If a new bill on schedule to be introduced in the House of Commons passes, Canadian police may have access to your cell phone, web browser history, and other personal data. The so-called Lawful Act would give Canadian police access to personal information without the need for a police warrant, including personal privacy information. Already, the proposed legislation is drawing comparison to unpopular U.S. acts SOPA and PIPA. Freedom of speech on the Internet worldwide could be hampered by this and other laws that have been proposed recently. Everyone, from businesspeople on their laptops at Chicago hotels to teenagers in Taiwan, will have to deal with the new measures put into place by tech companies complying with this type of legislation in order to stay on the right side of the law.
The Lawful Act would grant police permission to remotely activate tracking devices in cellphones for use in tracking suspected criminals. No warrant would be needed. Canadian police could thus track suspects for up to 60 days, and would have the ability to track suspected terrorists via cellphone for up to one year. The legislation would further require Internet service providers and cellular phone companies to install tracking and monitoring equipment to monitor all users’ activities, and then turn all of the users’ data gathered over to police when necessary.
While proponents of the bill feel this information should be common knowledge to prevent crime, the bill has detractors raising privacy concerns. Under proposed legislation, police would have access to sensitive data including home address, IP address, email address, and full name without needing to show any provocation.
Because the police would not need to make a case against a suspect to obtain this data, there is no subsequent oversight of how the information would be used. And forget about opting out: The legislation would force all cellphone carriers and Internet service providers to comply. Under the Lawful Act, Canadian police could share personal, private data with police agencies worldwide, sending your personal data from Montreal to Mumbai, from Vancouver to Venezuela.
The bill’s critics point to loss of personal control over private data. If this bill were passed, Internet service providers would need to change their business models to comply with the new legislation. Changes to policy could impact how ISPs handle personal information, but has broader implications for free speech on the Internet. Imagine police watching every site you browse, every word you write, and every piece of streaming media you watch. The bill would make it harder for ISPs to operate by placing them accountable for offering up your personal data, and would make good old-fashioned “surfing the net” no longer a worry-free pastime.
Well beyond the NSFW terrain, legislation like the Lawful Act, SOPA, and PIPA threaten to change the climate of the Internet, to the point where the actions you take may no longer be safe from anyone. After all, once police have your sensitive data, what obligations do they have to protect it and keep it private? Keep the Internet safe for worldwide use by advocating for free speech and privacy over legislation like the proposed Lawful Act, which is set to be introduced in the House of Commons in late February.