Ontario has rejected a proposal to introduce a mandatory Internet Monitoring Bill, calling it a “threat to freedom of expression and the ability of Canadians to communicate.”
The bill is being presented to the Legislative Assembly in Toronto this week, but there has been no public release of a draft version of it.
The Ontario government has said it is still reviewing the bill, which would require Internet service providers to track users’ Internet usage and other information.
The proposed bill would also require Internet Service Providers to retain customer information for a period of up to six months.
In an emailed statement to CBC News, Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne said the government will not “allow any form of censorship to occur in the digital realm.”
She said the bill would allow Ontarians to have “a free, open and democratic marketplace for the sharing of ideas and information.”
Wynne also said the Ontario government is looking into other legislation to strengthen online privacy.
“I want to reiterate our commitment to protecting our privacy rights and protecting the Internet from cyberbullying and other forms of abuse,” she said.
“We have no plans to introduce any other legislation at this time.”
Online privacy advocates say the bill’s potential to harm online freedom is a concern, and say Ontarians should be able to express themselves online without having to worry about their personal information being captured.
“There are plenty of things we don’t know that are happening,” said Alex de Bock, a privacy and civil liberties advocate with the Canadian Civil Liberties Association.
“So there is no way of knowing for sure what’s going on in the privacy of these conversations, but I do think there is an inherent concern about the privacy impact of any legislation.”
In a statement, the Internet Policy and Innovation Coalition of Canada said it’s “disappointed that the Ontario Liberals are considering a bill that would undermine freedom of speech and online privacy, and is not a balanced solution that protects online privacy and internet freedom.”
The coalition said it will be sending a letter to Wynne asking her to oppose the bill.
“It is important that Canadians are given the opportunity to speak up on these important issues that are critical to our democracy and economic well-being,” said Jennifer Doudna, the coalition’s director of communications.
“Internet users deserve to be able in a timely and secure manner to express their views and opinions on important issues without having their online communications tracked, recorded, or tracked in a way that is inconsistent with the privacy laws of Ontario.”
A spokesperson for the Ministry of Consumer and Community Services said the department has not yet received a response to its letter.