Tuesday, February 28, 2012

"Commissioner Paulson, arrest that man immediately without a warrant he doesn't support C-30 so he's a child pornographer!"

Poll suggests Canadians support online surveillance bill - to a point

By Sarah Schmidt, Postmedia News
Tuesday, February 28, 2012
The federal government's online surveillance bill triggered an anonymous online campaign that aired details of Public Safety Minister Vic Toews messy divorce. (Photograph Chris Wattie, Ruuters/Postmedia News)

OTTAWA — A majority of Canadians say they support the federal government's proposed online surveillance bill, but that support fizzles when it comes to the most contentious parts of the legislation, a new poll suggests.


The national survey by Ipsos Reid, conducted exclusively for Postmedia News and Global TV amid a political uproar over the reach of the bill, found 56 per cent of respondents said they support it as it stands, with 15 per cent saying they "strongly support" it compared to 41 per cent who "somewhat support" the bill.


But just one quarter (23 per cent) would support legislation that enables police to access their subscriber information, such as their name and address, without a warrant, with only seven per cent strongly supporting this provision compared to 53 per cent who strongly oppose the warrantless access to basic subscriber info.


And only one in three (35 per cent) would support legislation that makes it legal for Internet Service Providers to retain personal subscriber data, such as emails and web surfing activities, so that police may access them at a future date.


These two provisions are currently in the proposed legislation, and it is unclear if the Conservative government will support amendments to these and other provisions expected to the tabled by the Opposition. One of their primary complaints is that Bill C-30 overreaches and invades the privacy of law-abiding citizens by allowing police to build a detailed profile of people using their digital footprint — without any judicial oversight


"I love these kinds of polls because they have people who believe in the principle of it but are confused and a little troubled by the possible implications of it," John Wright, senior vice-president of Ipsos Reid, said in an interview Tuesday.


"It's a very Canadian response to things, where you agree with the thrust of it but you think there's probably better ways to achieve it."


Conservatives continue to defend the bill in the House of Commons, even as Prime Minister Stephen Harper has signalled the government is open to amendments in the face of fierce opposition that includes Canada's privacy commissioners.


The bill also triggered an anonymous online campaign that aired details of Public Safety Minister Vic Toews' messy divorce. After the Vikileaks30 Twitter account went viral, an Ottawa Citizen investigation traced the account to a House of Commons IP address. The subsequent investigation by the Speaker's Office identified a Liberal staffer as the culprit.


Adam Carroll resigned Monday, followed by an apology by interim Liberal leader Bob Rae. The Conservatives also had to apologize to the New Democrats after they falsely accused the NDP of the Vikileaks30 "dirty tricks."


The bill will now be studied under these heightened tensions by a parliamentary committee before the House of Commons votes to support the bill in principle.


In addition to name, address, phone number, email address and name of service provider identifier, the proposed bill would require companies to hand over the Internet protocol address. The opposition parties and Canada's privacy commissioners say this will allow police to build a detailed profile of people, including law-abiding citizens, using their digital footprint — without any judicial oversight.


The proposed bill would also require Internet service providers and cellphone companies to install equipment for real-time surveillance and will create new police powers designed to access the surveillance data. This means police can order a telecom company to preserve data for a specified period, but must first obtain a warrant to read the actual content.


Despite the support in general terms for the bill, most believe (80 per cent) that if the bill is enacted, it may lead to government or police spying on Canadians for "activities outside the realm of illegal activity."


In addition to this seemingly contradictory message, responses to other questions paint a deeply divided public. The results also show a gender divide and an age gap, with women and older Canadians more likely to support the bill.


The bill, initially called the "Lawful Access Act" by the Conservatives, has since been rebranded the "Protecting Children from Internet Predators Act." Before tabling the bill, Toews told a critic "he can either stand with us or with the child pornographers."


Half of those polled (49 per cent) agree that "those who oppose Bill C-30 as it currently stands are actually enabling child pornographers," while the other half (51 per cent) disagree that this is the case.


Meanwhile, half of the survey's respondents (52 per cent) believe that the "bill modernizes the law by giving police long-awaited technological capabilities to catch online criminals, while the other half (48 per cent) believe the bill "is an invasion of the Canadian Charter right to personal privacy and that the police and government would have too much power."


Overall, while there is near uniformity across the provinces, the data show women are "considerably" more likely than men to be supportive of the legislation (65 to 46 per cent). The gap is equally large when it comes to Canadians aged 55 or more (64 per cent) compared to those ages 18 to 34 (44 per cent).


And parents of children aged 17 or younger are much more likely to support the bill than those households without kids (64 to 54 per cent).


Those who use the Internet "all the time" are the least likely (50 per cent) to supportive of the bill, compared to those who use the Internet "not that often" (66 per cent).


Ipsos Reid conducted the online poll of 1,018 adults between February 24 and 27, with an estimated margin of error of 3.1 percentage points, 19 times out of 20.

sschmidt@postmedia.com

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