Online spying bill is not about fighting crime

Posted on February 18, 2012

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The Government of Harper has introduced a bill known derisively as the Big Brother Law, or the Online Spying Law, and wants Canadians to believe that the law is aimed at child pornographers and cyber-criminals and not law-abiding Canadians engaged in ordinary surfing, playing, and communicating on the Internet.

Don’t believe them.

Organized criminals and child pornographers know they are breaking the law and they use technologies to mask their activities. For example, you’ve probably never heard of the Tor Project ( http://www.torproject.org ). It is a tool, freely available, that allows users to hide their IP addresses and other information from snooping governments, police, and other investigators. From their web site: “Tor is free software and an open network that helps you defend against a form of network surveillance that threatens personal freedom and privacy, confidential business activities and relationships, and state security known as traffic analysis.” (emphasis added)

The Tor Project is used by both police and organized criminals, including child pornographers, to carry out both investigations, where police mask their identities to catch bad guys, and criminal activities where the bad guys go about their business in anonymity.

In fact, the cyber hacktivist group Anonymous uses Tor to protect their own activities and, at one time, sought to expose child pornographers on the network:

“Following up on its takedown of a Tor-based child pornography host, a group within the Anonymous ‘hacktivist’ group has published the Internet addresses of 190 alleged pedophiles. To do so, they allegedly collaborated with members of the Mozilla Foundation to create a modified Tor browser plugin which collected forensic data about the users. Members of the group also claim that a member of Tor’s developer team is the operator of the hosting service that serves up several child pornography sites.” (Source: http://arstechnica.com/business/news/2011/11/anonymous-collects-publishes-ip-addresses-of-alleged-pedophiles.ars )

Who does not use Tor or other similar technologies to mask their online identities is the law abiding Canadians who are being targeted by this proposed legislation.

Another aspect of the bill allows for police to track cellular phones or other GPS enabled devices. Criminals, of course, aware of the technology, will obtain cellular phones that will be thrown away after a short period of usage. Crime pays (ask Tony Clement) and the cost of a cheap phone is far less than that cost of a conviction.

Those who will buy consumer phones and leave the GPS enabled, and who can’t afford to toss away a telephone after just a few uses, are, once more, law-abiding, hard working Canadians for whom such purchases are expensive.

And the risk of the proposed legislation goes far beyond an intrusive government that wants to put a cop inside every computer whether they be in coffee shops, living rooms, libraries, bedrooms, offices, or board rooms across the country. It leaves open all of the data that is collected to the very cyber-criminals the law does not target.

Consider that a systems security advisor to Nortel recently told the CBC that hackers were responsible for taking down the mammoth Canadian telecom business: http://www.cbc.ca/news/business/story/2012/02/15/nortel-hacking-shields-as-it-happens.html

Consider that hackers, allegedly based in China, compromised government and private computers while Canada was considering the sale of the PotashCorp:

“During BHP Billiton’s hostile takeover bid for Saskatchewan’s PotashCorp, hackers traced to China targeted Bay Street law firms and other companies to get insider information on the $38-billion corporate takeover. Those same hackers also targeted Canadian government computers in fall 2010, targeting the Finance Department, the Treasury Board, and Defence Research and Development Canada, a civilian agency of the Department of National Defence.”

Consider the Canadian government doesn’t even know the extent of the data compromised:

“The cyberattack, first detected in early January, left Canadian counter-espionage agents scrambling to determine how much sensitive government information may have been stolen and by whom.” (Source: http://www.cbc.ca/news/politics/story/2011/02/16/pol-weston-hacking.html )

Not only is the government not targeting real criminals, they can’t even secure the data of the law-abiding Canadians they are targeting for surveillance and data collection.

Understand that this law is not about child porn, and it is not about cyber-crime. Law-abiding Canadians do not use anonymous proxies to hide their Internet activities; they don’t encrypt their email and messages; they buy phones, PDAs, and tablets they hope to keep and use for years. They have no intent to break the law and so they are wide open to surveillance methods enabled by this proposed legislation.

So the question that remains is, why? Why this bill that so clearly attempts to criminalize everyday activity on the Internet? Because it is about a government that is obsessed with silencing critics and controlling communications.

The purpose of the law is to silence Canadians through turning the Internet into a place of fear where one posts or shares with trepidation from the fear of Big Brother and exercises liberal self-censorship, rather than a place of free and open communications.

In the name of freedom, oppose this bill and sign the petition: http://openmedia.ca/StopSpying

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