I gave the following 10-minute speech Monday (May 5th) in the House of Commons.
I stand in support of this motion by the honourable member for Terrebone-Blainville.
This motion calls on government to make public the number – just the number- of warrantless disclosures made by telecom companies at the request of federal departments and agencies.
This motion also calls on government to close the loophole that has allowed the indiscriminate disclosure of personal information of law-abiding Canadians without a warrant.
So, to simplify, how many times have telecom companies handed over personal information about you and I without a warrant. And this government has to find an immediate way to shut down that loophole.
Mr. Speaker, we live in an incredibly connected world.
Earlier this year I travelled to Tanzania, Africa to tour Canadian development projects with a group called Results Canada.
Their mission is all about ending extreme poverty.
And I did see some extreme poverty, Mr. Speaker.
One of the images that will always stick with me is walking into a maternity ward at a rural hospital, what they called a hospital.
The maternity ward was crammed with nine or 10 beds.
But there were two women, Mr. Speaker, two women in labour to a single bed.
The Tanzanians I met were the finest kind of people, the best kind of people, a lovely people, but living with basically nothing.Still, Mr. Speaker, most every adult I came across, they could have absolutely nothing but the second-hand clothes on their backs, they could be sleeping under a tree, but they still had a cellphone and they look at the screens as often as we do.
My point, Mr. Speaker, is that from Tanzania to Mount Pearl, Newfoundland and Labrador – my neck of the woods, the dependency on technology, on the internet and cellphones, is universal.
Just this weekend I read an article by Stephen Hawking, the Nobel Prize-winning physicist, on how artificial intelligence – because we’re almost to that point - could be the worst thing to happen to humanity.
More or less the rise of the machines, Mr. Speaker.
Now, a country being led by a robot, I can’t even imagine that, Mr. Speaker.
Oh wait, yes I can.
Another article I read this weekend outlined how US intelligence whistleblower Edward Snowden has warned that entire populations – rather than just individuals – now live under constant surveillance.
I don’t know, Mr. Speaker, if it’s to that point in Canada but we do have some serious cause for concern.
So let’s look at the numbers.
In late April, we learned that government departments and agencies - like the RCMP, like Canadian Boarder Services, like CSIS (Canada’s spy agency) had requested personal information from Telecom companies almost 1.2 million times in 2011 alone.
That’s a staggering, jaw-dropping rate.
One request every 27 seconds.
But that number – the number of requests for personal information - is most likely greater than 1.2 million because 3 of 9 Telecom companies told the privacy commissioner how many times they granted the government’s request for customer data.
Not how many times government ASKED for the data but how many times they GAVE the data.
It’s reported that wireless Telecom companies complied with government’s request for customer data at least 785,000 times.
Mr. Speaker,2010 data from the RCMP showed that 94 per cent of requests involving customer name and address information was provided voluntarily without a warrant.
Here’s an indicator of how often warrants are used.
Canada Border Services Agency obtained customer data from Telecom companies 19,000 times in one year.
But they only obtained a warrant in less than 200 of those cases.
Do Canadians have a problem with Telecom companies handing out their personal information left, right and centre?
Yes, Mr. Speaker, we do.
This isn’t 1984, Mr. Speaker, or Brave New World.
The idea of Big Conservative Brother doesn’t sit well with Canadians.
That said, it’s generally understood across the board that police need information to catch criminals, to protect Canadian society, there’s no time to get a warrant when life is in danger.
But this is beyond that, Mr. Speaker.
At least 1.2 million requests for personal information most times without the hint of a warrant is a staggering stat.
And this Conservative government is paying to access your personal information, between $1 and $3 for every request.
Mr. Speaker, more than two years ago in this House the former minister of Public Safety,Vic Toews, Introduced Bill C 30, a bill to expand police surveillance of the web.
At the time he said, and I quote, "you’re either with us or with the child pornographers."
That statement got the attention of all of Canada and the immediate and appropriate backlash forced the Conservatives to back down, to walk away from the bill.
Since that outrageous bill was dropped – and Toews was appointed to the Manitoba bench, which is another story – this government has introduced other legislation to this house that it says will protect the privacy of Canadians.
But, if fact, the legislation may actually increase spying on Canadians without a warrant.
Bill C-13, a bill aimed at tackling cyberbulling, is expected to expand warrantless disclosure of Internet or cellular subscriber information to law-enforcement.
And Bill S-4, the Digital Privacy Act, would extend the authority to disclose subscriber information without a warrant to private organizations, not just law-enforcement agencies.
This government has a bad habit of doing through the back door what it can’t do through the front door.
This government also has some hypocritical tendencies.
On the one hand, the Industry Minister argued that the long-form census was intrusive, so they eliminated it, cut and dried.
On the other hand, this administration has no qualms, sees nothing wrong, with invading the private information of Canadians and not telling them about it.
They have repeatedly introduced legislation that makes it easier for Conservatives to snoop on Canadians.
Here’s another example of hypocrisy, this country’s information watchdog has said that it’s been flooded with complaints that this Conservative government is too often citing security to withhold documents requested under the access to information act.
They’re using the security excuse to withhold public information at the same time that the floodgates are open on the personal information and security of Canadians.
Mr. Speaker, we live in an age where technology is advancing at an incredible rate.
Yet, the privacy act that’s meant to protect the privacy of Canadians and keep government accountable has not been updated since 1983.
That’s before the Internet, google, email, facebook and twitter.
The Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act hasn’t been updated since 2000, also before social media was born.
New Democrats believe privacy laws should be modernized and strengthened – not weakened, Mr. Speaker – to better protect the personal information of Canadians.
We also believe we can pursue bad guys and throw the book at them without treating law-abiding Canadians like criminals and violating their rights.
Mr. Speaker, I end with another quote from Edward Snowden, the former U.S. intelligence contractor who said last week that state surveillance today is a euphemism for mass surveillance.
Quote,"It's no longer based on the traditional practice of targeted taps based on some individual suspicion of wrongdoing. It covers phone calls, emails, texts, search history, what you buy, who your friends are, where you go, who you love." End quote.
In so many ways the Internet and Social media are the new frontier.
It’s out duty to ensure that laws and security don’t fall to Big Conservative Brother.