Daniel Therrien, Privacy Commissioner of Canada
"The debate over the federal government’s new anti-terrorism bill is raising profound questions about the tension between privacy and security.
Most Canadians would agree that terrorism represents a growing threat and that we must respond with appropriate national security measures when new threats arise. But at what cost?
In my view, Bill C-51 in its current form would fail to provide Canadians with what they want and expect: legislation that protects both their safety and their privacy. The proposed legislation does not strike the right balance.
The scale of information sharing between government departments and agencies being proposed in this bill is unprecedented. The new powers that would be created are excessive and the privacy safeguards being proposed are seriously deficient.
All Canadians – not only terrorism suspects – will be caught in this web. Bill C-51 opens the door to collecting, analysing and potentially keeping forever the personal information of all Canadians in order to find the virtual needle in the haystack. To my mind, that goes too far.
This is really about Big Data, which relies on massive amounts of information that can be analyzed algorithmically to spot trends, predict behaviours and make connections. The implications for privacy are serious – especially when we are talking about the highly sensitive information that Canadians entrust to their government.
The legislation would allow for the personal information of Canadians to be shared if it is deemed “relevant” to the detection of new security threats. That’s an extremely broad standard that suggests the bar to permit the sharing of Canadians’ personal information has been set far too low.
In this way, the Bill would provide 17 federal government agencies with almost limitless powers to monitor and profile ordinary Canadians, with a view to identifying security threats among them.,/p>
The end result is that national security agencies would potentially be aware of all interactions that all Canadians have with their government. That would include, for example, a person’s tax information and details about a person’s business and vacation travel.
While the potential to know virtually everything about everyone may well identify some new threats, the loss of privacy is clearly excessive."