A federal privacy watchdog is warning that Canada’s new legislation is being rushed through Parliament without much notice or scrutiny.
The privacy watchdog, the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission, says the legislation will impact privacy rights for more than 100,000 Canadians.
The bill, Bill C-51, is being pushed through Parliament on Wednesday by the Liberals, the Conservatives and the NDP.
It was passed by the Commons on June 17, with most of its provisions coming after months of consultation and debate.
But the privacy watchdog says it needs more time to study the legislation.
The commission is calling on the government to hold hearings to ensure Canadians are fully informed of the proposed changes, which include a change to the definition of “personal information” to allow the government more flexibility in how it uses the information.
The changes are being touted as needed to protect Canadians’ privacy, but privacy advocates say the changes are sweeping and could lead to a return to the dark ages of mass surveillance.
Privacy commissioner Scott Bardsley said the government should have had a public hearing to explain the changes to Canadians.
“We don’t need to be rushed through,” he said.
“I can understand that the government feels it has a responsibility to do this, but we don’t want to have it be rushed.”
Bardsmith said the changes would also open the door to new types of data collection by the government, including collecting people’s social media accounts and email and online browsing histories.
“What you’re seeing here is an attempt to take information away from people in an attempt at some sort of security,” he told CBC News.
In addition to the proposed new law, the commission is also proposing a “bulk personal information” bill that would require ISPs to collect information about customers and the internet provider they connect to.
The information will include the number of times the internet user visits a website, the websites visited, the IP addresses the user is accessing, the dates and times they visited each website and the time the user left the website.
Bardship said that would be useful for law enforcement.
“The ability to look at this information would give them a pretty good picture of a person’s behaviour and their internet use,” he explained.
The new privacy rules also include a requirement that ISPs retain all customer records for two years.
The government has said it will use the data to protect privacy.
Bill C-52, meanwhile, has been pushed through the Commons with no debate.
The legislation requires ISPs to keep customer data for up to two years, and will also require them to retain any information relating to their customers’ Internet service.
Critics say the privacy changes would mean companies will be able to track what websites a user visits, which could be used to identify them.
And they say the proposed law does not go far enough in protecting the privacy of Canadians.
“We’re hearing all kinds of excuses,” Bards, the privacy commissioner, told CBC.
“This is an issue for us, not just Canadians.”