Sunday, December 4, 2011

Omnibus Letter: 3 of 3

A few weeks ago the Conservatives made public their decision to delay reintroducing lawful access legislation. It was supposed to be part of the Omnibus Crime Bill, now called the Safe Streets and Communities Act, I believe this is the right decision. Including it in the omnibus bill would have risked stifling an important conversation. The fact is that this legislation requires time for careful study and discussion. The decision by Conservatives to delay it is the responsible one and I'm pleased to see it.

Regardless, lawful access is coming. The statement in the house, that there is no plan for warrantless tapping of digital communications, is nothing new. It was never in any of the bills and the need to refute it is more of a sign of confusion than a policy change. It highlights a problem of the sensationalist treatment of lawful access. Michael Geist recently complained that much of the discussion "...doesn't involve the real lawful access." I agree with him, but want to go further and explain it. Lawful access is not about warrantless tapping of your communications (at least not in Canada). While monitoring capabilities will be required, access to that data will be granted through a warrant system with a degree of streamlining. Warrantless access was only to be mandated for customer account information, such as:
- name
- address
- contact numbers
- email addresses
- IP and other electronic addresses

I would hope that readers of this blog will not have carried this confusion, as I have done my part to be clear (if you listened to the past Slightly Sauced interview, I made a point of bringing this up).  However, it may beg the question, "if it's not about warrantless digital wiretapping, then why should I care?" I answered this to a large degree in discussing IP and MAC addresses in the last letter. However, there is another, more commonly understood electronic address: the email address.

Email addresses are an essential tool for communication on the Internet. They were the first means of contact and are still required for registration for the vast majority of popular sites and services, including those that subvert email by allowing private messaging (social networking sites or VoIP accounts). Due to their pervasiveness, it is common to find an individual with multiple accounts for multiple purposes. Those accounts, when known to others, allow the individual to be tracked on  multiple technologies. Using an email account of a friend, you can find them on Facebook, Twitter, and so on. That makes email addresses uniquely powerful tools in the hunt for information about the individual. Reading the emails themselves is completely unnecessary, for if they have a Facebook account and you have their email address, you already know what activities they enjoy and who they associate with. They may even post notes to invite you deeper in their psychology and rationalization. Indeed, they may be doing so under the guise of anonymity; they may think that no one else knows who they are because it’s not their real name posted, or their real address, or their real phone number. Unfortunately for them none of this matters if you know their email address. They may use privacy features to control public knowledge of their profile, but a friend request can always be sent and is typically responded to positively. Many do not restrict their online profile “friends” to just those individuals that they know in person, or more importantly, to whom they know at all. Perhaps it was in part for these reasons that Charlie Angus wrote of former bill C-52, which allows for disclosure of electronic addresses including email addresses, that:

This will allow law enforcement to identify individuals involved in a striking array of online activity including anonymous political opinions made in blog posts or newspaper comments, location data posted online from a smart phone, social networking activity, private online instant message or email exchanges…[i]

Some email accounts are used publicly, handed out like leaflets or for signing up for deals on products, while others are kept only for the closest of friends. A decision to disclose all appears to fail to account for this reality and results in probable overreach.

Mandating the capability of monitoring individual and multiple communication sessions could cost millions. Where this money comes from is not detailed in the bills. Additionally, background checks will be required of some employees, so that they can respond to the requests of Law Enforcement Agencies LEAs. The background checks are a good idea, but they demonstrate the degree to which this will likely affect the workforce at the ISPs and carriers. Those organizations are furthermore required to respond to testing requests put forth by LEAs.

A major concern here is one of competition in the marketplace. Currently, Canadians pay extraordinary fees for the services that they receive. This is true both for cellular and in-home digital communications. While it is true that this kind of surveillance technology may be highly useful for LEAs, without any clause stating where the funds will come from to pay for these technologies, one is left to conclude it will be the consumer. Alternatively, if the telecom companies end up covering the costs independently, this will have a much more significant impact on smaller ISPs than on larger ones.  In a country where just two players provide the majority of our digital services, it is imperative that legislation acknowledges and encourages a vibrant competitive atmosphere. This acknowledgement and encouragement is not apparent in former bill C-52. The language in former C-52 which does address this issue reads unclearly to me.

The effectiveness of these technologies will be left up to the scrutiny of the LEAs. This is concerning because no public details about the information contained in these transmissions will be made available. For example, will encrypted communications be unencrypted? Will attempts be made to subvert HTTPS or others that consumers rely on for ensuring the privacy and authenticity of their communications? No details are apparent in the former bills, though accounting for such questions seems prudent. This is both because of the effect it will have on private communications, as well as being informative for how effective the measures taken will be in gathering evidence on criminals.

Proposal for Action

First and foremost, CSIS, the RCMP, and police services should demonstrate why each of them needs access to this capability. In particular, empirical evidence should be expected to demonstrate areas where these organizations have been blocked and where they have been forced to fail in performing their duties.  We entrust great powers to our LEAs, we do so because we see that power as a necessity for the safety of our communities. That trust requires integrity. If LEAs do prove, individually, that their work cannot be done through their current powers, then I have no qualms in providing some new powers. However, if these powers are awarded without reasonable constraint or without empirical justification that demonstrates their necessity, then citizens trust is compromised. The rationale for these new powers over individual citizens rights is absolutely essential for a healthy relationship between law enforcement and the citizenry.

While I acknowledge that Stephen Harper views the majority government as a mandate to move forward with this legislation, all of the above has been written with the knowledge that no lawful access legislation has yet been put to the house. So, it stands to reason that modifications are possible where reasonable. With the degree of public concern, including petitions and a great deal of writing on this subject by major players in the industry and in academia, it would seem reasonable to separate this into its own category.  Now that this has been done, what should be discussed in that time? What amendments should be examined?

Court oversight should be seen as a necessity for the linking of individuals to devices (or vice-versa) unless emergency circumstances can be established and proven. Additionally, the term “emergency” within this context should be well defined. No department or organization should be exempt from this.

Detailed records must be made of the activity and passed on to privacy commissioners or ombudspersons. This appears to have already been addressed within the bill, but its important to note that these individuals responsible for privacy – the aforementioned commissioners or ombudspersons – must be  granted the capability of performing the oversight. They must have the staff, legal capacity, and technological resources with which to hold to account those who infringe on the privacy of the citizen. As the commissioners and ombudspersons have themselves stated, there are significant concerns regarding current capabilities to handle the influx of new details received as a result of these bills. Furthermore, and again by their own admission, it would appear highly unlikely that a reliance on the current provisions of section 18 in the Privacy Act would be sufficient.  It is crucial that those appointed to protect the privacy of Canadian citizens must be enabled to appropriately address privacy infringements.

Concerns and recommendations of other bodies that I endorse include those written in a communication from the Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada, dated the 9th of March, 2011. Entitled Letter to Public Safety Canada from Canada’s Privacy Commissioners and Ombudspersons on the current ‘Lawful Access’ proposals, it lays out a number of points, some of which I reiterate below, and all of which I support. In addition, the concerns of Open Media and those listed at should be brought in – preferably allowing them to testify before the committees associated with the bills. While it is my impression that these concerns are somewhat overstated, it is evident that many Canadians are extremely concerned. No better case than public concern could be made for a diligent review of the legislation. With the legislation now separated from the more general crime bill, I am hopeful that this what we will see. It also gives me hope to see the kind of interaction and access which Open Media has been successful at obtaining to sitting MPs from all parties.

For the past decade, infringements on privacy have become more and more commonplace. We have seen this from both governments and corporations. We have also seen individual citizens willingly giving up their personal information on a scale that is new. This relationship between the individual and privacy has changed. However, it is important to recognize the nuance with which this has been done. Disclosure to one group does not implicate disclosure to all. Many of the arguments in favor of disclosure of personally identifying information confuse this. It is an error of thinking in terms of all or nothing.

Privacy is not a privilege. However, to ensure the protection of the group concessions to allow access to individual’s information have been made. To ensure that abuses do not occur court oversight has been required.  This court oversight is the sole (currently rarely required) proactive check for disclosure by telecommunication companies. This balance, between public good and individual rights is what is being questioned here. Yet, I believe there are ways of providing reasonable oversight and protections for citizens so that they don’t have to relinquish rights. If there is a middle way, one that doesn’t facilitate unjustified infringements of individual privacy. Why not embrace it?

I want to be clear, I am not against LEAs having access to communications or PII. To me it is obvious that this is a requirement for investigation. It would not be appropriate to deny LEAs access to information if it is considered vital.
However, vital information is frequently private. If it is important, then access can be justified. If it is unimportant, than why ask for it? Court oversight ensures that we can determine which is which.

Costs of new systems to provide LEAs access need review. The current Omnibus Crime Bill (not including the lawful access) is already summoning up significant concerns regarding its expense. If we add a re-working of telecommunications networks then a variety of costing questions are interjected. The alternative is to require investment by the companies, or share it. A solution to this problem must be found.
Decisions about privacy are never easy. Privacy is one of the most nuanced concepts. As a right, this makes responsible treatment difficult. Scoping is a serious issue and one that scholars and judges have been wrestling with for centuries. However, as Daneil J. Solove has drawn to our attention, if we focus on the potential problems and issues that could come out of a decision, like potential abuses or the chilling of social interactions, then we can find compensating controls.

Comprehensive checks and balances are the foundation of a responsible organization. They help ensure integrity, which is a pre-requisite for trust. For individuals to trust their government and law enforcement is essential for a functioning society. Checks and balances help ensure governmental responsibility and the trust of its populace, who could argue against them?

[i] Michael Geist, Angus on Lawful Access: Serious Erosion of Privacy Rights, June 24 2011,

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Support for Isabel Cisterna and the Ontario NDP

Today, I’d like to announce my support for Isabel Cisterna and the Ontario NDP. I believe in Isabel and in the goals of the Ontario NDP.

The reasons for which I join the Ontario NDP are simple: I believe strongly in the NDP policies for Ontario and I believe that Isabel Cisterna (the Kitchener-Waterloo candidate for the Ontario NDP) has great integrity, honesty and conviction.

I spoke with Isabel recently for approximately one hour. We covered a variety of topics and her answers made sense to me. Our public services need support at this time. Fundamentally our citizenry needs investment. I believe our long-term welfare needs the support of a provincial government that believes in a just society and that is the vision I believe the Ontario NDP brings.

It is my opinion that the largest issues at the provincial level are healthcare and transportation, followed by education. All of the parties want to reduce ER wait times, but the Ontario NDP also has a provision for dental care for low-income families. Dental care can result in huge cost burdens for individuals. As someone who has received my fair share of fillings, I depended on my company's coverage to take care of me. Those who work part-time or full-time without dental coverage can be faced with thousands of dollars in costs and many simply go without. The lack of attention on this is something I find surprising, it is a compassionate move and indicative of the kind of politics that I like. It is about finding real problems and addressing them.
I encourage those who supported me in my last election to continue to follow me where they feel it appropriate. I look forward to continuing to work with you over the coming months and years on those issues we hold dear.

Finally, however you vote, vote your vote. Don't fall to the pressure of peers or political parties. Do your research and then do what you think is right.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

All Parties Environmental Election Forum - 29 Sept 2011 - 7 PM

I have been asked to help moderate the All Parties Environmental Election Forum, taking place tomorrow (Sept. 29th) at 7 PM. Candidates from all parties have been invited to participate.

The forum will take place at:
Rockway Mennonite Church
32 Weber Street West (rear entrance)

Hope to see you all there!

For those who are curious, Omnibus Letter Part 3 will be posted soon! Follow me on Twitter @Steven_B_Scott as I'll be posting when it is up.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Omnibus Letter: 2 of 3

This is the second of a series of three letters to Canadians and the Canadian Government regarding the Omnibus Bill.

The purpose of former bill C-52, as laid out in section 3, was to provide capabilities for law enforcement agencies (LEAs):

…to exercise their authority to intercept communications and to require telecommunications service providers to provide subscriber and other information, without unreasonably impairing the privacy of individ- uals, the provision of telecommunications services to Canadians or the competitiveness of the Canadian telecommunications industry.

Primarily, the concerns that I will lay out, as well as the recommendations, are with areas where the content of the bill appears to contradict the stated purpose of the bill. With that in mind, I hope that the authors of the former bill and future iterations of lawful access legislation will find the concerns in line with their own. It is my belief that a solution can be found to these issues, but that the former version of the legislation requires at least amendment. I also contend that additional justification is required, as well as consultation with various groups which should include privacy officers and academics, so that any issues can be rectified or amended. For due diligence to occur will require time and careful consultation, such that it does not appear the omnibus crime bill will be afforded. Due to this concern, I assert that inclusion of lawful access legislation within the omnibus bill would be a poor decision for Canada and for Canadians.

A Private Association
That which naturally occurs as private can be reasonably expected to remain so and an individual’s connection to digital addresses are no exception. As such, I contend that electronic addresses are private, reaffirm that they are a form of personally identifiable information (PII), and put forth the concern for privacy infringement that section 16 (1) (mandated disclosure) of former bill C-52 generates.

PII includes any piece of information which either on its own, or when combined with other data, can help identify an individual. Addresses, telephone numbers, names, birthdates, postal codes, are all examples of personally identifiable information (PII).

Digital communications occur between devices, devices that are addressed for the purpose of routing the relevant communications. In computers, for example, we have IP addresses and MAC addresses. These addresses identify our computers and their place on the network, much as a street address identifies a house within a city. A variety of other electronic addresses also exist, such as our SIM number (for some cell phone networks) and our email addresses. Just like the addresses written on a piece of mail, these are inspected at intervals and are seen by the routers/switches/networks as the outside of an envelope is seen at a mail-sorting station.

The devices which electronic addresses are associated with can also be traced back to an individual.  An IP address, for example, can typically be associated with an individual computer[1]. If an email account used on that computer can also be determined, then it is possible to associate it with accounts on Facebook/Twitter/etc. to determine user identity. Without oversimplifying, this illustrates the point, as if these associations were not enough to uniquely identify an individual, they could be combined with other PII that collectively would. Electronic addresses, particularly when combined with other digital information, can help determine not just the computer being used, but which individual is using the computer. By virtue of this fact, they are considered PII. The Canadian Government acknowledged this by including them in the Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act (PIPEDA), which sets forth specific requirements for private-sector organizations regarding the storage, use, and destruction of personal information.

Electronic addresses are not simply PII, within our current digital communications they are also private, and typically only revealed to trusted entities or personal associates. Though it is true that source and destination IP addresses associated with data are seen by the network infrastructure when that data is transmitted, that network infrastructure is considered an implicitly trusted entity.  It is simply a technological requirement that these addresses be examined at certain points before they can be passed on, otherwise they would never reach their destination. Of course, this is nothing new, and is quite similar to the way that the paper mail system functions. A letter (data) is received with a destination address (IP). From there, the next destination is determined, which could be a sorting station in some other city (next router), and the mail is forwarded. Canadians accept that this is part of the functional requirements of the system, that Canada Post should be able to check addresses, because otherwise they wouldn’t get any mail. However, along with this, Canadians generally trust that Canada Post will treat this information with a reasonable degree of privacy. Canadians consider mail somewhat sacred, and that is appropriate. Freedom of association implicitly requires freedom from unwarranted observation and most people would have difficulty with the idea of having their mail ruffled through, even if it was just to record the addresses and names on it. It is for these same reasons that electronic addresses are private. The data associated with them is passed from point to point, with trusted intermediates (routers/switches) examining and directing them automatically. This trust is well placed under PIPEDA, which protects these addresses as PII and so ensures a degree of privacy. Furthermore, the inherent privacy in many telecommunications extends beyond that of regular mail. Everyone knows their mailing address, even if it is a proxy (a PO Box, for example) they typically know it by heart.  Whereas the vast majority of individuals do not know what their IP address is, with many not knowing what it is. To add to this, where with a postal address the individual has to move physically and submit paperwork to change it, an IP address can simply change with a restart of some equipment via a protocol called DHCP. All of this means that electronic addresses are not simply PII, but that they are also implicitly private, and even unknown to the owner. 

Section 16(1) of former bill C-52 mandates disclosure of customer records, including electronic addresses and other PII (including names, addresses, phone numbers, device numbers, and others) without court oversight. While section 17 requires this disclosure occur only under exceptional circumstances (belief based on reasonable grounds that there is urgency), section 16 provides no such conditions. While it is acknowledged that these are for differing organizations, there is concern about the legitimacy of the differing treatment.

When Stockwell Day was the Public Safety Minister, he was opposed to warrantless acquisition of information saying, “we are not in any way, shape or form wanting extra powers for police to pursue [information online] without warrants.” More recently, in comments referenced by Lawrence Martin in a Globe and Mail article, he stressed that critics should attempt a degree of restraint until all the details are out. [2] And according to a spokesman for Justice Minister Rob Nicholson, “…while the law has to keep up with technology, there will be privacy safeguards in the bill.”[3] While this is reassuring, strictly speaking there were previously safeguards, and if they stand without amendment then many bodies are concerned they will not go far enough.

Oversight proposed by former bill C-52 includes providing reports by LEAs to privacy officers, but there are concerns about this too: from the privacy commissioners themselves. A letter from the Privacy Commissioners of Canada included complaints that the requirement of oversight by them did not go far enough or provide enough power. In fact, the powers referenced in former bill C-52 already existed in Section 18 of the Privacy Act, with C-52 specifically referencing it and going no further.[4] By their own testimony, the tools available to their offices are not sufficient, they do not have the appropriate resources to counterbalance the removal of court oversight in the previous bills, and no new powers are being granted.

The notion that PII would be made available without court oversight is a significant concern to many Canadians, risking unreasonable infringements on privacy. The Canadian Government has for quite a while supported the position that PII should be considered private. For example, in section 487.013 of the Criminal Code, judicial authorization is a stated requirement for investigators to seek PII.  Also in the Criminal Code, trafficking in such data is considered an offense. 

The reality, that currently LEA requests for PII from telecom companies are practically never denied, is a troubling precedent. It appears this information has been at the telecommunication company’s discretion, while that same discretion is barely used (the CWTA has said it knows of no incidents wherein the police have been unable to gain access to information which they sought). This gives both LEAs and telecommunication companies a perfect score of fully-serviced legitimate requests, which appears dubious (as any perfect score naturally is). Even if this is legitimate, it appears a procedural flaw to have so much PII exchanging hands without court oversight. Telecommunication companies are not staffed by judges, nor are they disinterested third parties who should be making such decisions. A court controlling what information is released appears more desirable; it is part of the purpose of the court to make such decisions. Outside of emergency circumstances such as those described in section 17, which should be subject to strict review, the removal of court oversight is likely to lead to unreasonable infringements on the privacy of Canadians.

It has been suggested that LEAs could use this to catch the more sophisticated criminals, those who are currently avoiding detection. However, using a technique called “spoofing”, an individual can change these addresses. If an “attacker” surfs the web from a coffee shop, for example, the “attacker” will use that shop’s IP address. However, because the IP is associated with a MAC address, it won’t prevent the attacker from being tracked by their MAC address. MAC addresses are coded into the hardware of their computer and network equipment can maintain logs of MAC to IP associations. To change that requires different steps, depending on their operating system, but this can be trivially achieved. A majority of users do not have this level of understanding of the technology, however, and so won’t be inclined to modify these numbers or be cognizant of whether their IP address will be different. So, slightly more sophisticated attackers can modify these addresses and avoid being detected via this method, while the vast majority of casual users will be vulnerable to privacy invasion.

However, it could be argued that most criminals are ignorant or foolish and thus will not use these methods. But if they would not change their addresses via proxies or other methods, then would they properly delete incriminating information from their hard drives? Would they dispose of evidence in a sophisticated manner? When on the Internet, would they use secure channels or encrypted technologies? Would they strip identifying information (including GPS) from pictures? The argument, that criminals are becoming more sophisticated and implementing the above techniques (as well as others) to avoid detection, seems to conflict with the idea that they would forget to change their MAC and use a proxy.  Before legislation is passed, the LEAs should provide some empirical evidence for why current identification techniques are failing and why relying on these somewhat unreliable addresses will be more effective. In a letter from the Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada last March, this same concern was related:

It is also noteworthy that at no time have Canadian authorities provided the public with any evidence or reasoning to suggest that CSIS or any other Canadian law enforcement agencies have been frustrated in the performance of their duties as a result of shortcomings attributable to current law, TSPs or the manner in which they operate. New powers should be demonstrably necessary as well as proportionate. Ultimately, even if Canadian authorities can show investigations are being frustrated in a digital environment, all the various powers that would be granted to address these issues must be subject to rigorous, independent oversight.[5]

It is important to note the subtle difference between this retroactive oversight and the proactive warrant system. Any decision to go without court oversight, to go without warrants, drudges up concerns. This is because retroactive accountability, though certainly preferred to an absence of accountability, cannot directly stop an activity from occurring. They are preventative only, more than symbolic and very important, but limited in a fundamental way due to their placement in the process.

The private nature of electronic addresses, reinforced by PIPEDA and the Criminal Code, demonstrates that this and all other PII should be treated as sensitive. Furthermore, any disclosure should require oversight to protect citizens from abuses. This position is both historically and legislatively grounded. To challenge it, significant and high-quality evidence should be brought forth by LEAs. To arrange any modifications as a result, proper time should be devoted to ensure communication between effected parties, to facilitate discovery of any relevant amendments and their implementation in a quality form. 

It has become evident that I am not alone in voicing concern over this issue, so I hope that the above elaboration and iteration of the concerns can assist many with understanding their justification and focus. It is my belief that ensuring popular understanding of such issues is vital to a functioning democracy.

In my next and final letter of the series, I will iterate the remaining concerns of the new monitoring systems within the previous bills, and propose tentative amendments to them.

If you feel strongly about these measures, as I do, then I encourage you to go to and sign their petition.

[1] If the logging is enabled for ARP and a time of use is known, for example, you could associate the two and come up with a specific computer on a specific network. Many home networks only have a single computer, however, which makes this easier.
[3] Laura Payton, August 2011, Internet privacy experts raise concerns over crime bill,
[4] Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada, March 2011, Letter to the Public Safety Canada from Canada’s Privacy Commissioners and Ombudspersons on the current ‘Lawful Access’ proposals,
[5] Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada, 9 March 2011, Letter to Public Safety Canada from Canada’s Privacy Commissioners and Ombudspersons on the current ‘Lawful Access’ proposals,

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Omnibus Letter: 1 of 3

This is the first of a series of three letters to Canadians and the Canadian Government regarding the Omnibus Bill.

To the Canadian Government, Law Enforcement Agencies, and my countrymen:

I am writing this because I believe strongly in protections of our civil liberties and the rights granted within the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Canada is one of the few countries where the right to privacy is explicit in our charter, yet is from our government that we have seen its slow erosion.

Throughout the election I did my best to draw attention to the privacy issues present in the Omnibus Crime Bill.  Since the election I have spoken about this issue publicly at a Fair Vote meeting in Waterloo and at a recent talk I gave at Ignite.   Today, Open Media sent a letter highlighting the concerns held by many Canadians, including academics and public interest organizations, regarding the bill.

In our search for assurance against forces that may wish us harm, both domestic and foreign, we must never lose sight of that which makes this country great.  Our human rights pose benefits to both society and the individual. These rights cannot be divided from a free and just society, they exist as core virtues, the value of which we all know, though we may not all be able to articulate. Their existence as rights signifies that they require no further articulation, no further justification. Yet, they are under threat of erosion, and it is imperative that we act. They provide each individual the necessary protections against other individuals, corporations, and the state. Without these provisions others are diminished. The significance of economic or military threats cannot be diminished, not in this time or another; their impact can be both far-reaching and devastating.  Yet there is another threat of arguably greater importance, one that we dare not diminish lest we turn a blind eye to history.  That threat is posed in the fear of the aggressor, the one that leads us to turn on each other and to sacrifice our liberties and our rights.

Despite calls by Michael Geist, The Privacy Commissioner of Canada, Open Media, as well as numerous other groups and individuals for evidence, no proper justification has been delivered.  It is imperative that infringements such as these demonstrate explicit justification, based on evidence, and that strict controls apply. The reduction of justification within the system must be counterbalanced with additional transparency. Accountability is crucial, yet these bills seem unconcerned with it at the time of this writing.

I believe that all citizens, Law Enforcement Agencies, and politicians wish to make Canada the best country it can be. I share the concern for the welfare of Canadians, and accept that in some rare cases concessions must be made.  However, in the majority of cases privacy can be ensured with accountability, transparency of process, court oversight, and other counter-balances.  Where it cannot, a sound evidence-based justification, backed by a transparent evaluation of different possible tactics, is required. The lack of these and, in fact, reduction of them, is of grave concern to many Canadians.

I call on my colleagues to take this very seriously and take the time required to closely examine the requirements of the situation. When the rights of Canadians are at stake, we require diligence, not deference, from our politicians.  If you believe that privacy and the infringements on human rights deserve the utmost attention, then I invite you to join thousands of Canadians. 

I invite you to send a message.

Steven Bradley Scott

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Farwell Files - 6 PM Tonight on 570

Earlier this week Mike Farwell invited me into the studio to talk about intellectual property, privacy, and all other issues pirate. I hope you all listen in!  It will be live-streamed at

Also - if anyone has any last-minute questions for me regarding the platform or my position on an issue, then please feel free to send a message to my twitter: Steven_B_Scott OR email me at

Vote Pirate!

Steven Bradley Scott

Friday, April 29, 2011

Rally Tomorrow!

Tomorrow there will be a quick rally at an apartment in Uptown Waterloo.  All are welcome.

I plan on making a short statement, flyers will be available for pickup, and questions are always welcome.

Time: 4:30-5:30 PM
Location: Unit 208, 3 Regina Street North, Waterloo

Light refreshments will be available.

I look forward to seeing you all!

Steven Bradley Scott

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Debate Tonight!

Don't forget to watch the debate tonight, simulcast on 570 News and Rogers TV, from 7-9 PM ET!

Audio streamed online at !

Vote Pirate!

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Debate Log 26 April 2011: Today's Opening Statement - A Rant About The Cost of Drugs

Speaking to seniors, today I made a series of statements about healthcare and digital privacy. It was requested that I put these statements up for a broader audience, and I thought that it might be a good idea to give it a wider audience. Credit should go to The Hill Times excellent article on the subject as a partial source of inspiration.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Flyer Available

You can find my flyer here - feel free to print/distribute at will!

Steven Bradley Scott

Pirate Party Rally - Saturday in Waterloo


There will be a Pirate Party Rally in Waterloo this Saturday starting around 4:30. Exact location is TBD. Come one come all - Let's stop UBB and protect your privacy online!

Facebook event page:

Also just up - did an interview with Farwell at 570 News today. This will air at 6 PM on Sunday on the Farwell Files. A link will be posted.

Get ready to vote Pirate!

-Steven Bradley Scott

Friday, April 22, 2011

Advanced Polls and Flyers

Hey Everyone!

I hope that everyone who isn't going to be here on May 2nd takes their opportunity to vote in the advanced polls.  They are the 22nd, 23rd, and 25th - GET OUT THERE AND VOTE!

Also, I have some new flyers that I will be distributing! If you'd like to spread the word, just send me a message to and I can forward you the document to print/distribute.

Take this opportunity - be part of the democratic process and show the major parties what matters to you. Vote!

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Election Day Facebook and Twitter "Blackout"

What has been called the election day Twitter and Facebook “blackout” has brought up concerns regarding the freedom of information and the freedom of people. With radio came an exciting new technology, a technology that could touch both sides of the country at the same time. This also meant new provisions against perceived threats posed by this new technology. In this case, the threat was that the election results on the east coast would be broadcast on the west coast while ballots were still being cast. The assertion was that this could potentially impact the vote.

In 1938 the Canada Elections Act was updated and Section 329 included a new provision to prevent the broadcast of election results before all polls were closed coast to coast. The original intent was to ensure that all votes were cast fairly during a radio age, but there are two main problems with this approach today:
·      Incompatibility with new technology
o   Radio is not the same as Twitter. Laws that were applied to the 1930’s cannot be super-imposed over 2011.
·      Disenfranchisement of the youth
o   On May 2nd many young Canadians will vote for the first time. This blackout is on technologies that have helped inform them and discuss candidates. Rick Mercer’s video went viral with the direct assistance of the technologies which this outdated law applies to.

73 years after the Act was updated, I still appreciate the concern that the west coast of Canada will likely be voting with more information than the east coast of Canada. We have to face the fact that conversations about the election have moved online and will most certainly include discussion of the results as they are reported. Facebook posts and Twitter feeds are included and I do not think it is reasonable (or possible) to ban Canadians from discussing the results on one coast of the country.

There is already a mass movement to intentionally break this law. While I appreciate the vitriol, I do not support the breaking of Canadian law. Instead, I urge us to push for update of that law. Let’s bring it forward to the 21st century to be with the best interests of Canadians.

Vote Pirate!

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

The Record Debate

It was an extreme pleasure and a great honor to take part in the debate last night. The Record reported that there were around 675 people in attendance - it was fantastic to see that kind of support for debate in Kitchener-Waterloo.  It has also been incredible to see the outpouring of support it has generated. I can't tell you how much I appreciate all of the Twitter and email messages I've been sent - thank you all very, very much.

I would be remiss if I didn't report the results of one of the polls taken... it was also extremely encouraging (38%). Thank you!

Saturday, April 16, 2011

University of Guelph

In this election we need to work hard to defend our democracy.  Never has this been more evident then in the recent story about the University of Guelph students who were almost DENIED the right to vote.

Let me make this perfectly clear: denying students the vote is an infringement on their rights.

The idea that a Conservative Party member reached for the ballot box is highly upsetting to me as I am sure it is to many Canadians. Unfortunately, I have to agree that it is indicative of a pattern that we have been seeing in the Conservative campaign - previously denying access to students and veterans at rallies. 

Special Ballots are a routine and important part of our democratic process.  They allow those who might not otherwise have a chance to vote to do so. This month is a bad one for students, with many in the midst of exams and moving just before election day. Interfering with this process is highly unusual and a real danger.

A lot of other people have been talking about this and I'm happy to see Elections Canada making the right decision.  For more on this, take a look below:

To the students of University of Waterloo, Wilfrid Laurier, and the other institutions in K/W  - if any of you hear about anything like this then please let Elections Canada or one of the candidates know.  These are your rights!

Vote for the CBC

Last night I saw a sign on a pole, it was a pledge to vote for the CBC.

We have very few independent stations in Canada. Independent, that is, from the monopolies of the major communication companies. Independent from their capacity of censure, from their conflict of interest, and their attempts to gouge already overburdened Canadians.

I recognize that there is some concern about the CBC being funded by the government of Canada, some suggestions that it is not as impartial as it claims to be. Is this true? It is certainly possible, though I've heard no credible evidence as of yet and so reserve passing a judgment (feel free to link to some evidence in either direction - I'm happy to review it). However, I do find the argument a little confusing, allow let me elaborate...

The foundation of the assertion "the CBC is biased" comes from the knowledge that it is paid for in part by the government. The suggestion is that this financial backing influences CBC reporting on political events and leads to a bias in favor of the government of Canada. The reactionary proposition is that we should reduce government funding of the CBC, thereby reducing bias, and improving the standard of reporting in Canada.

Unsurprisingly, the majority of this "liberal bias" criticism has been coming from Conservatives – parroting the complaints of the Republicans. Being that the Conservatives have been forming government for the pat few years, and being that they had already been in government for 3 years before the budget cuts of 2009, why weren’t they able to manipulate this organization? Why is it that the liberal parties are so effective, whereas Stephen Harper – a man who had (at the time) rendered the Liberal party wholly ineffective in every other capacity – was incapable of bending them to his will? We can only draw one of three conclusions:
1. Stephen Harper is arrogant and feels that there is no requirement to bend the ear of the Canadian people using one of the most powerful media organizations in Canada.
2. The CBC always prefers the Liberals because they have historically won more seats and in the long term will – supposedly – always win (leading to more funding if they show bias)
3. The governing party, and in turn the government, has no influence on how the CBC reports.

First, Harper has never backed down from manipulating any system at his disposal to adjust the Canadian political system in his favor. His attempt to reduce party subsidies for the votes received is wholeheartedly undemocratic attempt to control the elections process and bankrupt other parties. If you think that he’d steer clear of influencing the CBC when/where possible then you’ve severely underestimated Harper’s will to power – the guy is using the RCMP to throw out veterans, you can bet he’d place a couple of phone calls to a company funded by the “Harper Government”. The “President of Canada” bows to no man.

To the second point, an inherent bias in favor of the Liberal party due to some form of one-party dominance, I humbly submit to you Rex Murphy’s lambasting of Ignatieff in 2009:

I think that leaves us with a fairly clear picture regarding where I stand with the third conclusion: I think it’s right. I don’t think that the governing party have much, if any, influence on the government outside of how hard they make it for the CBC to do their jobs. Harper has spent most of this campaign restricting the number of questions he’ll take and shutting out journalists and media. I don’t know any person, much less any journalist, who feels that this is a good thing for Canadian democracy.

Let it be said then that I am not convinced that the funding of the CBC leads, in and of itself, to any bias within the CBC.

Furthermore, I remain steadfastly unconvinced that independently owned organizations are intrinsically less biased than those that are government-backed. Following the English Leaders Debate on Tuesday, the Toronto SUN published an article that had a rather biased spin to it indeed:
The Toronto SUN proves that privately owned media is without bias...

This front page story was called "Iggy channels Chairman" and featured a full-page picture of Ignatieff, with a very large but slightly blurry picture of Mao Tse Tung in the background. Mao, of course, was a brutal and terrifying dictator whose vicious and merciless tactics included unusually brutal torture methods and the end of hundreds of thousands of lives across China. It was blurred to the degree that I actually didn't notice it at first, instead greatly focused on the offending headline. One friend suggested to me that it may have been intended to be subliminal and I must admit that, in a newspaper known for its recklessly alarming style of reporting, this occasion for subtlety appeared rather suspect. One must also wonder why this image was not used on the website, as I’m sure it took many minutes to paste together. So, why would the Toronto SUN make a comparison between one of our most accomplished citizens and one of the most hated men in recent history (second only to Hitler, in my opinion)? During the English Language Debate, Ignatieff was arguing that Harper needed to let other voices breathe, that he needed to “…let the flowers bloom”. The SUN claims that this was a direct reference to Mao’s “Hundred Flowers Campaign”. However, as one commenter put it:
“’Let the flowers bloom’ is no more Maoist than the phrase "freedom of speech". The Maoist term, which holds similarity only in that it is usually translated using both "flowers" and "bloom" is a result of the "Hundred Flowers Campaign". For all of Iggy's faults there is no evidence that he is a Maoist. In fact, he was a well known academic prior to running for office, and his political theory is available for all who are interested. But in a campaign of slurs and slanders one gets the idea that people are more interested in falsifying than falsification. As Christopher Hitchens recently said about the Tea Party and the Birthers' claims about Obama, with these sorts of people "any slur will do.”

So, on what foundation do we suggest that privately owned news operations are less biased? I would say that, in Canada, we find ourselves on a thin wedge teetering between confirmation-bias and ideological post-rationalization.

There is a balance to be struck here, between government-backed news and private news organizations. The best democracy has both - as we currently do - and I think it is in the interest of every Canadian to keep it that way. Let us not hand both reigns of the media to the telecommunication companies, let us support one of our most cherished institutions. Let us support the CBC.

Steven Bradley Scott

AM 570 Episode with Jeff Alan

The interview performed by Jeff Alan is available at the below link. I come in at about the 30 minute mark:

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

New Article on the Pirate Party in Kitchener-Waterloo

Check out for the Waterloo Chronicle article/interview with Steven Bradley Scott.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Nomination Confirmed

Well... it looks like things are really starting to heat up here in Kitchener-Waterloo with a bunch of great candidates confirmed.  I am proud to say that I am now one of them and want to take this brief opportunity to thank everyone that signed my nomination papers (121 in all).

I am honored to be a part of this process.

Steven Bradley Scott

Internet Wiretapping Bills a Concern

If the Conservatives were to be elected, then Internet wiretapping legislation (from 3 old bills bundled together) would be passed within 100 days.  Following that, the ISPs (major and minor) would have 3 years to implement the requisite monitoring infrastructure. This would be an extensive reworking of their network.

Conservatives say that Internet wiretapping is a necessity. However, they have not provided any significant evidence to support this position, nor have they conducted hearings with ISPs or Privacy Commissioners. Introduced during their last term, many consumers are unaware of the potential impacts of these bills.

The three bills (C-50, C-51, and C-52) would require the following of the ISPs:
·      Disclosure of customer information without court oversight (including both technical and non-technical identification information like names, addresses, IP addresses, email addresses, etc.)
·      Enormously costly re-working of ISP networks to provide the ability to:
o   Intercept communications
o   Isolate communications of an individual
o   Engage in multiple simultaneous interceptions
·      Mandate assistance with testing surveillance capabilities and disclosing the names of all employees involved (RCMP background checks are required)
·      Storage of the information for 90 days

New powers are also on the line for police, such as new transmission data warrants granting real-time access to all the information generated around any Internet communication.

What does this mean for Canadians?

Significant Cost Increase: There are a variety of manufacturers of devices that provide monitoring capabilities.  However, the kind of active monitoring which is being called for  (including deep-packet inspection, which looks at the application data, such as the content of Instant Messaging sessions) requires massive processing power, extraordinarily well-managed networks, and enormous amounts of digital storage.  These requirements increase accordingly as the size of the network increases. All this means a large expense in terms of hardware, but the man-hours required to setup such a system, nation-wide, are perhaps a larger concern.

Increased Monopoly: Smaller ISPs are, in many cases, the only affordable option for Canadians.  Unfortunately, smaller ISPs need to connect to larger ones to get access to the Internet backbone, access for which larger ISPs charge an arm and a leg. These ISPs are frequently staffed in as sparse a manner as possible to keep operating costs low as they are price-gouged in the same manner as the average consumer. Running low-overhead means that they will have a lot less money left over to implement expensive, third-party technologies, and will likely have to take on consultants to perform the work.  This means that, at all levels, there should be a significant increase in cost to the consumer. More worryingly, without Government backing and subsidies for the implementation of these technologies, many smaller ISPs will be pushed out of the black and into the red, forcing Canadians to switch.  This will increase the monopoly of large Internet service providers – a monopoly that charges far more for their services than is reasonable.

Infringement on the Privacy of Canadians: It impresses me that the Canadian Government has not so long ago gotten rid of the long-form census due to privacy concerns, while simultaneously pushing bills to watch what we do online. What is the difference? First, if you are a frequent Internet user, then this monitoring is far more invasive than the census. Second, the forms took time to fill out for citizens, while monitoring is set up without your knowledge, consent, or involvement of any kind.  Therefore, we could conclude that the Harper Government is not one concerned about protecting the privacy of Canadians.  Instead, this government wants to waste Canadian’s time making cheap political moves. Or perhaps it’s not cheap to shorten the census. After all, you were going to have to fill it out someday, maybe even within the next ten years, and I’m fairly certain that pencils are getting more expensive…

The above points, it should be noted, are simply the impacts of the first implementation of this technology.  As in any technological field, dramatic developments are made in short time periods.  These technologies, depending on their implementation, are capable of blocking services intelligently (regardless of port utilized) and are therefore a great threat to Net Neutrality. They give the ISPs the power to not simply throttle, but efficiently block any offending communication. Worse still, they can analyze the content of the packets sent for specific letter combinations, meaning they could potentially block or trigger on specific digital communications.  The implementation of this technology would mean that, if the government so wished, they could pass a new bill mandating a block of certain words in email transmissions (or any other internet service). 

While this is not the intended purpose of the current bills, granting the ISPs such capabilities is not in line with what is in the best interest of Canadians. I believe it puts Net Neutrality and the privacy of Canadians second, with government monitoring slotted into first.

I invite everyone to stand with me against monopoly, secret costs, and infringements on privacy. I invite you to stand with me for Net Neutrality, for affordable access, and privacy of the individual.

Send a message! May 2nd, I invite you to Vote Pirate!