Is the federal government focused on protecting the digital data of Canadians at all times, or only when convenient?
House of Commons representatives debated Bill C-11 on April 19th. The bill covers data privacy for Canadians and addresses the Digital Charter Implementation Act, 2020. MP Bob Zimmer began: “We have all seen how data manipulation can be misused by big tech.” The bill cracks down on protecting digital privacy through algorithm accountability, personal access to data, and certified standards for big tech companies.
However, the MP also clarified concerns over some “huge exceptions” present in the legislation. Regulations on posting as outlined in Bill C-11 may be dangerous to Canadians’ right to free speech. MP Elizabeth May agreed: “We are 100% aligned in that we need to do much more to ... deal with the appropriation without consent of our digital DNA.”
While the bill addresses some significant concerns for Canadians surfing the web, some vital points are left out.
Digital DNA protection, as outlined in Bill C-11, doesn’t focus on privacy as a human right and would not prevent the Liberals’ attempt at establishing a Canadian Code of Conduct specifically for attacking digital content. The proposed “E-Tribunal” would address, on a case-by-case basis, posts and internet content deemed “hate speech” under a loose definition. These posts or accounts would be censored or addressed by law enforcement. Individual user’s content posted to platforms like YouTube and TikTok is not exempted from the bill.
A recent Conservative bill narrowed in on this concern for user control over data retention and monitoring: “The CPC believes digital data privacy is a fundamental right ... Canadians must have the right to access and control the collection, use, monitoring, retention, and disclosure of their personal data.”
Zimmer added: “Our online data is essentially our digital DNA. It is who we are online, and we need to do all we can to protect the information and data of Canadians.” The government taking action against personal websites and social media accounts is essentially an infringement on free expression.
Does a room of MPs deciding which posts are and aren’t “hate speech” align with ethical data DNA for Canadians?