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Canada Privacy News

Canadian Telcos Secretly Supporting Internet Surveillance Legislation 79

An anonymous reader writes "Canada's proposed Internet surveillance was back in the news last week after speculation grew that government intends to keep the bill in legislative limbo until it dies on the order paper. This morning, Michael Geist reports that nearly all of the major Canadian telecom and cable companies have been secretly working with the government for months on the Internet surveillance bill. The secret group has been given access to a 17-page outline (PDF) of planned regulations and raised questions of surveillance of social networks and cloud computing facilities."
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Canadian Telcos Secretly Supporting Internet Surveillance Legislation

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  • by crazyjj ( 2598719 ) * on Tuesday May 22, 2012 @04:18PM (#40080139)

    If you think the telcos and ISP's in your country are the exception, you're kidding yourself.

    • Nothing new - governments have always monitored "the media," the Internet is the new media.

      • by fearlezz ( 594718 ) on Tuesday May 22, 2012 @04:49PM (#40080417) Homepage

        the Internet is not just the new "media". It is also a channel for private communication.
        Up to a few years back, private peer-to-peer communication (paper letters) was really private. (At least in The Netherlands we have strict laws on secrecy of correspondence.) Nowadays, chats, emails and everything else is being monitored.

        • Said it before: do unto them what they do unto you.
          (from Holland, greets!)

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by Anonymous Coward

          It is also a channel for private communication.

          Yes! But people are refusing to use it as such.

          Tools to make it suitable for private communication have been available for 15 years or so, yet people not only refuse to use them, they actively go the OTHER direction - moving more and more of their private communication onto services designed explicitly to make it NOT private. Using facebook, google mail, and other such things for what could actually be private if they cared.

          End to end encryption is the only way to ensure privacy. It is available in every

          • The only reason people are moving in that direction is that it's already built into the legislation. If the law said that governments could open your snail mail without a warrant, people are not going to start suddenly encrypting their letters to each other.

            The same thing is happening now: the law allows governments to obtain relatively private correspondences with relatively little probable cause. People haven't started caring less about their privacy; the governments are simply better at disguising the pu

      • Your right they have. But if you take a look at what always happens after they implement that surveillance, you might understand why many, many people do not want it.

        every single government in history has turned on the people it governs. Your casual attitude implies that you and your government are the exception. I hope your not that nieve.

        • It goes in cycles - McCarthy / JE Hoover were a high point, somewhere between Nixon and Clinton was a low, I hope we've topped out after more than a decade of "war on terror" - only time will tell.

    • by PPH ( 736903 ) on Tuesday May 22, 2012 @04:54PM (#40080467)

      In many countries, the telcos are SOEs []. In the USA, given our dislike for big government, they are privately owned (nod, wink). Which actually plays into the government's hand quite well. Given our Constitutional restrictions on warrantless searches and our right to be secure from government (but not private) surveillance, having a private entity do the data collection as an agent of the government sidesteps this little annoyance neatly. But in countries where there is no such restriction on the governments' snooping, they just run the network themselves.

      At least you folks know where you stand when you pick up a phone. Us Americans can only wonder.

      • What do you think CISPA is about? It even gives the telocs legal immunity for doing it.

        WRITE YOUR CONGRESSMAN. It is unacceptable.

      • >>>having a private entity do the data collection as an agent of the government sidesteps this little annoyance

        Not quite. You can still sue the private telephone company for sharing your private data w/o your permission. That's why CISPA in in Congress now..... to eliminate your ability to sue them. (Only Netscape/Mozilla is opposing this; the other companies support its passage.)

        • by PPH ( 736903 )

          You are a few years too late. A FISA reform [] bill, passed in 2007, grants telecoms immunity from civil suits for just such cases. Initially, Obama campaigned against immunity, but switched [] positions on it.

          Personally, I can't really blame him for backing down. In this country, if you confront the shadow government or its minions, you get a limo ride through Dealey Plaza.

    • Simple reason - whomever gets to monitor private information wins. By helping make the winner, telcos become the winner's friend. Who cares if privacy goes out the window?
  • Not so secret anymore....
  • by daveschroeder ( 516195 ) * on Tuesday May 22, 2012 @04:23PM (#40080179) monitor communications, seize property, or perform searches before "the internet", should there not be a mechanism to do the same with communications on the internet (email, web sites, social media, etc.)? Or is something about the internet fundamentally different that means "the government" shouldn't be able to monitor it? If so, why? How does this reconcile with the rule of law and the social contract in democratic societies?

    • by Anonymous Coward

      Unprecedented power and access. The world has never EVER seen anything like we are seeing now in terms of surveillance

      • by JoeMerchant ( 803320 ) on Tuesday May 22, 2012 @04:39PM (#40080305)

        Actually, in times of war gone by, ALL transoceanic mail was subject to opening and reading. Nevermind communication monitoring across the iron curtain during the cold war.

        What's new is that we have this low cost, high bandwidth communication medium that everybody is using.

        In the past, you were restricted from broadcasting your ideas past the local pub - and even there, people would listen and repeat to the local authorities things they overheard.

        • Well, if the occasional letter can give away as much information about my habits as all of my internet dealings from my past preasant and future... I'll eat my house.

          • You still have the option to hand carry your paycheck to the bank, stand in line to deposit it, write out all your correspondence long hand and wait a week or more for a reply, go to a friend's house to talk... all these things are still possible, it's just that in the past there wasn't an alternative.

            • by Anonymous Coward

              You still have the option to hand carry your paycheck to the bank, stand in line to deposit it, write out all your correspondence long hand and wait a week or more for a reply, go to a friend's house to talk... all these things are still possible, it's just that in the past there wasn't an alternative.

              At my last employer there was no paper cheque option to receive my wages. An electronic record was created between my employer and my bank and implicitly available to the government upon presentation of a warrant to the bank. When I travel by car I sometimes go off the grid by using only cash which has been withdrawn over a period of time most of which was spent locally to mask the small amount held back each time to find my travels. I carry a credit card in that situation in the event I need to leave a bre

        • Times of war? HAH. Times of peace too. My wife used to get mail from her family in South America that had obviously been opened and taped shut. Utter outrage.

          It was her country's government that was doing it. How could you tell? If the CIA did it they would at least make a half-hearted attempt to seal the envelope back up using something similar to the original glue!

    • by wbr1 ( 2538558 )
      The thing is they have the ability to monitor now. It called going thru judicial channels and obtaining a warrant or subpoena. TThat is easy e.ough with friendly courts at least here in the US. Bills like this erode what little oversight there is is to the gove freely knowing about your proclivities for donkey porn and your google search to find out how many peanuts in your shit are too many.
      • What they really forget is this:

        The Constitution is not what "We, the People" can do. It is what allows the government to exist.

        Once they start passing unconstitutional crap like this, there is no longer a legitimate government, and no reason to not burn down Parliament.

    • by epyT-R ( 613989 )

      old media dynamics allowed for anonymity.. the internet doesn't.

      • by Anonymous Coward


        It doesn't?

    • This goes to something Orin Kerr calls the "Equilibrium Adjustment" theory of constitutional law. In short, if technological or other changes have altered the balance between government power and civil rights, the Supreme Court could find ways to adjust the balance. []

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by rtfa-troll ( 1340807 )

      As wbr1 said, in democratic societies, there was no legal mechanism to do such seizure outside of a specific accusation.

      However, it's more than that. There has been no practical mechanism to monitor all communications. Even if you could gather and record all of the phone calls of all of the people, you couldn't use it. Someone would have to sit down and listen through every conversation you wanted to find out about. You had to target specific groups.

      Modern technology means that you can gather every

    • by Hatta ( 162192 )

      There is, it's called getting a god damned warrant. It already works! There is zero need for any new legislation or law enforcement capability whatsoever.

    • Of course. Nothing's changed from the "old paper based world" except that governments are NOT following the same rules. The old world had protections like judge-issued warrants to keep the people secure in their homes, persons, and effects.

      NOW the governments are just side-stepping the judges/warrants process and going direct to searching us. Our homes are still secure (unless you have natural milk in the fridge), but not our persons or our effects (data).

      • Exactly.

        Imagine the reaction if this was surveillance of your old fashioned communications media.

        This is exactly the same as having your email and telephone calls censored and monitored.

        It boggles the mind that the man on the street isn't screaming bloody murder over this. It is completely unacceptable.

    • by glorybe ( 946151 )
      The only thing really different is the complexity of trying to observe the net. Sadly it comes down to the fact that governments just can not stand the idea of people communicating. If the public was aware of the goings on in various governments around the world we would likely be in a state of perpetual revolution. Not only would the truth set people free it would tend to drive them barking mad and in rage as well.
    • by jonwil ( 467024 )

      I have no problem with law enforcement monitoring specific people (or email addresses or Facebook accounts or whatever) on the internet IF they have a warrant to do so. I have a problem with laws that allow/require internet surveillance of people without a warrant.

      Just because its now done "on the internet" doesn't mean that it should be possible to carry out surveillance without a warrant.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      Really simple. There is a vast difference between a court which we'll pretend is not a rubber-stamp lapdog granting an order allowing the government to try to get data and having said government require the providers of technology and communications to deliberately weaken their systems to guarantee the government's ability to do so whenever they want. This is why (in the US) that CALEA was such a putrid, horrible idea back in the 90s.

      Please note that these mandates to allow snooping never include a mandat

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Slashdot on government: "How dare governments track everything we do! This is outrageous!"

    Slashdot on Google: "Eh, whatever. I willingly let them index my browsing history, search history, email, voice mail, text messages, online purchases, and even archive my mom's passwords on her unencrypted WiFi. How dare the government investigate them for privacy violations."

    • by Spad ( 470073 )

      The fundamental difference being that you can choose not to use Google's services and thereby avoid their "monitoring" but you can't avoid wholesale government monitoring of the internet unless you stop using it altogether (which is getting increasingly difficult to do as more and more government & private services move primarily online).

  • by EmperorOfCanada ( 1332175 ) on Tuesday May 22, 2012 @04:38PM (#40080301)
    Nearly all the major ISPs in Canada are also supplying traditional content. Some are even creators of that content. They are the last companies that want to see the internet become a pipe.

    All of these companies need to be forced to separate their old business from the new business with the understanding that the new company's goal is to be the best pipe possible and not to try propping up their old business models. Otherwise the interests of these companies is in direct conflict with the interests of a modern Canadian population. Check out the rates and services of 3rd world Caribbean countries and it is mind boggling. Jamaica offers 6Mbs unlimited cellular Internet for $40 US a month. The sell a D-Link router for you to have Wi-Fi for all the devices in your house. Canadian companies get all wound up about tethering your smart phone to a laptop because you might actually use some data that way.

    Their arguments keep going on and on about how they need to spend so many billions on infrastructure and these high rates are justified to pay for that. I guess we need the Jamaicans to come up and show us how to do it right.
    • But Comcast says THEY paid for the cable channels (about 50 cents per channel) and therefore the shows belong to them, and should not be distributed online. Is comcast wrong? In what way?

    • Let's see, Canada has roughly 12x the population of Jamaica, but roughly 1000x the land mass, roughly 1/83rd of the population density. Let's look to Jamaica for insight on Canadian infrastructure costs. Yeah...

      It's the same reason Canadian electric companies are paying around 8x the rate they charge (.55/kWh vs .07/kWh) for people using wind/solar arrays to ease the load on the power grid. Sure they can run wires everywhere, but when the demands of any area exceed the tolerances of the sub-stations, the

      • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

        by Anonymous Coward

        In the case of the internet, the sources and destinations of data are spread thinly over a ~10,000,000 sq km area.

        Well, no.

        The population is not even remotely close to evenly distributed. In fact, if you look at a map [] it's fairly clear that it's not necessary to provide wireless service to the vast majority of that land area. Put differently -- yes, Canada is really big but most of it is virtually uninhabited. For the most part, the white areas on that map have no meaningful mobile phone coverage.

        Claiming that Canada's low population density is somehow an excuse for extremely high mobile phone rates is a very simplisti

        • I'm OK not having a good signal in Upper Bum Wash Manitoba when I am prospecting for mosquito resistant rock. But to support my Jamaica example it is a mountainous country with most of its population in a few spots. The north coast is pretty empty outside the resorts. The parish of Trelawny has a population of around 73,000 and is pretty big. Good modern coverage for all but the jungliest bits. Keep in mind that this is a country where they don't even seem to build overpasses (four lane highway and then red
  • "Telco's everywhere are secretly supporting internet surveillance".

    All countries are interconnected. All western countries are looking to pass legislation to mandate surveillance. As such all people, everywhere, are being surveilled.

    This isn't acceptable any more.

  • One minute the U.S. is trying to pass internet surveillance legislation. The next it is Britain. Then Australia jumps on the bandwaggon. Now its Canada. ------- The people lobbying for this BS need to be fought decisively. Otherwise we can forget the "free" internet as we know it today.
    • One minute the U.S. is trying to pass internet surveillance legislation. The next it is Britain. Then Australia jumps on the bandwaggon. Now its Canada. ------- The people lobbying for this BS need to be fought decisively. Otherwise we can forget the "free" internet as we know it today.

      What was the saying? "Soap Box... Ballot Box... Ammo Box."

      You are using the Soap Box now. In some countries, the Pirate Party is gaining headway (Australia even has rumors of trying to elect Julian Assange to parliament) that would be the Ballot Box in use. For examples of the Ammo Box try a search for "Arab Spring".

      The world is changing. Fighting is going on. Some of us are just at different stages of the fight.

  • by mar.kolya ( 2448710 ) on Tuesday May 22, 2012 @04:47PM (#40080383)
    This surveillance will be mostly used to catch people downloading movies from torrent. No, it won't be used to catch people looking for child porn - media industry (which is owned by same people as telcos) is not interested in catching them, they are after 'pirates'. So, all 'pirates' go to jails (like half of the country), nobody subscribes to the internet anymore, telcos die, PROFIT. Also, this would probably kill movie industry as well because most of their clients that go to the cinema and pay real cash (i.e. youth) will be in jails. Piracy would be eliminated because there is nothing to pirate anymore. Isn't this great? The next reasonable move would be to make all those jailed 'pirates' work on uranium mines. This will solve Canadian carbon emission problems as well. Great future is coming, cannot wait!
  • by Tool Man ( 9826 ) on Tuesday May 22, 2012 @05:32PM (#40080823)

    While not surprising that it happens, it is vital that it be exposed for the power grab that it is. The problem is that the new forms of communication lack even the weak forms of protection afforded to old modes. For instance, telephone wiretaps require warrants, and postal mail is illegal to intercept by default as well. Compare that with the internet, where there are no legal prohibitions against snarfing the whole works, and great compulsion to do so.

    There are multiple answers, of course, to make this process as difficult as possible. Social cohesion helps, as shown by the misery that the #TellVicEverything Twitter meme caused for Vic Toews' (Wullerton spit here) staffers. Encrypt everything, whether it needs it or not, and let the bastards sort out themselves what's important to them. Improved peer to peer protocols and the like could help blend traffic together, and make it harder to tell where the useful metadata is too, which email and other headers keep plaintext now. If you can't even tell who is communicating with whom, the challenge of where to serve the lawsuits makes it much more difficult to proceed. Finally, those who care the most about privacy, including the criminals themselves, will find off-line ways to communicate. The real bogey-men aren't dumb enough to throw everything out on the net to be archived, they'll go back to old, tried and true spycraft techniques.

    • Encrypting everything isn't that easy. There needs to be a key exchange and some way to verify that they key you have been provided hasn't been tampered with. Verisign provides this type of service. So, If I were a government that had large amounts of resources, what would I do? I would get the Verisign key so I can create my own 'verified' keys. Then I just man-in-the-middle that crap out of everything and no one is the wiser.

      Unfortunately, most (all?) encrytion schemes rely on some level of trust s
      • by Tool Man ( 9826 )

        Authentication of the parties at each end is one issue, but only one of them. What I mean is that most protocols should be encrypted by default, rather than by exception. Let us take the web for example.

        • When you make a request, your browser first telegraphs its intentions by doing a DNS lookup of the desired host.
        • Once an IP address is determined, your browser makes a request, usually in plaintext.
        • The typical, non-SSL connection trusts the domain registrars and DNS hosts that the identified address matches t
  • That's it! From now on, the only mail you will get from me is the one that I can lick.

To avoid criticism, do nothing, say nothing, be nothing. -- Elbert Hubbard