OTTAWA - Nearly three quarters of Canadians surveyed oppose the Conservatives’ so-called cyberbullying bill, according to a new poll from Forum Research.
Seventy-three per cent of respondents disapprove of Bill C-13, which would allow “peace officers” to access their personal data without a warrant. Only 15 per cent said they approve, while 12 per cent said they didn’t know how they felt about the bill.
And opposition to the bill is not limited to New Democrat and Liberal voters — 62 per cent of self-identified Conservative supporters said they disapprove of the bill, according to Forum.
Bill C-13, introduced by Justice Minister Peter MacKay in November, would give telecommunications and Internet service providers legal immunity for voluntarily handing over their customers’ private data to law enforcement agencies.
It was introduced to help combat cyberbullying in the wake of teenage suicides related to online intimidation. But only one provision in the bill directly addresses the issue of cyberbullying — creating a new offence for the non-consensual distribution of intimate images — while the rest “modernize” police powers around electronic surveillance and investigations.
The bill doesn’t explicitly increase warrantless access to personal information, but it protects telecoms from any repercussions should they voluntarily turn over data. Privacy experts have raised serious concerns about the bill, particularly after it was revealed that government agencies requested personal information 1.2 million times in 2011 from nine telecom, Internet, and social media companies.
Sixty-nine per cent of respondents said they disapprove of telecoms voluntarily handing over personal data to police, while 18 per cent said they approve of the practice.
The Forum poll found that 40 per cent of respondents put personal information, such as credit card numbers or birth dates, online — and the behavior is most common among young Canadians. The vast majority of those surveyed (79 per cent) say they expect their personal data to remain private online.
The poll also found that Canadians have different levels of trust for different organizations handling their private data. Family doctors were ranked the most trustworthy with Canadians personal data, with 91 per cent saying they trust doctors “a great deal” or “somewhat” with their personal data.
Telecom companies, however, were not so well regarded. Only 36 per cent of respondents said they trust a great deal or somewhat the big three telecom companies — Bell, Rogers, and TELUS — with 58 per cent saying they don’t trust them much or not at all.
Only department stores like Walmart or Target faired worse.
MacKay has resisted requests from opposition MPs, the federal privacy commissioner, and privacy advocates to split C-13 in two — one bill to deal with the cyberbullying provision, the other to help give police modern tools to combat Internet crime.
But the bill’s warrantless access provisions were dealt a serious blow last Friday, when the Supreme Court of Canada ruled that police need to obtain warrants to access Canadians’ “basic subscriber information” — including names, Internet protocol (IP) addresses, telephone numbers and physical addresses.
In an emailed response Thursday, a spokeswoman for MacKay said the Supreme Court decision actually supported the Conservatives’ position on warrantless access. The Star’s request for an interview with MacKay was declined.
The Forum poll surveyed 1,433 randomly selected Canadian adults between June 13-14. It is considered accurate to three percentage points, 19 times out of 20. The pollster noted sub-samples are less accurate.