This fall, legislatures in both Canada and the U.S. are set to vote on bills that would force private Internet service providers (ISPs) to store information about their customers, in order to allow the government to spy on its citizens. With an increasing amount of our everyday activity being conducted online — from banking, to shopping, communicating with friends and family, dating, learning and reading — allowing the state to monitor all our activities in cyberspace sets a dangerous precedent.
Last week, a U.S. House of Representatives committee approved a bill that would force ISPs to store detailed information on customers and their activities. This would likely include retaining names, addresses, phone numbers, financial information and IP addresses.
The bill is being touted as a means of protecting children from pornography, but tracking your identity, along with what sites you’re visiting, and handing that information over to the government upon request, has nothing to do with porn.
“The bill is mislabeled,” Congressman John Conyers told CNET News. “This is not protecting children from Internet pornography. It’s creating a database for everybody in this country for a lot of other purposes.”
The Organization of Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) has released data comparing Internet connectivity in the developed world and the results do not look good for Canada.
The data shows that Canadian Internet users pay some of the highest prices in the OECD, for slower connections than in many other places. In terms of price, Canada ranked 28 out of 33 countries for connections ranging from 2.5-15 Mbps and 23rd of 28 countries for connections over 45 Mbps.
Average Internet speeds in Canada continue to be slower than in many other places and we remain one of the only countries where Internet service providers (ISPs) put caps on the amount of data that can be transferred in a given period. These results mirror a 2009 study prepared by Harvard University for the Federal Communications Commission, which ranked Canada 25th out of 30 countries in terms of price and 20th in terms of speed.
The great folks over at reason.tv have produced a music video of Toronto-based artist Lindy Vopnfjord new song "No Knock Raid," which highlights some series issues with the how the war on drugs is waged in the United States:
On Tuesday, the Federal Communications Commission — the government department charged with regulating the U.S. broadcasting and telecommunications industries — approved new net neutrality regulations, marking the agency’s first major step toward regulating the Internet.
The story of the Internet is a tale of a network of communities that developed organically and coalesced to form a virtual society — with its own rules and norms — where social status could be formed based on the merits of one’s ideas, instead of traditional class structures.
Initially competing with services like AOL, CompuServe and Prodigy, the Internet came to be the dominant network because it was based on open standards, which could be used by anyone to create new products and services.
No one told me there was porn on this Internet thingy. (arodlob/flickr)
In an apparent bid to catch up to authoritarian regimes like China and Iran in the Internet censorship race, governments in Canada and the UK are attempting to pressure Internet Service Providers (ISPs) into installing costly systems that would allow them to monitor online activity and filter unwanted content.
Canada’s Conservative government recently introduced legislation that would force ISPs to install real-time surveillance equipment on their networks and require them to provide police with personal information about their customers, including names, addresses, phone numbers, and intercepted communications — all without any judicial oversight.
In Britain, Communications Minister Ed Vaizey is trying to strong-arm ISPs into blocking legal adult websites.
Last week, the Government of Canada reintroduced legislation that will strengthen the state's ability to monitor the online activity of its citizens. Ostensibly billed as a means of combating child predators and terrorists, the bills would turn the Internet—once a bastion of freedom and liberty—into a virtual police state.
The legislation would allow police and intelligence agencies to circumvent the court system by intercepting online communications and obtaining personal information about Internet users without obtaining a warrant. It also forces private Internet service providers to install costly monitoring equipment on their networks to facilitate big brother.
The two bills—known as the Investigative Power for the 21st Century Act and the Investigating and Preventing Criminal Electronic Communications Act—were first introduced in the summer of 2009, but died on the order paper when Parliament was prorogued last Christmas. At the time they were originally introduced, I wrote a series of feature articles for the Western Standard, explaining what the legislation means and how people can protect themselves. The first article takes an in-depth look at the legislation and why freedom loving Canadians should be concerned. The second looks at a number of technologies that allow people to subvert government surveillance.
Although it is possible to take steps to protect your privacy on the Internet, we would all be far better off if this legislation does not become law.
For many years, governments took a hands-off approach to the Internet and the world witnessed technological innovations that were beyond our wildest dreams. From the creation of e-mail and the World Wide Web, to the browser wars of the '90s, to the creation of online payment systems, streaming video, Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) technology, and the open source movement, a spirit of competition and innovation created the modern-day Internet. Likewise, personal web pages, blogs, and other technologies have given people around the world the ability to express themselves to a mass audience. The low barriers to entry that the technology provides created a marketplace of ideas that is unparallelled in any other communications medium and at any other point in history.
Yet, all this seems to have changed. Nowadays people portray Internet service providers as the big bad wolf, arguing that government must step in to save us from the multinational corporations. They say that government must spy on us to protect us from terrorism. That our ideas should be censored because they might offend someone else. They ignore that government is the one entity that can hold a gun to our heads and call it justice; the one entity that can take our money and call it charity; while companies operating in a competitive market have every incentive to provide people with what they want. At the same time, governments are introducing strict laws that prevent people from using the technology to its full potential. Laws that prevent us from sharing our lives and participating in our own culture.
It is now clear that the Wild West is gone and in its place we have something far more tame and much less free. The Internet, however, has become an indispensable tool in many of our lives. People rely on it for business, education, entertainment, and communication. The future of the Internet is, therefore, more important than ever. My new website Fencing the Digital Horizon: How Government Regulations Threaten Internet Freedom, produced as part of my masters thesis, explores the issues of copyright law and net neutrality in Canada from a free market perspective.
In my latest series of articles written for the Western Standard, I take a look two pieces of legislation that were introduced in the House of Commons before the summer recess. The proposed legislation would force Internet Service Providers (ISPs) to install costly monitoring equipment on their networks and give the government expanded powers to monitor its citizens Internet use.
The Canadian Taxpayers Federation is claiming that shortly after the group posted a video to YouTube exposing how the Canadian government paid an American artist to create a giant red ball for a Toronto arts festival, their entire YouTube channel was hit with a copyright violation from Business News Network and forced to shut down. Coincidence? Maybe.
While the YouTube channel is back online, I have taken the liberty of creating a backup of the video to help ensure it is not censored again:
Craigslist, a popular online classified ads site, announced yesterday that it will be removing the "erotic services" section for U.S. cities and replacing it with a new section that will be moderated by their staff:
As of today for all US craigslist sites, postings to the "erotic services" category will no longer be accepted, and in 7 days the category will be removed.