Security-bill snooping goes too far, federal watchdogs warn

Ian MacLeod
Ottawa Citizen: April 23, 2015

The federal government’s proposed security bill contains serious and contradictory flaws that will allow more than 100 government entities to exchange Canadians’ confidential information – yet no provision for similar information-sharing between the agencies that track the lawfulness of federal spies and police, parliamentarians were told Thursday.

Four of Canada’s top government watchdogs – who monitor privacy, the country’s two spy agencies and the RCMP – testified on Bill C-51 before the Senate national security committee.

Privacy Commissioner Daniel Therrien levelled the harshest blows. Canadians risk being caught in a web of unbridled government snooping into their personal lives if the draft security legislation becomes law, he warned.

“The bill would potentially lead to disproportionately large amounts of personal information of ordinary, law-abiding citizens being collected and shared. This sets up the prospect of profiling and Big Data analytics on all Canadians. In short, the means chosen are excessive to achieve the end,” Therrien said.

A crucial concern is C-51’s proposed Security of Canada Information Sharing Act. It would allow more than 100 federal departments, agencies and other entities to share information about Canadians with 17 departments and agencies that have national security responsibilities. The information would only have to be “relevant” to a potential or suspected national security threat. The 17 agencies also could share and collate information among themselves.

Therrien fears this could lead the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS), RCMP, Department of Finance and others to share potentially all information they may hold on Canadians and businesses.

“The minister of public safety has indicated there are several privacy protections envisaged by Bill C-51. While I agree there are some, I believe they fall quite short of what a balanced approach would require,” he said.

(read the full article at Ottawa Citizen)