Conservative's Internet Surveillance Bill 'Orwellian' In Its Scope
"Essentially, it says that government agents may enter an ISP (internet service providers) when they wish, without a warrant, and demand to see absolutely everything — including all data anywhere on the network — and to copy it all. If that seems hard to believe, let's walk through it.
First, Section 33 tells us that, "The Minister may designate persons or classes of persons as inspectors for the purposes of the administration and enforcement of this Act." So we're not talking about police officers necessarily. We're talking about anyone the minister chooses — or any class of persons. (Musicians? Left-handed hockey players? Members of the Conservative Party? Sure, that's absurd — but the bill allows it...)
Next, Section 34 spells out the sweeping powers of these "inspectors." And, if they sound Orwellian, welcome to the world of Section 34.
The inspectors may "enter any place owned by, or under the control of, any telecommunications service provider in which the inspector has reasonable grounds to believe there is any document, information, transmission apparatus, telecommunications facility or any other thing to which this Act applies."
And, once he or she is in, anything goes.
The inspector, says the bill, may "examine any document, information or thing found in the place and open or cause to be opened any container or other thing." He or she may also "use, or cause to be used, any computer system in the place to search and examine any information contained in or available to the system."
You read that right. The inspector gets to see "any" information that's in or "available to the system." Yours, mine, and everyone else's emails, phone calls, web surfing, shopping, you name it. But, if that sounds breath-taking enough, don't quit now because the section is still not done.
The inspector — remember, this is anyone the minister chooses — is also empowered to copy anything that strikes his or her fancy. The inspector may "reproduce, or cause to be reproduced, any information in the form of a printout, or other intelligible output, and remove the printout, or other output, for examination or copying."
Oh, and he can even use the ISP's own computers and connections to copy it or to email it to himself. He can "use, or cause to be used, any copying equipment or means of telecommunication at the place."
In short, there's nothing the inspector cannot see or copy. "Any" information is up for grabs. And you thought the new airport body scanners were intrusive?
Finally, note that such all-encompassing searches require no warrant, and don't even have to be in the context of a criminal investigation. Ostensibly, the purpose is to ensure that the ISP is complying with the requirements of the act — but nothing in the section restricts the inspector to examining or seizing only information bearing upon that issue. It's still "any" information whatsoever."