That, in the opinion of the House, the government should follow the advice of the Privacy Commissioner and make public the number of warrantless disclosures made by telecommunications companies at the request of federal departments and agencies; and immediately close the loophole that has allowed the indiscriminate disclosure of the personal information of law-abiding Canadians without a warrant.
Mr. Speaker, I would like to begin by stating that I will be sharing my time with my colleague from .
I am very pleased today to move this motion to ensure that justice is served for Canadians. However, I am very disappointed to have to rise once again to protest this government's extremely reprehensible actions.
I would have thought that, after three years, it would have finally understood. However, once again, the government has been caught spying on its own people.
With such ridiculous statements as, for example, if we did not support bill we were siding with pedophiles, the government has constantly tried to minimize the impact of its proposed measures on the lives of Canadians, all the while boasting and insinuating that it is proposing reasonable and necessary measures, which has been proven to be false by many impartial stakeholders.
The Conservative government called our assessment “speculation and unwarranted fearmongering” or a series of outlandish conspiracies made up by the NDP. After being harshly criticized by the public, media, and civil liberty and rights groups, as well as by privacy experts, the government finally listened and withdrew these bills or let them die on the order paper.
However, we still need to point out that exploiting the personal information on Canadians without reasonable cause and without a warrant is a huge violation of their privacy. I do not think I have heard about 1.2 million criminals being convicted of accessing personal information in 2011.
Last week, new revelations showed that government agencies and departments allegedly asked telecommunications companies to share personal information with them without a warrant. Not once, not a hundred times or a thousand times. They asked 1.2 million times.
We condemn this highly questionable tactic, since there is no legislative oversight to determine whether the government's reasons for accessing this information were valid.
Like many Canadians, I understand and support the need for security authorities to have the tools they need to fight crime in our country and to make us feel safe at home.
However, how can the government justify 1.2 million requests in a single year to achieve that goal? That happened in 2011, and the government was not required to explain what this information was necessary or how and for what it would be used.
When I think of the majority of Canadians who abide by the law and who could be affected by these requests, I find it unacceptable, disgusting and incomprehensible that the government is treating them like criminals.
The privacy of Canadians has been taken lightly by past Liberal and Conservative governments for far too long, and Canadians affected by the thousands of data breaches in government agencies are paying the price. To hear that the government is snooping on them as though they were common criminals when they have done nothing wrong is another blow on top of it all. Last week the government tried to make us believe these requests were made for public safety reasons, but let us look at the case of the CBSA.
In response to my order paper question, after reviewing the number of requests made from the CBSA in one year, we find that no requests were made in exigent circumstances. The 18,849 others were made in non-exigent circumstances. From these requests, only two were made for national security reasons, none for terrorism alerts, none for foreign intelligence, and none on the grounds of child exploitation, so it is hard to believe the government when it says that these millions of requests were made for national security reasons when the numbers speak a very different truth.
Canadians understand that law enforcement institutions need information to identify, catch and judge criminals. However, when the government makes 1.2 million requests for Canadians' private information from telecommunications companies per year, that is not just about cracking down own crime; that is spying.
The vast majority of Canadians are law-abiding. There is no reason for the government to engage in such broad spying activities. If the Canadian government decides to spy on its own citizens, it should do so only if it has reason to suspect them and only with a warrant.
If the law permits this kind of warrantless spying, the law must be changed immediately, and that is what the NDP is trying to do today. If the government needs a warrant to listen to Canadians' phone conversations, the same should apply to their online activities.
We understand that certain extremely urgent circumstances do not permit the obtaining of a warrant. However, the information we received from the Privacy Commissioner last week goes far beyond the imaginable: 1.2 million requests for subscriber data without a warrant is unacceptable and unjustifiable.
In Canada, we are very lucky to have a legal framework for obtaining a warrant. That framework protects Canadians and prevents abuses by the authorities. Unfortunately, there is a loophole in the system the Liberals introduced.
Today, the Conservatives are taking advantage of that loophole to spy on their own citizens. Clearly, the government is no longer in control of the warrantless disclosure procedures.
As I said earlier, the Conservatives' spying cannot be justified on national security grounds. Moreover, it is done in secret. The Privacy Commissioner is not even informed.
If the government had a real, viable motive for snooping on Canadians, it would have no problem whatsoever with warning Canadians when they were being snooped on, it would have no issue working with the OPC, and it would strengthen our laws to better protect Canadians against these types of abuses.
We do not know why, how often or how long the government has been spying. What is even more incredible is that the Conservatives have long been trying to expand the legal framework around requesting information without a warrant. If the government decides to spy on Canadians, there should be just cause, it should be overseen by the courts and it should happen only under exceptional circumstances.
What is even more ridiculous than the government's unwillingness to protect Canadians' privacy is its complete lack of understanding about the scope of the problem. Just last week, the Privy Council Office asked that all departments provide details about the number of personal information requests submitted to various telecommunications companies over the past three years.
That proves that the government has abused the loophole in the law to the point where it has lost control of its departments on this issue.
The Conservatives have proven that they are unable to protect the privacy of Canadians. The Privacy Act dates back to 1983, before the arrival of the Internet, and PIPEDA has not been updated since 2000, before the age of social media.
Instead of strengthening the laws and increasing government accountability, the Conservatives are moving in the other direction. Instead of protecting Canadians' privacy, Bills and will increase the likelihood that the government will spy on its own citizens. From an ethical standpoint, that is extremely problematic.
With Bill alone, the government would expand the number of people who can make requests for subscriber data so that even people like Rob Ford could access our personal information. It would create legal immunity for voluntary disclosure of personal information and it would expand the circumstances under which personal information could be disclosed.
As if that were not enough, the government is using taxpayers' money to spy on them. Government agencies pay telecommunications companies between $1 and $3 for each information request. That means that, at the very least, Canadian taxpayers have paid between $1.2 million and $3.6 million to be spied on. I say that is the minimum because only some of the telecommunications companies have disclosed how often they provide information to the government.
If all of those information requests were justified, and if the telecommunications companies were not worried about disclosing their practices, I would likely not be making this speech today. Unfortunately, the Conservatives are trying so hard to hide their spying that it is worrisome.
What are they using all that personal information for? Can they even justify the importance of the information? It is clear that the government believes that Canadians are criminals because it spies on them without their knowledge, as though it suspected them of something. This motion defends the privacy rights of law-abiding Canadians, and it is meant to counter the government's nefarious attempts to get information by the back door.
Since becoming the critic for digital issues, I have risen dozens of times to draw attention to and criticize the alarming state of our privacy laws. Laws that are meant to properly protect us in the digital age should have been revised years ago and are now unsuitable for protecting the public and our children.
In my time as opposition critic for digital issues, I have seen not one but four different pieces of legislation introduced in the House that would facilitate government snooping instead of fixing the problem.
Canadians are worried. They are right to be. The Internet that they have known as an open and free space for social and political discussions is threatened by the snooping of their very own government. Law-abiding citizens should be able to benefit from the Internet without the threat of being treated like common criminals.
I ask all my colleagues to vote in favour of our motion in order to restore Canadians' trust in matters concerning the protection of their privacy and of the Internet as the social and political tool it should be.
Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to rise today on this very important issue. The New Democratic Party calls for accountability and an explanation on behalf of Canadians into the widespread spying and interference of Canadians' Internet use and their cellphone use under the current government.
What we are asking for today is eminently reasonable. We are asking simply to ensure the powers of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada, the member who represents us as a parliamentary officer, who represents the Canadian people, and that she have the authority to ensure that the laws of this land are being followed.
Now, we have a government, of course, that will do anything it can to obstruct the work of the offices of Parliament because right now the offices of Parliament are about the only bulwark standing in the way of the numerous underminings of Canadians' legal rights, and even the illegal activities that are being undertaken by the Conservative Party.
It has been said that one of the foundations of a democracy is to ensure maximum transparency for government and maximum privacy for citizens. However, the current paranoid and secretive government has flipped it. The Conservatives have maximum privacy for their black holes of administration where they refuse to answer the simplest questions, and they are getting maximum transparency on the lives of Canadian citizens to the tune of 1.2 million requests of telecoms last year.
Now that is a conservative number, and I say “conservative” in the way the Conservatives have begun to use this, because not all the telecoms bothered to even respond to the Privacy Commissioner of Canada. That is a very disturbing trend.
What does the 1.2 million requests mean? It means that every 27 seconds someone from a government agency, who, we do not know; for what reason, we do not know; for what possible motive, we do not know; picks up a telecom and asks for information about the private lives of Canadian citizens, and gets it without warrant.
Let us debunk the excuses we have heard from the Conservatives on this.
First is the bogeyman excuse. Conservatives use the bogeyman all the time. The bogeyman is out there roaming the streets. The member for the other day made it sound like his neighbourhood was a case of Shaun of the Dead. There are these violent criminals and terrorists all over the place and so the Conservatives have to be able to call up a telecom immediately to gather any information they need whenever they want it.
Those laws already exist and it is fairly straightforward to get information if a violent crime is occurring. However, we are being led to believe that the bogeyman is out there and the current government has to stop it.
How does the government define terrorists?
I think we should say that, in this whole piece on spying, we are dealing with the revenge of Vic Toews. I refer members back to February 2012 when Vic Toews branded the new anti-terrorism strategy, “building resilience against terrorism: Canada’s counter-terrorism strategy”.
The government was going to go after terrorists, which included domestic extremism that is “based on grievances--real or perceived--revolving around the promotion of various causes such as animal rights...environmentalism and anti-capitalism”.
If a person is against the Northern Gateway Pipeline, under the current government's framework, he or she is a potential terrorist. Therefore, the government can decide to follow his or her movements, as he or she is one of the bogeymen.
A concern about animal rights is not that of concern for animal rights such as our wife who tells us that 1,000 murdered or missing women may be a great cause, but they are here for abandoned cats. The government is probably not spying on the Prime Minister's wife. However, someone else who might have concerns about animal rights, and it is in there, is a potential terrorist and worthy of picking up the phone.
One of the other excuses is that the Conservatives are not asking for anything that is not already the norm. It is just like picking up a phone book and looking up a number. Calling a telecom and demanding private information on Canadians is just like using a phone book.
The Privacy Commissioner of Ontario, Ann Cavoukian, says that is a load of bunk. She said the following about getting even basic subscriber information such as ISP numbers:
...customer name and address information ties us to our entire digital life, unlike a stationary street address. Therefore, “subscriber information” is far from the modern day equivalent of a publicly available “phone book”. Rather, it is the key to a much wider subset of information.
Then the Conservatives say, “Don't you trust our police?” We certainly would trust the police. However, we also see that Ann Cavoukian has said that at no time have Canadian authorities provided the public with any evidence or reasoning that Canadian law enforcement agencies have been frustrated in the performance of their duties as a result of shortcomings in the current law. The privacy commissioners in their joint letter, also write to the saying, “The capacity of the state to conduct surveillance and access private information while reducing the frequency and vigour of judicial scrutiny” is the heart of the issue.
We all remember when Vic Toews stood up in the House and told Canadian citizens who were concerned about the fact that they were being spied on, that they were basically in league with child pornographers if they had the nerve to stand up for them. That was such a boneheaded move and it caused such a blowback on the government that they had to retract the legislation. Why would the Conservatives show intent on pushing that through? We now know, they were trying to legalize what has become the common practice. Their shadow world of spying on Canadians is not legal. Gathering this information without warrants is not legal. This is why they put forward Bill , to attempt to deal with it. We all remember Vic Toews had one of those pieces, “The Minister may provide the telecommunications service provider with any equipment or other thing that the Minister considers the service provider needs to comply with” their ability to spy on Canadians.
That seemed like such a bizarre request at the time, but we have seen with the NSA and the widespread spying on American citizens and citizens around the world is exactly what Vic Toews was getting at, which is the ability to create mirror sites. The fact that we just learned in Der Spiegel that the NSA tapped the underwater cable network between Europe and U.S.A. to listen in on what ordinary citizens were doing on the Internet. The Conservatives have the same vision. They wanted to legalize that ability, and they were frustrated.
We are hearing the biggest excuse from the Conservatives. They realize the Vic Toews approach of accusing ordinary Canadians of being like child pornographers really did not work, but now they would reassure Canadians that they would fix it. They will fix it all right. They will fix it so that not only they will get to spy on Canadians, but anybody who wants to will be able to spy on Canadians: corporations can spy on Canadians, and all manner of very dubiously named authorities now will be able to spy.
Let us go through some of the issues on Bill and Bill . According to Michael Geist, Bill will “massively expand warrantless disclosure of personal information”, because under Bill , “an organization may disclose the personal information without the knowledge and consent of the individual...if the disclosure is made to another organization”. Not the laws of the land, not the RCMP, not anti-terrorism units, but if an individual is in dispute with a corporation over some contractual obligation, it can call their telecom, have their information handed over and they will not be told.
The Conservatives will certainly fix it. They will fix it to make widespread snooping of everything we do all the time perfectly legitimate for any corporation that just phones up and says it wants to know what they are doing on the Internet.
That is not all. Let us look at Bill , which will give a public officer or a peace officer the ability to call telecom, demand information, and the telecoms will receive legal immunity for passing over this private information.
An interesting article in the National Post points out that Rob Ford will now be able to make these requests, because, oh, yes, he is a public officer, and under the act, if Rob Ford wants to find out what his neighbours are doing, interfering with the drug gangs in Rexdale with whom he might be friends, he would actually be able to make the calls.
The Criminal Code describes these peace officers, public officers, as including reeves of small towns, county wardens, who would be able to get information, and even people designated under the Fisheries Act. However, there is another element that is really important. Under the present laws, even with all this snooping that is going on, it has to be part of an investigation. The government would remove the caveat that says this snooping, this spying on the rights of Canadians does not have to have anything to do with an investigation. If the Conservatives want a fishing trip, if they want to keep tabs on them, they will be able to do so.
This needs to be dealt with. This is a government that is spying on law-abiding citizens and treating them as criminals, and it needs to be held accountable for this abuse of Canadians' rights.
Mr. Speaker, I am proud and pleased to rise in the House today to speak on the important topic of the privacy of Canadians and public safety.
I will be sharing my time with the hard-working member for .
All governments are responsible for enforcing the laws and protecting national security, and they are also responsible for enabling law-abiding Canadians to live their lives without government interference. The government's role is to protect Canadians and ensure that their privacy is not violated.
It is always important to be mindful of this balance by ensuring that law enforcement has the tools it needs to do its job while law-abiding citizens continue to be free from any form of government harassment. It is with that in mind that I can assure the House that our government and I will strongly oppose the motion put forward by the NDP member for .
I will strongly oppose the motion moved today since it does not provide any means of securing Canadians' information and it affects public safety.
Our Conservative government believes that protecting the privacy of law-abiding Canadians is very important. All government agencies, including those responsible for enforcing the law and for protecting national security, are always required to abide by Canadians laws, and that is what they do.
In fact, these agencies are subject to robust, independent oversight and review.
The Canadian Security Intelligence Service is subject to thorough review by the Security Intelligence Review Committee. SIRC is keeping an eye on CSIS. This committee has significant powers to review decisions and compel documents.
Additionally, it is made up of many eminent Canadians, including a former provincial NDP member, and it boasts as a former member the new premier of Quebec.
The new premier of Quebec was a member of the Security Intelligence Review Committee, which oversees the operations of the Canadian Security Intelligence Service. Just like former members of the NDP, these members are Canadian citizens who are responsible for ensuring that the agency giving information to the government is complying with the law.
The Royal Canadian Mounted Police is also subject to review by the RCMP Public Complaints Commission. These are independent agencies created by Parliament to ensure that public complaints about the conduct of RCMP members are reviewed fairly and impartially.
These two agencies ensure that everyone complies with the law. We even increased the powers of this RCMP oversight agency. Unfortunately we did not have the support of the New Democrats. People can count on our Conservative government to protect the privacy of Canadians and ensure their safety.
Now let us examine the type of information that the motion and the NDP are opposed to allowing law enforcement to access.
Only the most basic information, such as the name and phone number, may be released.
In all cases, this is done voluntarily, meaning that a company could decide not to co-operate at any time if it did not feel a certain request met the expectations of its customers.
This information is essential for compensating victims of wrongdoing and finding viable leads in an investigation. I am proud to be responsible for Canada's public safety. Every year, our department releases its annual report on the use of electronic surveillance.
Let me take this opportunity to clear up a misconception being advanced by members opposite. Any form of invasive surveillance, such as a wiretapping interception or looking at the content of any communication, requires a warrant. That is not what we are talking about today. We are talking about phone numbers, names, and addresses.
Let me be clear. What we are talking about today is voluntary disclosure by private businesses to law enforcement. That is the way this model works. This is a Canadian way, but it is also a standard practice that has taken place for many years. Indeed, it was implemented under the previous Liberal government, supported by the NDP, and we find it in G7 countries.
While we need to make sure the privacy of Canadians is protected, we must also ensure that those who break the law face the law, and face it with its full force.
That is why, since 2006, we have implemented over 30 measures to crack down on criminals, often without the opposition's support and even despite its interference. We want criminals to stay behind bars.
Unfortunately, the NDP has voted against such common sense measures. Let me provide examples of these measures: giving victims more information about convicted criminals, ending early parole for white collar fraudsters and drug dealers, cracking down on drug dealers who target our children. This is the law of the land, and I am proud to have supported those measures along with my Conservative colleagues. That is why Canadians know that only the Conservative government can be trusted to keep them safe.
We put a high priority on ensuring law enforcement can do its work, but this is not free-for-all information.
A spokesperson for Bell Canada recently said that Bell will provide law enforcement and other authorized agencies only with basic 411-style customer information such as name and address, which is defined as non-confidential and regulated by the CRTC. Any further information, or anything related to an unlisted number, requires a court order.
My colleagues are also going to talk about a measure that we put forward, a bill that seeks to ensure that Canada enters the digital era and that Canadians' privacy is protected while making sure that our security agencies are able to get the information they need to thwart plots and protect Canadians' lives.
It is a bit ironic that, today, we are debating a motion that seeks to restrict agencies' power and ability to protect Canadians, given that they have to follow the law.
I am proud to say that Canada is safer, more prosperous, and a better place to raise a family than it was prior to our government being elected in 2006. Over these years, it has been clear that this government is committed to protecting victims. It is committed to keeping criminals behind bars, but it is also committed to making the privacy of Canadians a target. That is why I will support our bill bringing Canada into the digital era, but I will oppose this motion.
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise in the House today to highlight the measures that our government has taken to protect the privacy of individual Canadians.
First and foremost, I would like to discuss Bill , the digital privacy act. The bill would make important amendments to the Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act, otherwise known as PIPEDA, with the express purpose of providing new protection for Canadians when they surf the web and shop online. PIPEDA was passed in the House of Commons in 1999 and implemented in 2001. There is nothing new about it, and there has been no mention from the opposition on amendments since that time. With Bill S-4, the government would implement new measures to better protect the personal information of Canadians.
Let me speak a little about PIPEDA in general. PIPEDA is our primary piece of legislation that lays out the ground rules for how private sector businesses collect, use, and share personal information. What kind of personal information are we speaking about? It includes name, age, banking records, shopping history, et cetera.
We know that this kind of information is gathered by many companies and organizations in the course of their day-to-day transactions. The fear, of course, is that in the wrong hands this kind of information can be exploited. In the worst cases, it is used to commit fraud, identity theft, or other harmful acts. To combat these kinds of malicious deeds, the digital privacy act would implement tougher rules to protect the privacy of Canadians.
Protecting Canadians is a major pillar of digital Canada 150, which the launched last month, to help our country take full advantage of the economic opportunities of the digital age. Under the pillar of protecting Canadians, the digital privacy act would protect consumers online, simplify rules for businesses, and increase overall compliance with our privacy laws.
Before we tabled Bill , the government consulted the Privacy Commissioner and got her views on how to best move forward with modernizing Canada's intellectual property laws. The minister spoke to her again before tabling the legislation. In fact, here is what she said about our digital privacy act and our efforts to best protect Canadians online. She said she welcomed the proposals in the bill. She said this bill contains “very positive developments for the privacy rights of Canadians”.
In addition, the NDP digital critic, the member for , said this about our government's digital privacy act: “Overall, these are good steps. We have been pushing for these measures and I'm happy to see them introduced”.
The first element I would like to touch on is a familiar one to Canadians in this digital age, data breaches. New rules in the digital privacy act would require organizations to tell Canadians if their personal information has been lost or stolen. As part of this notification, organizations would also have to tell individuals what steps they can take to protect themselves from potential harm, actions that could be as simple as changing their credit card PIN or email password. At the same time, the bill would require organizations to report these data breaches to the Privacy Commissioner of Canada. With the passage of the bill, organizations that deliberately break the rules would face significant penalties, of up to $100,000 for every individual they fail to notify.
In keeping with the motion before us and its reference to the Privacy Commissioner, I would like to address the changes in the digital privacy act that would ensure that the Privacy Commissioner has the right tools to help protect Canadians' privacy. Bill would give the Privacy Commissioner the ability to negotiate voluntary compliance agreements with organizations. Under these agreements, organizations would make binding commitments to ensure the privacy of Canadians. This would allow organizations to be proactive and work collaboratively with the Privacy Commissioner to quickly correct any privacy violations that may have been discovered. In exchange, those organizations can avoid costly legal action. At the same time, the agreements would be binding and would give the Privacy Commissioner more power to hold organizations accountable in court and make sure that they follow through on promises to fix privacy problems.
The digital privacy act will also provide the commissioner with more power to name and shame companies that do not play by the rules. This will ensure that Canadians are informed and aware of issues that affect their privacy.
Finally, the digital privacy act will extend the timeframe, to one year, for Canadians as well as the Privacy Commissioner to take a company to court. Under the current rules, the Privacy Commissioner has only 45 days. In many cases, this is not enough time for an organization to either voluntarily fix the problem or for the Privacy Commissioner to prepare a proper application.
At all times an individual's right to privacy, as guaranteed by the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, must be respected. Despite any exception provided for in PIPEDA, law enforcement agencies must respect the charter and have a warrant or other justification to obtain private information.
Equally important in any of these circumstances, nothing in PIPEDA forces a company to turn over private information to police, government agencies, other private companies, or anyone. PIPEDA protects privacy; it does not force companies to violate it.
Bill makes sure that organizations can share information with appropriate authorities in situations that would involve providing information that will allow police to contact and communicate with the family of an injured or deceased person, sharing information in order to detect and prevent fraud, or allowing organizations to report suspected cases of financial abuse to appropriate authorities. All of these exceptions are clearly defined, and limited to circumstances where sharing this information is in the best interests of the persons involved.
Here is an example. Let us say that a bank teller notices a regular customer, a senior citizen, has been coming in lately with another person who is unfamiliar to the teller. They are making more frequent withdrawals, for more money than usual. The teller witnesses the senior handing over the withdrawn cash to the unfamiliar person. Most tellers or financial institutions would like to have the power to inform appropriate parties of this situation, such as the police, public trustees, or the client's next of kin. At the moment, our privacy law prevents the bank from informing those people who could help. The digital privacy act will remove this barrier and make sure that suspected cases of financial abuse can be reported, and the interest of seniors protected.
The digital privacy act also creates new rules whenever an organization asks an individual for their approval to collect, use, or share their personal information. This new measure will establish stronger protection for the privacy of more vulnerable Canadians, such as children. As children and adolescents spend an increasingly large amount of time online, it is important that they clearly understand the choices in front of them before they hand over private information about themselves.
The digital privacy act strengthens informed consent. Informed consent means that individuals are not just told of what is being done with their information, but that they understand the potential consequences of clicking on yes or no.
This change will require organizations to clearly and plainly communicate with their target audience when asking for their consent to collect personal information. They will have to consider whether their target audience is able to understand the consequences of sharing their personal information.
I am very proud of this aspect of Bill . Given the proliferation of iPads, laptops, and BlackBerrys among our youth, the stronger rules included in this bill will make sure that individual Canadians, in particular children and adolescents, can understand the potential consequences of the choices they make.
In conclusion, the elements of the digital privacy act that I have laid out today have been carefully thought out, with the best interests of all stakeholders in mind. Our government is confident that by better protecting consumers, streamlining rules for business, and increasing compliance, the digital privacy act will make Canadians safer and more secure.
The digital privacy act will strengthen Canada's privacy laws by making sure that Canadians are informed if their privacy has been put at risk, and by holding to account those organizations that deliberately break the rules.
Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to participate in the debate today and talk about what we have learned in the last few weeks from the Privacy Commissioner regarding how much information is being requested of government agencies and the frequency with which it is being requested. It is also about the backstops, what things are in place to ensure this stuff does not go unchecked. In a democracy we have Parliament and commissioners. We have a number of different backstops to ensure that people's information is protected.
We will be supporting today's motion. I have a similar motion before the privacy and ethics committee, because it is important that we dive into this issue in a bit more detail. It is quite troublesome to realize that when the Privacy Commissioner comes out with this type of information, she has no way of knowing if government agencies and telecommunication companies are following the rules and which government agency is involved.
I would like to quote an answer from the the other day because it is a bit out of step with what is actually happening. He said, “What we do understand is that various Canadian investigative law enforcement and other agencies...”. Let me pause there for a moment.
What other agencies are we talking about? Are we talking about the RCMP and the Canada Border Services Agency? How broad does this go into the Canadian government? Are we talking about DFO when it does surveillance activities? Are we talking about Service Canada when it requests information on clients? We really do not know, so we really need to dive into what other agencies we are talking about here. The Information Commissioner does not know. Canadians have a right to know what government agencies are asking for this information.
The continued on, “...from time to time, request information from telecom companies”. Time to time is hardly 1.2 million times. The statistics came from 2011. That would be every 26 seconds, 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. That is hardly from time to time. These agencies are asking for this information quite frequently and we need to know when and how and we need some oversight on these agencies.
The went on to say, “They always seek a warrant...”. That is not quite factually correct either. It gets to the heart of the matter here.
There are warrantless requests and warrant requests. The ones that have a warrant involve an agency going to a judge, the judge reviewing the information and then disclosing a warrant for that information. Then there are warrantless requests.
There are two facets to this particular debate. The has said that the government always seeks a warrant when required to do so and it expects telecommunication companies to respect the law in all of their dealings. That gets to the heart of this issue. Which requests need a warrant and which ones are warrantless? What oversight is there for the warrant side of things.
We put a lot of trust in our judicial system. We expect our judicial system to respect the Constitution and the Charter of Rights and Freedoms with regard to people's privacy when it comes to a warrant. I have limited knowledge of what judges go through. I think they do fair due diligence when it comes to complying with a request from law enforcement or another agency to grant a warrant. I have confidence in our system that judges do that.
Are there emergency circumstances from time to time that would require protecting the public from harm? Yes, and those are already dealt with in current legislation. Our current legislation is designed that way. If there is an immediate threat to life or national security, telecommunication companies are required to co-operate with law enforcement agencies without a warrant. We understand that. That is not where we are going with this. It is the staggering number of requests that have come in for this information that we are concerned about.
People listening to the debate might wonder what telecommunications companies we talking about. The commissioner revealed that she had asked 13 telecom and social media companies for information on how often they were getting requests. The 13 companies she asked, on the telecommunications side, were Bell, Telus, Rogers, Shaw, SaskTel, Globalive. On the social media and companies on the other side, there were Microsoft, Facebook, Apple, Google, Twitter, eBay and RIM. Out of that, nine responded anonymously through their lawyer.
That runs a red flag up the flagpole. If they are being so open and accountable, why do they need to go through their lawyer to reveal this information to the Information Commissioner? Would they not want to be transparent and open about that? What is even more staggering is that out of the 13, 4 companies did not bother to respond at all to the Privacy Commissioner.
It goes to the point that our Privacy Commissioner needs to have the tools and the teeth to compel these companies to release this information to her so her office can make a judgment. This is really about oversight. There is no oversight and there is no court oversight. As I said earlier, we have to take it to the warrantless and warrant disclosures and really get to the bottom of this.
One of the things that we have talked about today, and I asked a question on it a bit earlier, is basic subscriber information from an ISP, Internet service provider. What basic information was allowed in this legislation when other legislation was put into force? What is being provided and how far does it go? I asked the question a minute ago and a member of the government said that it was name, address, phone number, email address and IP address. One's IP address is a pretty detailed piece of information about oneself, because it can detect a lot of information about where we go, what we send. I am no technogeek, nor do I know enough about technology, but I know an IP address is pretty substantial in the information it provides about a person.
Experts in this matter also say that it goes even further than that, that it goes into transmission data or metadata, as they call it, that it is not only this basic information but they are interpreting this to go beyond that basic information. I learned about metadata from an article I was reading this morning. I believe it was Mr. Geist who was the expert so I will credit him to where I learned it. With metadata, it is like saying to Canada Post, “What is the information on the outside of the envelope? Where is it going and whom it has come from”. That is what is also being provided on our basic information. It is communication to and from and at which time. That is some of the basic information they are requesting.
It goes a bit deeper than that, and that is why we need to support this motion. We need to continue this debate and really get an understanding of the facets of this. As parliamentarians and as people protecting the public interest, we cannot just take the word of government or of our law enforcement agency. There need to be some checks and balances into this. All members should genuinely think this is very worthwhile issue to dive into to find out what is going on. I would be the first one to admit that hopefully it is all above board. Hopefully, the information it is providing on warrant is being done in a truthful and open manner and on the warrantless side of things as well. We should not hide under the guise of public safety and all that. It is our due diligence to really dive into this issue.
Another thing brought up this morning was the privacy bill that was in the Senate. There is a lot we could talk about that is coming forward in that legislation, but we should not confuse this issue today with the legislation before the Senate. These are two separate types of information and two separate things altogether. We should be very careful not to combine the two and muddy the waters.
The motion before us today is pretty clear. It talks about making public the number of warrantless disclosures made by telecommunications companies, the requests from federal departments and agencies and closing the loophole that allows indiscriminate disclosure of personal information.
The motion is pretty specific and something that needs further study. I hope we can study it before the privacy committee as well to see if it warrants more investigation and legislation.
It is a pleasure to support this motion and I hope all members do so.