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MP has privacy concerns about cyberbullying bill

Brent Rathgeber troubled by warrantless access to information

By: Victoria Paterson

  |  Posted: Wednesday, May 28, 2014 06:00 am

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St. Albert’s MP has some concerns about Bill C-13.

Bill C-13, the Protecting Canadians from Online Crime Act, is winding its way through the parliamentary process. Sparked by concerns over cyberbullying, it has drawn the attention of many who are concerned about their privacy.

While Brent Rathgeber, the independent MP for Edmonton-St. Albert, voted for Bill C-13 at second reading because he supports the attempts to deal with cyberbullying and posting graphic photos online without permission, he says there are some “troubling aspects” of the bill.

Those troubling aspects are some of the broader strokes which don’t pertain specifically to cyberbullying, like the theft of cable television services.

While the bill doesn’t force telecommunications companies to hand over subscriber information without a warrant to authorities – something Rathgeber said the bill’s predecessor, Bill C-30, did require – there are issues with privacy.

“This one doesn’t force them to but it shields (the telecommunications companies) from any liability if they do, which is the same thing,” Rathgeber said. “I don’t understand why in those types of situations the police can’t get a warrant.

“Not to minimize the seriousness of cyberbullying and other offences that can be committed by the use of burner phones and cellphones and over the Internet, but it appears to me that in very few circumstances are these situations going to be so emergent, so time sensitive, that the police can’t apply for a warrant.”

The bill doesn’t just allow warrantless access to subscriber information for cyberbullying matters, he said.

“The government is being disingenuous when it calls it Protecting Canadians from Online Crime Act because it really should be called something like the easier lawful access act,” he said. “The bar gets lowered irrespective of what the investigation is for.”

Rathgeber’s hoping some of the privacy concerns could be sorted out at the committee stage, where the bill is now, but has heard the justice minister has said he isn’t interested in watering the bill down too much.

“That’s unfortunate and that’s going to put me in a difficult position when it comes to third reading,” he said.

He’s heard the NDP is interested in tabling some amendments as well.

Protecting privacy is a growing interest of Rathgeber’s. He’s working on drafting a bill that would revamp and increase civilian oversight over Communications Security Establishment Canada, one of our nation’s spy agencies.

“This situation is slightly different because it won’t necessarily be CSEC who’s getting the information from the telephone providers,” Rathgeber said of Bill C-13. “But regardless it reinforces in my view some holes in Canada’s privacy laws that need to be addressed perhaps even in legislation that’s broader than the bill that I’m half done drafting,” he said.

While the majority of Canadians are law-abiding, that doesn’t mean they don’t want their privacy protected, he said.

“Even though we’re law-abiding we still don’t want law enforcement needlessly poking around in our inboxes,” Rathgeber said.

“If constituents are concerned they should email my office and …, I’m not a member of the committee but I’ll make sure those concerns are brought forward to the government members on that committee because I suspect the government will either support or defeat amendments as a block,” he said.


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