Friday, October 16, 2009

Selling Your Privacy By The Pound

Everyone hates spam. Not the, um, delicious tinned meat with the sing-a-long name. I mean that endless, tedious, aggravating avalanche of unwanted and often duplicitous advertising. I don't want the telephone ringing at all hours with some poor goober on the other end rattling off a half hearted rote routine of neurolinguistically approved attempts to keep me on the line long enough to con me into a new credit card or a new phone plan or a subscription to one of the dying newspapers that I don't want. I sometimes feel badly for the poor jerks sitting in a telephone sweatbox as a strutting cock-noggin marches about trying to keep the pressure on for one more lead. And then I swear at them anyway. I really hate checking my email and seeing 32 new messages, my heart wells up thinking, gosh, I'm loved. But no, when I open the Inbox there's 29 variations lamenting the tininess of my penis, my poor little member's inability to stand out from the crowd, perhaps a few prescription drug deals, a link to special pictures of people doing those things or my fave, the lost millions that I can help recover for some sweet soul in a far off land. The remaining 3 messages are usually machine generated reminders of things I'm supposed to do.

So when our duly elected pals in government promise that they are going to crack down on spam, the heart gladdens. Why, maybe they aren't all a pack of grafting whores licking gravy out of the crotches of lobbyists between taxpayer funded trips to the bar. Maybe even Jason Kenney casts a lonely glance at his untouched lap and tries to hold back a sob before deleting the ads promising to enlargen his little winkie. Maybe Gary Goodyear gets frustrated at the failure of the internet to yield to the power of prayer to make those devil-doers vanish and cease the temptings of his flesh. Maybe the collected pols ran into a campaign plank that no voter would kick out of the platform, to stop these annoying bastards from bothering us. What could go wrong with that plan? Annoying bastards is what. A wide variety of them lining up with lobby dollars to subvert what good intentions were started with.

And so I find myself pointing at the grubby whores on Parliament Hill and the grubbier whores that lobby them from the entertainment and copyright bordellos. As is usual, internet humans, we all owe Michael Geist a debt of gratitude. As Bill C-27, designed to curb electronic spam, wends its way through committee, the lobbying by grubby marketing whores has been intense and effective. Under constant pressure to ensure a tempting future of big, fat campaign contributio... I mean welcome suggestions for improvement, Industry Canada has come up with a laundry list of
reforms for the bill. Essentially the people's representatives want to buckle and make the bill toothless, if you have farted in the last year, you've given an implied consent. If your neighbour sneezed on a Tuesday, that's as good as a referral. There are exceptions to the exceptions that mean you might end up with one less Nigerian sweepstakes notification to delete.

But fear not Canadians! In this bold bipartisan age, the Conservative Party of Canada, whores though they be, are not alone. There are no shortage of Liberal Party of Canada whores ready and eager to get their pursed lips on the swollen nozzle of corporate goodness and in the spirit of multicultural tongue action, Canada's pretend separatists are taking care of the sloppy seconds. And let's not leave our socialist whores on the sidewalk. They're willing to get their treats for turning some tricks too.

While these are big proposed changes, it is clear that the lobby groups would like more, particularly a shift from opt-in to opt-out consent. At yesterday's hearing, it was discouraging to see lobbyists for Canadian Chamber of Commerce and Canadian Intellectual Property Council huddling with Liberal MPs before the start of the hearing. It was even more incredible to see lobbyists for the Canadian Real Estate Association draft a series of questions about the bill, hand them to a Bloc MP, and have them posed to the witnesses moments later.

The general tenor of the hearing saw support from the Conservative MPs, general support from the NDP MP (with some fear that the bill may be watered down with the proposed amendments), CREA questions from the Bloc, and a repetition of lobbyist questions from the Liberal MPs, who persistently wondered whether the bill is too broad or even too transparent (raising the possibility of excluding it from Access to Information).

And all of this brings us to the saccharine surprise at the centre of the turd. Turns out that there are some familiar players with some ugly motives trying to turn consumer protection legislation into a
weapon to use against the general public.

As I posted earlier today, the Electronic Commerce Protection Act comes to a conclusion in committee on Monday as MPs conduct their "clause by clause" review. While I have previously written about the lobbying pressure to water down the legislation (aided and abetted by the Liberal and Bloc MPs on the committee) and the CMA's recent effort to create a huge loophole, I have not focused on a key source of the pressure. Incredibly, it has been the copyright lobby - particularly the software and music industries - that has been engaged in a full court press to make significant changes to the bill.

The copyright lobby's interest in the bill has been simmering since its introduction, with lobbyists attending the committee hearings and working with Liberal and Bloc MPs to secure changes. The two core concerns arise from fears that the bill could prevent surreptitious use of DRM and block enforcement initiatives that might involve accessing users' personal computers without their permission.

The DRM concern arises from a requirement in the bill to obtain consent before installing software programs on users' computers. This anti-spyware provision applies broadly, setting an appropriate standard of protection for computer users. Yet the copyright lobby fears it could inhibit installation of DRM-type software without full knowledge and consent. Sources say that the Liberals have introduced a motion that would take these practices outside of the bill. In its place, they would define computer program as, among other things, "a program that has as its primary function...inducing a user to install software by intentionally misrepresenting that installing that software is necessary to safeguard security or privacy or to open or play content of a computer program." This sets such a high bar - primary function, intentional mispresentation - that music and software industry can plausibly argue that surreptitious DRM installations fall outside of C-27.

Our old friends in the entertainment whoring and the software whoring business are busy at work trying to keep backdoors open into your electronics for their own use, surveillance and exploitation. They are working overtime to make sure that certain provisions of C-27 get the nix. They desperately want to
not be prevented from surreptitiously installing hidden softwares on your machines without your knowledge or consent. They want to make sure they are able to extract information from your machines, without your knowledge or consent. They think they should be able to nuke things from your hard drives, without your knowledge and without your consent and all of that with not a lick of oversight. They are trying to strangle a consumer protection bill as a back alley way to achieve the ends that they have not, to date, been able to achieve through corrupt wrangling on copyright legislation. The anti-spam bill is turning into an incredible power grab on the part of the overreaching copyright lobby. These players and their Parliamentary whores are corrupting consumer protection legislation to suit their own greedy ends.

In essence, should this bill be so amended and pass through both houses to become law, it would leave the door open for private commercial enterprises to access your personal, on-line electronics. I don't know about you but my computer is my diary, my laboratory, my creative workspace and my primary device for personal correspondence. I don't feel at all comfortable with our elected representatives ceding an unprecedented power of public surveillance to private corporations. I don't trust our various layers of law enforcement with unwarranted surveillance. I expect our lawmakers to demand just and probable cause before granting the power to invade privacy for the purposes of surveillance. I am offended and horrified that the vulgar little snots that come to us begging for our votes are hawking our privacy and personal security to the corporate sector.

Damn the Liberal Party of Canada members that would sell our rights to the dirtiest bidders.

Damn the Bloc Quebecois members that would act as patsies for these lobbyists and pimps.

Damn the NDP tarts that totter about, looking the other way while the country gets a boning.

And Damn the Conservative Party of Canada for presiding over this carnival of whores.

The Industry Minister needs to hear what you think of his Ministry even considering allowing utterly unaccountable business interests to spy on you and your machines. You can drop him a line here:

Tony Frickin' Clement

and here's the Industry Committee in all their stinking Glory:

Michael Chong (Con), Chair
Anthony Rota (Lib), Vice-Chair
Robert Bouchard (BQ), Vice-Chair
Gordon Brown (Con)
Siobhan Coady (Lib)
Marc Garneau (Lib)
Mike Lake (Con)
Brian Masse (NDP)
Dave Van Kesteren (Con)
Robert Vincent (BQ)
Mike Wallace (Con)
Chris Warkentin (Con)

Give 'em hell folks. This truly is a non-partisan issue. If our friends and opponents on the right are true to their word and honestly do support a policy of personal independence and responsibility then this sort of invasion of privacy should be especially galling to them. It doesn't matter what colour of sweater you wear or whose party flag you fly, your privacy and personal security are precious and should not be on the block to the highest bidder.


Unknown said...


Lindsay Stewart said...

Gosh Dave, thanks for talking the trouble to plumb the depths of your ample intellect and for sharing your insight.

Unknown said...

Hey, I'm not the one that stretches what should amount to a few paragraphs of actual content into around a dozen of badly written, overly flowery prose.

NĂ¡mo Mandos said...

Hey, I'm not the one that stretches what should amount to a few paragraphs of actual content into around a dozen of badly written, overly flowery prose.


Unknown said...

Look! It's "Namo Mandos", whose neglected, low quality blog burns the eyes with its shitty colour combination.

Lindsay Stewart said...

hi dave, nice of you to drop by and belch. shame your own excellent blogging is unavailable to provide the proper example we all need.

Unknown said...

I blogged long before you did -- since 2000 -- and I've since burned out, closing up shop in December 2008. Unfortunately, my site is offline; I'm currently looking for work and didn't have the cash to renew my hosting.

I was a much better writer than you, who says in a dozen paragraphs what can be said in one.