, with 50% now disapproving of it and just 38% approving.
Notable opponents of the bill include 100 Canadian professors of law and related disciplines, who penned an open letter to members of parliament urging MPs to vote against it. The letter cited the bill’s “exceptionally broad” definition of terrorism, its redefining of the role of judges in the legal system, and its refusal to consider actions such as community outreach to potentially radicalized youth, a measure the authors say have been proven to be effective.