Thursday, 23 February 2012

Vic Toews Responds

I signed an online petition over at which included sending parliament a message that you are against the proposed Bill C-30. As a result, a (likely automated) response from Vic Toews comes back to you by email. I decided to post this email, with some comments of my own (highlighted in gray):

Thank you for contacting my office regarding Bill C-30, the Protecting Children from Internet Predators Act.

I’m with Bob Rae on this one, Why name this bill in such a manner that if you oppose it, you are Pro-Internet Predators?

Canada's laws currently do not adequately protect Canadians from online exploitation and we think there is widespread agreement that this is a problem.

Yes they do. The police didn’t mention any need for this level of access, and are working diligently and successfully under the current set of laws … also note that they were issued 76 warrants. Judges seem not to have trouble issuing warrants to police if they suspect child pornography. So what’s the deal with this bill?

We want to update our laws while striking the right balance between combating crime and protecting privacy.

Let me be very clear: the police will not be able to read emails or view web activity unless they obtain a warrant issued by a judge and we have constructed safeguards to protect the privacy of Canadians, including audits by privacy commissioners.

Oh?!? so why are we so interested in tracking email and web activity? Is it because you found an extra $80 million lying around? which… btw… sounds ridiculously low considering the level of tracking proposed in the bill

What's needed most is an open discussion about how to better protect Canadians from online crime. We will therefore send this legislation directly to Parliamentary Committee for a full examination of the best ways to protect Canadians while respecting their privacy.

For your information, I have included some myths and facts below regarding Bill C-30 in its current state.

Vic Toews
Member of Parliament for Provencher

This is my favourite part, where does this information come from!?
The supposed “facts” sounded so ridiculous and un-sourced that it didn’t take me long to find online someone who had some interesting comments on each of the claims. The following notes were taken directly from Neal Jennings who also blogged about this letter yesterday.

Myth: Lawful Access legislation infringes on the privacy of Canadians.

Fact: Our Government puts a high priority on protecting the privacy of law-abiding Canadians. Current practices of accessing the actual content of communications with a legal authorization will not change.

Neal Jennings – Debunk: Your Government’s priorities are thoroughly irrelevant.  Your bill clearly changes the practices of accessing the actual content of communications with a legal authorisation.  Isn’t that the whole point of the bill? If that isn’t the point – WHY THE HELL ARE YOU PASSING THIS BILL?"

Myth: Having access to basic subscriber information means that authorities can monitor personal communications and activities.

Fact: This has nothing to do with monitoring emails or web browsing. Basic subscriber information would be limited to a customer’s name, address, telephone number, email address, Internet Protocol (IP) address, and the name of the telecommunications service provider. It absolutely does not include the content of emails, phones calls or online activities.

Neal Jennings – Debunk: Authorities already have ability to monitor personal communications and activities, with a warrant… or, if they’re CSIS, they’ve always had the ability to do this for whomever they feel might possibly be a threat to national security (which as we’ve seen through declassified files over the years, includes pretty much anyone and everyone).

Myth: This legislation does not benefit average Canadians and only gives authorities more power.

Fact: As a result of technological innovations, criminals and terrorists have found ways to hide their illegal activities. This legislation will keep Canadians safer by putting police on the same footing as those who seek to harm us.

Neal Jennings – Debunk: The “fact” has nothing to do with the myth supposedly being disproven.  The benefit to average Canadians has to be measured with respect to the costs, too. This will be financially costly to our governments, and is costly to all individual Canadians in the loss of our privacy.  The benefit is not actually proven here by Mr. Toews so I’m not going to do that for him.

Myth: Basic subscriber information is way beyond “phone book information”.

Fact: The basic subscriber information described in the proposed legislation is the modern day equivalent of information that is in the phone book. Individuals frequently freely share this information online and in many cases it is searchable and quite public.

Neal Jennings – Debunk: Your IP Address is not “phone book information.”  Period. Individuals do frequently choose to share this information online — the difference is that this bill requires third parties to provide it to  law enforcement agencies.  Changing disclosure from optional to mandatory is very significant, and makes the sharing of such information different.  If I had a land line, I could choose for it to be unlisted.  This is not a choice given to me or anyone else by this legislation.

Myth: Police and telecommunications service providers will now be required to maintain databases with information collected on Canadians.

Fact: This proposed legislation will not require either police or telecommunications service providers to create databases with information collected on Canadians.

Neal Jennings – Debunk:Um, actually, section 6: “(1) For the purpose of enabling authorized persons to exercise their authority to intercept communications, every telecommunications service provider must have the capability to do the following: (a) provide intercepted communications to authorized persons; and (b) provide authorized persons with the prescribed information that is in the possession or control of the service provider respecting the location of equipment used in the transmission of communications.”  How could they possibly have the capability of providing intercepted communications to authorised persons if they aren’t required to intercept communications?
Further, section16: “(1) On written request by a person designated under subsection (3) that includes prescribed identifying information, every telecommunications service provider must provide the person with identifying information in the service provider’s possession or control respecting the name, address, telephone number and electronic mail address of any subscriber to any of the service provider’s telecommunications services and the Internet protocol address and local service provider identifier that are associated with the subscriber’s service and equipment.”  Again, how could they possibly provide this information without maintaining a database of this?

Myth: “Warrantless access” to customer information will give police and government unregulated access to our personal information.

Fact: Federal legislation already allows telecommunications service providers to voluntarily release basic subscriber information to authorities without a warrant. This Bill acts as a counterbalance by adding a number of checks and balances which do not exist today, and clearly lists which basic subscriber identifiers authorities can access.

Neal Makes reference to section 17, as posted:
17. (1) Any police officer may, orally or in writing, request a telecommunications service provider to provide the officer with the information referred to in subsection 16(1) in the following circumstances:
(a) the officer believes on reasonable grounds that the urgency of the situation is such that the request cannot, with reasonable diligence, be made under that subsection;
(b) the officer believes on reasonable grounds that the information requested is immediately necessary to prevent an unlawful act that would cause serious harm to any person or to property; and
(c) the information directly concerns either the person who would perform the act that is likely to cause the harm or is the victim, or intended victim, of the harm.
The police officer must inform the telecommunications service provider of his or her name, rank, badge number and the agency in which he or she is employed and state that the request is being made in exceptional circumstances and under the authority of this subsection.

Which clearly outlines the “without warrant” policy the bill intends to implement.

I am really concerned over how our government conducts itself: polarizing issues, making up facts, and proposing ridiculous bills that over-police people. This government should focus on investigating it’s own members, not it’s constituents. In fact… I’m certain that If I do a little digging I could find out a series of wrong-doings or questionable acts this current government is guilty of.

I’m in agreement with fellow blogger Neal Jennings, as well, as a computer programmer analyst my concerns over this bill should not be taken lightly.


Sunday, 19 February 2012

An Modified Letter To My Constituents


I’ve been following the recent bill to give police and more particularly the Canadian government more power over everything you do online, what kind of power?

Basically, a record of all your online activity without a warrant.

Aside from how easily it is to obtain a warrant in Canada, the concern I have is from a professional point of view as a computer programming analyst where Bill C-30 on the technological side of things will bring forward several issues:

  1. Cost. This kind of monitoring will force ISPs to implement huge databases (and I mean HUGE) just to store all the random activity you are doing online. How big? Google’s databases already consume the power of a quarter of a nuclear power plant on their own… Can you imagine the cost of monitoring ALL activity (not just search records where users can control) will involve? Who is going to pay for all these costs?
  2. The destruction of an actual internet. One particular facility of an IP network is that you can branch it, create alternative branches, alternative routings, variety of mediums, ect… ect… That’s why it so quickly overcame the existing phone network within a decade after the popularity of broadband. The internet by concept has a facility which ensures it’s own survival. Regulating this facility prevents the common user from participating in it. You will not exactly be on the internet or contribute to it, in fact, you won’t be allowed to! You (as a Canadian) will by law have to be behind a “Firewall” to the internet; Now granted, this bill suggests that there will not be any technological restriction to data (like in China) but you will be behind a legal firewall – which – one bad law comes into play and you can be jailed, fined, and lose your computer or private holdings without warrant. This concerns me deeply, especially with the track record of our current governance and policing.
  3. You are on the internet more than you think! The internet, is not, web browsing any longer… In fact, web browsing is only a small part of the internet you use. Here are some things that use the Internet that you might not be aware of include phone calls (like wire-tapping), emails, most transactions with a credit or debit card, Shipping and parcel services, and transportation systems. This to me sounds like an unavoidable unveiling of what should be considered private.
  4. The system for “tracking public records” is essentially a surveillance system, and can be triggered, almost by accident. Let’s say I wanted to look up a news report on the “PLO” which is deemed a terrorist organization by the Canadian government. And via an online search I am directed to their website… The government/police/csis/rcmp can essentially use that as a sufficient reason to survey everything I do online – it’s not like they need a warrant, they just need to create a list of “red flags” to commence monitoring. Yes, this does sound like a conspiracy theory from the movie “conspiracy theory” but this is actually the technology needed to enact such a conspiracy… .. .

With all the previous sentiments considered, a back lash on the Canadian side of the Internet has occurred, with one particularly interesting occurrence making plenty of news being the revelation of personal matters of Vic Toews via Twitter, the MP responsible for proposing the bill, and the individual arguing that those opposed support child pornography. Ironically, The personal information published of his life was obtained without the need of such technologies that the bill requires to implement.
In response to such unveiling of publically available personal information: The government forced the removal of the Twitter account @Vikileaks30 … which I don’t understand how that is even allowable, as well, Vic Toews  further requested a parliamentary investigation (even though no particular laws seem to have been broken) into the Vikileaks posting of the personal attacks, and most recently a letter by Vic Toews to his constituents responding to the public backlash.

To which – I happily modified (my modifications are in italics) to outline some hypocritical details in all his recent political posturing.

Here’s to you Vic Toews:

An Open Letter To My Constituents

Dear Constituents,

Over the last few weeks I have been subjected to an extensive personal attack by my political opponents as a result of certain legislation that I have introduced in the House of Commons on behalf of the federal government.

These attacks, which have included criminal acts, be it not criminal in terms of current laws, but what I feel to be considered criminal such as revealing private information to the public and threats of what I feel to be considered criminal acts against me and my family, have been referred to the police for investigation. Any further criminal activity or threats of criminal activity against me or my family will also be referred to the police.

As my constituents I would like you to know that the personal attacks, criminal acts and threats of future criminal acts against me will not dissuade me from carrying out my responsibilities as an elected Member of the House of Commons and as the Minister of Public Safety for Canada and I am certain that your private information would be in better hands of the government than the public to which the government holds no responsibility toward.

The personal attacks against me are based on allegations contained in affidavits filed in the course of my divorce proceedings a number of years ago. The affidavits are on the public record and filed with the Manitoba Court of Queen's Bench. These allegations have been the basis of prior personal attacks against me and I assume they will form the basis of attacks against me for many years to come. I know, I know… That does sound ironic that publishing publically available information is considered criminal, but it will be, under the new laws we implement.

I want you to know that I have never responded publicly to the specific allegations made in these affidavits nor will I ever do so mainly because it is easier to ignore facts than argue them. I will be fully accountable for any responsibility that I bear for the breakdown of my previous marriage but that accountability is not something I owe to the public generally or to my political opponents in particular. It is a personal accountability which I cannot avoid nor do I seek to do so.

However, I do want you to know that I have a spouse and a young son who I love more than life itself. And… it is very important to note that I’m focusing on my character and my privacy than the actual issue of your privacy which I don’t care for at all.

The other night, while I was reading my favourite poet, William Butler Yeats, I came across these lines:

“I hate journalists. There is nothing in them but tittering jeering emptiness. They have all made what Dante calls the Great Refusal, — that is they have ceased to be self-centered, have given up their individuality.... The shallowest people on the ridge of the earth…”

No words could ever describe how I feel about the government being publically accountable to its constituents meanwhile ensuring the public is accountable to the government - That is what I believe is the only way to ensure your security.


Vic Toews

MP for Provencher


Wednesday, 15 February 2012

IDEA BLOG #2: Mobile Home Phone.

Dear anyone,

Why can’t we de-mobilize our cell phones when we get home? or connect our home phone number to our cell phones…. or even our office line, optional forwarding to our cells when we are out of office? or vice-versa?

Now there are few solutions out there, take this neat bluetooth style option:

    This little hub allows cell phones in battery battery-vampire bluetooth range connect to home/office phone. Sort of like having a car phone at your home/office.

    nifty? not really. It really only de-mobilizes a cell phone while eating up it’s battery.

The problem is deeper than this, first, to understand this problem one must analyze

What’s in a phone number?

A phone number generally identifies one of many entities:
  1. A person – generally given to people with cell phones,
  2. A business – generally found on business cards,
  3. A location – the still too common home phone, or,
  4. A device – like a fax machine
The problem with this association of identity occurs when a phone number is made to identify two or more items on the above list.

Things start getting even-more cloudy when people use their cell phones for work. This becomes rather uncomfortable when someone answers a personal call professionally or vice versa.

but wait, Alex! there is a solution that phone company’s recommend because they like making money:

The typical solution is to give each specific item it’s own number where we often see people often involve themselves over many phones during the course of the day including home landline, personal mobile, business landline, business mobile, business fax. 

Unfortunately, because of this prescribed solution we often see things get out of hand when there is the two phones – one person issue. Where you get a cell phone call and a location call simultaneously, or, the most awkward of them all: two calls on two different cell phones for the same person issue. What? why? what is going on here???

The history of the problem comes from the recent history of how phones were used. 15-20 years ago, almost all phone numbers have been wired into the telephone network. Since wired networks are non-mobile, phone numbers were often issued according to location. For example, Area Codes typically identify an area to where a phone could be found. My area code is “905” which represents the Greater Toronto Area.

The impossible dream !!!

Ideally changing the structure of the phone networks and the numbering system could better facilitate the nature of landlines vs mobile phones. For example,

- Land lines should remain localized. duh. with less numbers though.
- an individual should optionally be connected to a location (up to 99 individuals per location)

1 (905) ### ## <- Location Number. Where (905) is the area code of said landline, this particular area code is Greater Toronto area.
1 (905) ### ##(15) –> connects to individual / extension associated with that location either call forwarding to a mobile/or designated ring type or specific phone in the office.
1 (905) ### ##(16) –> another individual associated to that location
1 (905) ### ##(00) –> the main phone number of a location. can connect to whoever.

1 (23) ### #### <- Individual Mobile Number. The area code in this instance can be an identifier of a plan and provider – allowing the caller to determine if a call is long distance, what type of mobile phone service they have, ect.ect… Adding additional meaning to the mobile number and allowing people to memorize one number less than they currently do.

Now… granted, the above is a |pipe dream| of sorts, re-structuring a phone network may not be too viable for everyone. And way too expensive to implement, there are, however alternative solutions that CAN be implemented, like… today:

We have the technology, we can fix many of these issues… now!

- Cell phones should have a dock option which automatically forwards cell phone calls to whichever dock it’s connected to such as Dock A forwards the cell phone to Number 1, Dock B = Number 2, Car Dock = Bluetooth, Alarm Clock Dock = straight to voicemail don’t bother me i’m sleeping. ect… Meanwhile offer alternative options like: charging your phone, avert being charged for calls that consume restrictive plans, play music off your phone, forward text messages to a computer’s instant messenger program. I don’t know… Think of things…

- Location based phones should easily enable call forwarding without charge (and include distinct identification to the forwarded phone) either via undocking a cell phone from said dock. Or, implementing a simple “*0#” sequence or something.

What I don’t get is, any of the above features would be great selling points of either a cell phone or a home phone service. If advertised correctly, these features could easily promote the sale of additional numbers / services / phones / features. That, get this… convenience the customer.

Is that too much to ask for?


Sunday, 5 February 2012

IDEA BLOG #1 : A Tablet instead of a newspaper.


Recently I was reading a news article of how India is supplying extremely affordable tablet computers to students in cooperation with a Montreal based company called "DataWind" 


The article outlines how costs were reduced by having content suppliers and advertisers contribute to the cost of the tablet itself, thus reducing the tablets price to only $50.

A $50 Tablet?! Oh My!!!Aakash-2-Ubislate-7

Granted most people receive their news online over newspapers, the newspaper still has a large audience, it allows for a very comfortable setting and provides a great collection of news with portability. Essentially, A newspaper is a daily tablet computer that gets delivered to your door.


However with the amount of paper, and paper advertising that gets assembled with the newspaper… Wouldn’t providing a cheap tablet instead of thousands and thousands of pages of paper over a course of a subscription be more economical?


All a newspaper would have to do essentially is to contract it’s subscribers for multiple seasons at a premium price (like $25 seasonally) and provide them a cheap tablet like DataWind’s UbiSlate with a built in android app that lets them access their online news reader account.


In fact most major newspapers are half way there with such apps already existing in the Android Marketplace. All they need to do is give their  existing call centers (or existing advertising mechanisms) an option to sell such a premium subscription and watch those (like myself) who have no appeal toward having a tablet get a tablet…

Come on newspaper company’s… Hurry up and take my money!


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