It is time Canadian politicians engaged in an open discussion about citizens’ rights when they go online. To date there seems to be only one high profile Canadian willing to entertain the idea. I am referring to George Takach, a Toronto lawyer and candidate for leadership of the federal Liberal Party.
Takach is calling on the government to create a ‘digital bill of rights’. The notion comes from two American politicians, Representative Darrell Issa and Senator Ron Wyden, key figures in the battle against censorship of the internet.
Issa and Wyden in the United States, and Takach in Canada, are calling for the creation of a ‘digital, or internet, bill of rights,’ because of concerns about what some may describe as a legal oxymoron. Lawmakers and legislators are attempting to regulate the internet without an understanding of how individuals use it.
“Government is flying blind, interfering and regulating without even understanding the basics,” declares Issa on KeepTheWebOpen.com. “Where can a digital citizen turn for protection against the powerful?”
Wyden likens this project to a digital version of the United States’ Constitutional convention. The 10 key provisions in Issa’s and Wyden’s Bill are:
1. The right to a free and uncensored Internet.
2. The right to an open, unobstructed Internet.
3. The right to equality on the Internet.
4. The right to gather and participate in online activities.
5. The right to create and collaborate on the Internet.
6. The right to freely share their ideas.
7. The right to access the Internet equally, regardless of who they are or where they are.
8. The right to freely associate on the Internet.
9. The right to privacy on the Internet.
10. The right to benefit from what they create.
George Takach comes at things from a similar angle. “Our digital world is quickly becoming as important as our physical world,” he proclaims on his website. “We’re doing everything from shopping to sending out resumes to searching for information – and we’re doing more and more of that every day.”
Takach takes aim at the current federal government. He asserts that the Harper Government – one that proclaims liberty to be a concern – has failed to ensure that Canadians’ rights and privacy are protected on the internet. Takach is committed to changing that by championing the establishment of a Canadian Digital Bill of Rights. He is so committed to this he is making it a centrepiece of his campaign to become the next leader of the Liberal Party of Canada.
This stems from a belief that Canadians need a balanced approach to internet security, one that will ensure that we have better safeguards in place to protect the fundamental civil rights and privacy of Canadians when they are online, while also ensuring that law enforcement officials have adequate tools to address online crime and security. This is in contrast to the “Big Government / Big Brother” surveillance solutions of United States President Barack Obama and Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper.
Takach proposes a somewhat slimmer Bill of Rights than his American counterparts, but his goal is the same. His proposed Bill would guarantee:
1. The right to be free from surveillance not authorized by a court of law.
2. The right to be free from abuse of personal information.
3. The right to enjoy an open, uncensored, unobstructed internet.
4. The right to enjoy network neutrality and be free from traffic shaping and bandwidth throttling.
5. The right to enjoy anonymity, as long as they act responsibly.
6. The right to enjoy access to the Internet no matter where they live.
The work of these three brave individuals should be commended. In a time when so many governments are engaging in more and more invasive solutions, these politicians are calling to keep government out of our internet. Time will tell how receptive North Americans are to internet freedom. If they are, Issa, Wyden, and Takach will have bright careers ahead of them.