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Government must act immediately to implement Privacy Commissioner’s new recommendations to safeguard Canadians’ privacy from spy agency CSEC

Government should immediately implement Privacy Commissioner’s report as step toward greater spy agency transparency and accountability, says OpenMedia.ca

January 28, 2014 – This morning’s Federal Privacy Commissioner’s report contains welcome new recommendations to help safeguard Canadians’ privacy from rampant online spying. That’s according to community-based OpenMedia.ca, which is leading a sustained nationwide campaign involving over 40 major organizations calling for effective legal measures to protect our privacy from government spy agencies.

Today’s report by Privacy Commissioner Chantal Bernier highlights the “new privacy risks” that have come to light as a result of recent revelations about government spying and mishandling of citizen data. The report focuses on how law-abiding Canadians are having their private information swept up in the “wide net” cast by spy agencies like CSEC and CSIS. It recommends a number of important measures to start reining in these spy agencies and to better protect Canadians’ privacy:

  • Strengthen existing reporting mechanisms, including requiring spy agency chiefs to testify regularly before Parliamentary committees.
  • Require CSEC to produce regular unclassified reports describing its ongoing activities, and to publish statistics on the number of times they intercept Canadians’ private information on behalf of other government agencies.
  • It calls on Parliament to conduct a comprehensive review of existing oversight mechanisms - at present there is no independent oversight of CSEC.
  • Strengthen existing laws such as PIPEDA to “curb over-collection” of our private information.
  • Prevent spy agencies from monitoring private information published on sites like Facebook without a “legitimate reason”.

“These are sensible and welcome recommendations which the government should immediately move on,” says OpenMedia.ca Executive Director Steve Anderson. “Post Snowden revelations, Canadians have been appalled by how spy agencies like CSEC have been trampling on their privacy rights with impunity. These recommendations are not enough in themselves to deliver the transparency and democratic accountability Canadians deserve - but if the government listens they are certainly a positive start.”

Anderson continued: “Thus far, the government has refused to answer straightforward questions about how many law-abiding Canadians are having their information swept up and stored in CSEC’s giant databases. It’s past time that they listen to Canadians and rein in reckless, expensive, and out-of-control agencies like CSEC. They should implement today’s Privacy Commissioner recommendations without delay.”

In recent months, Canadians have seen a long line of damaging revelations about how government spy agency CSEC (Communications Security Establishment Canada) is undermining privacy and democracy by collecting and storing Canadians’ private personal data. Late last year, CSEC was also revealed to have facilitated a massive, illegal U.S. spying operation on Canadian soil during the Toronto G-20 summit. CSEC admitted to spying on Canadians in a statement posted to its website in December.

Last October, OpenMedia.ca joined with the B.C. Civil Liberties Association (BCCLA) to announce a court challenge that aims to stop all illegal government spying against Canadians. Both OpenMedia.ca and the BCCLA are also working with over 40 major Canadian organizations in the Protect our Privacy Coalition to demand effective legal measures to protect Canadians’ privacy from government spies.

CSEC has an annual budget of over $420 million, and taxpayers will spend over $4 billion to build and operate a new CSEC headquarters, described by the CBC as “the most expensive government building ever built” and as a “spy palace”.

Over 27,000 Canadians have pledged their support to OpenMedia.ca’s campaign aimed at stopping all illegal spying on Canadians, with more signing on every day at http://OurPrivacy.ca

About OpenMedia.ca

OpenMedia.ca is a network of people and organizations working to safeguard the possibilities of the open Internet. We work toward informed and participatory digital policy.

Through campaigns such as StopTheMeter.ca and StopSpying.ca, OpenMedia.ca has engaged over half-a-million Canadians, and has influenced public policy and federal law.

About OpenMedia.ca’s privacy campaign

OpenMedia.ca led the successful StopSpying.ca campaign that forced the government to back down on its plans to introduce a costly, invasive, and warrantless online spying law (Bill C-30). Nearly 150,000 Canadians took part in the campaign. To learn more, see this infographic.

Earlier this year, OpenMedia.ca launched its Secret Spying campaign, to demand answers and immediate action from the government after it was revealed that a secretive government agency has been spying on the telephone and Internet activities of individuals, including law-abiding Canadians.

On October 10, 2013 OpenMedia.ca collaborated with over 40 major organizations and over a dozen academic experts to form the Protect Our Privacy Coalition, which is the largest pro-privacy coalition in Canadian history. The Coalition is calling for effective legal measures to protect the privacy of every resident of Canada against intrusion by government entities.

OpenMedia.ca and the BC Civil Liberties Association (BCCLA) recently announced they will work together to put a stop to illegal government surveillance against law-abiding Canadians. OpenMedia.ca has launched a national campaign encouraging Canadians to support a BCCLA legal action which aims to stop illegal spying by challenging the constitutionality of the government’s warrantless collection of data on Canadians’ everyday Internet use.



David Christopher
Communications Manager, OpenMedia.ca
[email protected]

More Information

  • New Snowden docs show U.S. spied during G20 in Toronto. Source: CBC News
  • Five highlights from the Canada-Brazil spying revelations. [Source: The Globe and Mail]
  • Privacy watchdog on spy agency’s data collection: ‘We want to find out more’. [Source: CBC News.mail.com/news/politics/privacy-watchdog-on-spy-agencys-data-collection-we-want-to-find-out-more/article12459998/">The Globe And Mail]
  • Canada’s spy agency may have illegally targeted Canadians: watchdog. [Source: National Post]
  • Inside Canada's top-secret billion-dollar spy palace. [Source: CBC News]
  • Data breach protocols deficient in 9 federal departments, watchdog finds. - [Source: CBC News]
  • Lawful Access back on the agenda this Fall? - Michael Geist.
  • The secretive CSEC agency has a staff of more than 2,000 and a budget of about $400 million. [Source: CBC News]
  • Surveillance expert Ron Deibert on the threat spy agencies pose for citizens.
  • Internet Law expert Michael Geist on why Canadians should be concerned about government spying.
  • Privacy commissioner Jennifer Stoddart says there are significant concerns about the scope of information that CSEC are reported to collect. [Source: CBC News]
  • In this article, The Globe and Mail describes the revelations about Canadian government spying as “disturbing and unacceptable”
  • This document, obtained by The Globe through Access to Information, shows how Minister MacKay authorized a top secret program to data-mine global ‘metadata’ in 2011.

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