BY ROB SALERNO – It didn't take long for the public backlash against the Harper government's proposed internet snooping legislation to get results, did it? The Globe is reporting that the government is going to send the bill to committee for major amendments after days of protest on the internet that culminated with Liberal MP Justin Trudeau sarcastically
promoting condemning a Twitter feed that contained embarrassing personal details about Public Safety Minister Vic Toews' divorce proceedings.
By now, you've probably heard that Toews has condemned anyone who doesn't agree with the proposed legislation as siding with "child pornographers." Apparently that even includes a number of members of his own caucus. Ooooh, the Conservative caucus retreat is going to be aaaawkward this year:
And rightly so. Despite multiple events that indicate otherwise, if there's one thing these Conservatives are supposed to stand for, it's small government, personal liberty and privacy.
That seems to be at odds with a bill that gives the government unfettered warrantless access to your personal information and requires internet service providers to maintain records of the communications that all of its clients send and receive on the internet — a service for which you will undoubtedly be paying for. Police would then be able to access your entire history with a warrant. But the maintenance of all that data will also undoubtedly be very valuable for commercial purposes, hackers and other snoopers.
This collection and access to personal data has made a lot of people ill at ease, and yesterday, an anonymous person fought back by creating the Twitter account @vikileaks30 — it's a play on "Vic Toews" and "Wikileaks," with the 30 referring to Bill C-30, the *ahem* "Protecting Children from Internet Predators Act."
The first tweet read simply, "Vic wants to know about you. Let's get to know about Vic. #cdnpoli #c30." After that came a torrent of juicy details from his divorce proceedings, including details of the seven-year affair he carried on with his children's babysitter and a latter affair that finally ended his marriage when it came out that he had impregnated his mistress, whom he is still seeing.
The poster behind @vikileaks30 followed that up with Toews' ex-wife's allegations of his lavish spending habits on meals and housing, paid for by the public purse, and details on how he's stiffed his ex-wife on support payments. The poster contrasted Toews' behaviour with his past statements on the importance of marriage back when he was being wheeled out to prop up the Conservatives' family values (anti-gay-marriage) platform.
The meme has spread so fast that this is how Google auto-completes a search for "Vic Toews" now:
Our own Dale Smith has criticized @vikileaks30 for being unhelpful in the debate. And it's true that the divorce proceedings are already in the public record, so the sort of "snooping" that Bill C-30 enables wasn't required. I think that's beside the point. Generally, Canadians are too polite to dig up this sort of information and throw it in someone's face, even when that person's being exposed as a hypocrite. But this is precisely the sort of information that many people keep in their private internet communications that could be snooped on by hackers under the proposed regime. Explaining how this could be hurtful and embarrassing even to people who've done nothing illegal (even if it is scummy) is worthwhile.
Put another way, this bill essentially legalizes — even mandates — something very much like the phone-hacking scandal that rocked British tabloids this summer.
As a plus, this whole thing should make Dan Savage happy.