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Who Pays for Online Surveillance?: Police Recommended “Public Safety” Tax on Internet Bills

One of the major unanswered questions about Bill C-30, the lawful access/online surveillance bill, is who will pay for the costs associated with responding to law enforcement demands for subscriber information (“look ups”) and installation of surveillance equipment (“hook ups”). Christopher Parsons has an excellent post that takes a shot at estimating some of the costs. I recently obtained documents from Public Safety under the Access to Information Act that indicates that the government doesn’t really have its own answer. As of December 2011, the issue was still the subject of internal debate with Public Safety working with the RCMP and CSIS to develop a fee schedule for the costs.

The document is particularly interesting because it places the spotlight on how the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police (CACP) would like to handle the issue. In 2009, the CACP proposed several possibilities, including the creation of new public safety tax that would appear on monthly customer bills. The CACP adopted the position that law enforcement should not have to pay for the associated costs claming it “brings the administration of justice into disrepute.” Instead, it proposed three alternatives:

  • the telecom companies and Internet providers could pass along the costs in the form of a “public safety tariff” that would apply on monthly consumer bills
  • the government could provide tax credits to telecom companies and Internet providers
  • the government could establish a federal funding pool to cover the costs

The government rejected all three possibilities, but incredibly does not seem to have its own plan to address the tens of millions of dollars in costs created by its online surveillance plans. As I noted in a post on fixing the bill, both the regulations and the cost issues should be made public before the bill is considered by a House of Commons committee.

56 Comments


  1. The bill should simply die since they’ve demonstrated no justifiable need for it.

  2. I’d cancel my connection
    I do not want to pay for my own surveillance. I would seriously consider cutting my residential line in the case of a monthly tax.

  3. Unexploded says:

    recommendations for the police
    I’ve got a few recommendations for the police. Most of them involve one or more verbs. Since the bill is being driven entirely by big media companies, too stubborn (or stupid) to adapt, why don’t they foot the bill for warrantlessly spying on us? Personally, I take offence at being forced to foot the bill for my own privacy rape. Then again, I’m not a big fan of election fraud either.

  4. Let’s use the Tax system itself to protest this tax
    One way or another it will come at our cost…………….no question.
    Let us return some fire. How much does the government save by using the Internet?
    How much would it cost if no-one Efiled their Taxes this year in protest?
    A no Efile Tax protest………………..just a thought.


  5. Aside from the obvious intrusion on privacy, what pi$$es me off most about this entire thing, is that, while it’s obvious the cost will be passed on to the end user, rural users will get ultimately scr3w3d by this. I’m already paying a whopping $65/mo for a meager 60G of bandwidth which isn’t fast enough to play a Youtube video most of the time. A lot more of the cost will get passed to the subscriber when an ISP only has a couple thousand customers as opposed to a company like Telus or Shaw, whose subscriber base is so huge that the cost of the hardware will likely be negligible AND the big providers are more likely to get tax breaks and subsidies from our mega-corp-friendly CONS.

    C-30 needs to be completely killed.

  6. jeez these big coporations really like to punish the everyday joe schmo eh?

  7. “…the creation of new public safety tax that would appear on monthly customer bills.”

    Yikes! That will surely go over well with the public, pay you to spy on me.

    Yup, that will fly for sure.

  8. @Crockett
    No matter how they frame it, the public will foot the bill, either through increases taxes or an increase in their ISP bills. I’m guessing we’ll see an increase in taxes since that’s easier to slip in unnoticed. People are already sensitive about what they pay for Internet and an increase there would surely cause a serious uproar once the reason is reviled.

  9. This mean they’ll be funding the legislation by finding ‘savings’ and ‘efficiencies’ elsewhere.

  10. Yeah no matter what the public will pay for it. It’s not quite the same as Bill C-10 where the Federal Government can pretent it doesn’t have a cost by offloading it on to the provinces. And even if they did, we’d still end up paying for it.

    So either way, we’re paying for something we don’t need.

  11. Sidewinder01 says:

    Think about this
    OK, so everyone starts POP’ing their mail, that means ISP’s have to real time backup mailboxes, dumping everything to tape (Last time I bought LTO3′s it was 33 bucks per!) then they have to archive them (Iron Mountain or some other schmuck storage idiot) For how long? Last time I checked it was 1700 bucks per month for storing 4.6TB worth of data on Incrementals and full monthly/weeklies, including archivl 7 years and yearly archives!! This is gonna cost big time! And who’s gonna pay? Not me!

  12. kick ass kali says:

    calcuttan ….magic
    TOPP PIC NIC LUXARY !O CANADA……ndp will show magic…!

  13. kick ass kali says:

    PIC NIC CARD a topp JET SET..fanTINO..priority ..O canada..!
    toeaway luaxary cons…robo callous…ehh

  14. CementBrain says:

    Looks like the beginning of a communist country in the making, to me!!!!

  15. scoundrels
    Of course they hadn’t planned on how to fund it. These scoundrels don’t explain their plan to fund anything, including manditory minimums, jet fighters, etc. They think that crime bills are cheap, because they can pass the buck, but what it will cost them is votes. If this is passed, after passing bill C-11, they will inevitably lose popularity with people under the age of 30 (many of whom engage in mildly illegal/recreational activities and will be swept in by wide-cast crime nets). How could they be so short-sighted? With great power comes great responsibility, which requires restraint. Regular police should not require this, maybe CSIS or the RCMP if working to protect national security (eg: NCIS LA), but regular police DONT NEED THIS, and cannot be trusted with this!

  16. Of course!
    Why can’t they stick to “good old fashioned police work”, instead of something akin to drilling a whole through our front doors, having us pay for it, and allowing them to open it at their leisure. Or perhaps it’s more akin to installing CCTV cameras in our own home, having us pay for those, and allowing them to rewind and review the tape in the case that we may be suspected of a crime. We could call it ‘Harper’s Home Invasion tax’. “Good old fashioned police work” proved applicable in the 21st century in the FBI’s recent arrest of a LulzSec hacker. The job was done without the necessity of any ISP furnished back-doors.

    See the arstechnica.com reporting at http://arstechnica.com/tech-policy/news/2012/03/stakeout-how-the-fbi-tracked-and-busted-a-chicago-anon.ars

  17. Junji Hiroma says:

    The bill will die due to the Privacy Commisioners’s red alarms.
    I read a article(will have to dig up link)that if the Privacy commisioners keep up they pressure,they might be the ones that’ll kill Bill C-30.

  18. We pay one way or another …
    14.(3) The Commissioner of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police or the Director of the Canadian Security Intelligence Service, as the case may be, must pay the telecommunications service provider an amount that the Minister considers reasonable towards the expenses that the Minister considers are necessary for the service provider to incur initially to comply with an order made under this section.

  19. @Mark: I believe that section is about if the service provider doesn’t have capability yet or the order would exceed the global limit of simultaneous interceptions i.e. it’s not about payment in general.

  20. Anonymous... says:

    Alternatively…
    we could impose a donut tax, and have the cops pay for their own toys. ;)

  21. they want, they pay
    If the Canadian Police Chiefs want C-30 then it should come out of the police budgets. We should change things around so who ever is demand changes should be the people that fund the requests.

  22. Good One.
    All these government / public employees forget that they are the “employee” and that Canadians are the “employer”. Why the employer would want to give the employee a raise so that they can crawl into the employer’s mind is beyond me.

    Sure one could take the approach that it is a “safety fee” and that we’re with it or with the pedophiles is analageous to saying that if you eliminate the gun registry – then you must be with the murderers.

    In short – this is all about control – and it will be abused.

    And don’t fool yourself – if they want to listen / do electronic surveillance on anyone – it’s done everyday.

    This is all about picking up every little bit of communication one does, electronically parsing it – and storing it for “future use”.

    It’s all about control – and not probably – but positively will be abused.

  23. Technology Guy
    If this passes and I see it on any of my bills i’ll be cancelling service with the companies who decide to do this. Put all companies on notice. A tax by any other name is still a tax. Unlawful tax is taxation without representation.

  24. Jack Robinson says:

    $$$ Costs Would Bring Justice into Disrepute…?
    Thanks once again Mr. Geist, for your tireless tenacity in drilling-down into the bafflegab and obfusication being fed to Canadians as to New Rome North’s ram-rodded Blunderbuss Bilge C-30… and it’s scarily Kafkaesque potential to criminalize and punish without Habeas Corpus consideration virtually anyone surreptuously perceived, bar-coded and branded as a threat to Harper Hegemony Inc.’s hammerlock on what was Once Upon a Time our globally-revered national concept of Open Democracy founded in regard for Lawful Due Process, Vox Populi Debate and Consensus, Progressive Egalitarianism and above all…Compassion. Just what the Hell’s happened to us in the past six years of Ostrich Nation voter ennui… Tiny-Fist Twitter Kidz???

  25. My...god... says:

    We are no longer free…
    We are no longer free…and I guess it was just a matter of time.

    Democracy was a nice dram while it lasted, I use to love my country, I use to love that others loved us…

    …but that’s now the past…

    ….we are no longer free, we are all under arrest, it’s just a matter of time. The thought police, are real.

    I’ve done nothing wrong, but I’m crying because in the end, it wont matter if your guilty or not, we are all guilty now.

  26. Please stop calling this a “Public Safety Tax” and call it what it is: A Spy Tax.

  27. Hahahahayoho
    Please escalate the police state as fast as you can or they wont ever wake up to the nice and comfy brave new world wrapping its warm motherly embrace on the simple minded characters we have roaming like drones (canada ftw) oooo canadaaaaaa

  28. A generation
    Government won’t be happy until the entire country is up in arms against itself. People are passionate about this for a reason and this Conservative Government does not respect that. Mark my words…If they pull the trigger and let this pass, the Internet is going to become a very violent place for police and any corporation willing to harbor this sort of tyanny. There are a hundred tech savvy hackers to every person interested in policing the Internet. That’s not a threat; just an observation of the history of anarchy online.

    The thought police may be real, but so is Anonymous. It is the manifestation of a culture crying out for a cause and it grows exponentially. Pull the trigger and watch it grow.

  29. N Z
    Yes I agree disconect my broadband / phone connection should the Laws change police self checks on what is suitable content to look at; Also the only reason the Elete 0.1% want us all stopped from learning and viewing their secret agends of NWO satanic destruction and their evil control over us earthly humans this has been in opperating since the gods of Enock Other words- It’s ALL BULLSHIT

  30. Angry Voter says:

    Add extra income tax on government employees to pay their own pay!
    In the US, more FBI agents have been convicted of selling state secrets than the rest of the population combined. Everyone convicted of state secrets during the entire history of the agency was a government employee yet the FBI spends almost all their resources on civilians.

    In the US more TSA agents have been convicted of felonies than civilians. Convictions run from simple theft to child rape. How many people has the TSA convicted of anything not TSA harassment related? 0. That is none.

    Do I even need to mention Kim Philby? The head of UK intel was an enemy agent.

    Or that the heads of the nail bombing civilians era of the IRA were UK government agents? Deep cover UK government agents murdered UK civilians and blamed it on pro-democracy groups. Public record.

    Sociopaths and crypto-fascists are so attracted to government that the very fact that somebody wants to be in government should disqualify them.

  31. Who Pays?
    Oh please. Who do you think will fund this? The same group of people who wanted it passed, to begin with. They already have the funds available, they have the people whom they want running it, picked out, and they have the court cases they are going to use to leverage the new laws, lined up and ready to go.
    So, yes, the Canadian public *should* pay for it, and we should then insist that the person taking the lead role be elected by us.
    Or, are we all in favour of insisting on private funding and appointed leadership?

  32. If the Government wants Total Information Awareness, they can pay for it.
    I don’t see any benefit to Canadians in having their every keystroke online analyzed by computers somewhere. Since the only benefit is to Government and Police, they should pay for all of it. If they don’t want to pay for it, it must not be that important.

  33. Bill Wittur says:

    An interesting pattern …
    I’m seeing a pattern here: the Cons barf up terrible legislation, various lobby groups around the country throw in some ideas about how to pay for it and Bell uses the money to consolidate media ownership in Canada.

  34. Copyright Tax
    We all know that this is eventually be going to be used to catch copyright infringers. So let’s just call it the Copyright Tax.

  35. hahahaha
    You canadians finally established fascism – AND you pay for your masters. :)

    I

  36. Markus, yes, but it’s nice fascism
    It will probably end the same way too. hmmm. How do you hang someone by their heels, nicely?

  37. This “safety” bill is all about doing the policing for the media companies and paid for solely by the government, and by implication the taxpayers. The media giants must be in heaven knowing they’re THIS close to getting the very same group of people they can and will likely sue in the future to pay for the job of finding out who might be infringing on their property, despite the vast majority of citizens being innocent to begin with.

    Very likely the bully Americans said either do this, or no more trade deals with Canada involved, and the media companies will pull up stakes and move to another country. This is on top of the Europeans doing the same thing because they too are ruled by the media giants.

    Of course these same lobbists are saying pass this bill so that you can go after the terrorists without any handicaps. In the end this idea was the original idea of these American companies.

    This country is corrupt as hell, and Harper isnt any different than any other PM in history. He’ll likely do a compromise and the media companies will come back yet again next year with more and more demands. Damn hypocrites who are willing to sellout their own country for a measely election contribution.

    Is there no party willing to stand up against these bullies? This is a minority interest of the media giants dictating what Canada should do. This is country is a very bad Joke.

  38. Reality Check
    Thank you, again, for keeping a watch on the government. As long as there is a gadfly around, there is hope the government will at least think twice before making a decision. As for me, I have come to the conclusion that my so called MP, MPP and city councillor are not there to represent me. They come and beg for votes, and then they do their masters’ bidding. Their masters are either party leaders or the corporations that financed their elections. When Rogers Cable can purchased the Toronto stadium for 25 million then you suspect the system might not be working in the interest of Joe public. The old joke is that in old communist countries one had to be careful about insulting the politicians. Here one has to be careful about insulting the CEO’s. Politicians are a joke. I hope that Michael Geist turns his eye, next, on Ontario health care. Yes, the same health care professing to be public when in fact it is more like 50% public by now and without a debate.

  39. You know its much simpler to pick up our long guns and just storm the parliament. Since the current gov doesn’t work for use any more but for corporations there is no need for it.

    Now if no one wants to take up arms we need a national storm the local gov office and dump your cd/dvd on their door steps day. Burn the media day!!!

  40. Jean-Francois Cyr says:

    Well
    I am on the internet basically since it’s commercially available and, well, I would be the first to cut my online access if they do start doing this.

  41. web developer
    uh, V for Vendetta anyone? this is seriously a poor move, shows who’s in charge and who’s important.

  42. INSURRECTION……
    INSURRECTION……

  43. I bielieve the ones who want the bill—-should pay the bill.

  44. believe—excuse spelling

  45. I'm scared.... says:

    What will happen?
    I know this sounds silly but I have to ask, because I’m afraid.

    What if I’m at home and I’m watching a comedy show on YouTube, that uses some copyright material (in small clips), but as a parody. What if I’m playing an online game, and I quote one of my favorite movies.

    Will I be arrested for watching that video? Will they send a van to take me away?

    I’m being serious here, how bad is this going to get?

  46. We just keep on inching closer to a true Big Brother society. I’m not one for conspiracy theories & alarmism, but damn, it’s really happening. (at a snail’s pace, but still, moving forward nonetheless)

    Ultimately, the panopticon society needs cameras to be as common as street lights.

  47. Fair is Fair
    If they are going to collect money to collect private information and make it public, what about the public information that should be made public? All police calls and conversations and officer records should be made available to the people who pay for their salaries and work. Their work should come under the same scrutinies as everything else. We need to be sure THEY are not the wrong doers. Too often this IS the case. Lets clean up the judges so we can feel safer about those who are supposed to protect our society!

  48. Big Words
    Ooooohhhh, Jack Robinson, all those big words got me hot.
    Anyway, in plain English, why are we even discussing how or who is going to pay for this illegal instrusion into our private lives. What we need to do is have this stupid Bill abolished entirely with however means are necessary, keep up the pressure to our MPs, MLAs, PM until they are so sick of hearing the protests they scrap it.

  49. anonymous? says:

    anonymous?
    wow this is so incredibly disappointing. why doesn’t hollywood pay for this? Avatar made $80,000,000 opening weekend and this whole stupid bill was started by retard mpaa lobbyists in the states. or have you forgotten about sopa and pipa?

    listen everybody:
    CANCEL BELL/ROGERS and JOIN TEKSAVVY unlimited bandwith and GET A VPN.

    eff you mpaa, eff you government, eff you cops, eff you greedy bastards. watch as they track my ip and come arrest me for free speech.

  50. Well, Fcuk that!
    I’ll just dump my ISP and switch my phone to a data plan.

    Done and done!

  51. Just another tax grab
    They make it sound so good for our well being and safety.
    I have a simply question…
    What really is the Added “cost” to justify the new tax?

    The police are already getting paid for doing their job no matter what they do.
    The service providers are are already being paid by our monthly bills.
    So where is the added extra costs for the police asking the service providers to “spy” into our homes?
    This is just another tax grab.

  52. Of course the public will be paying for this unneeded piece of dren. Wether it be added at income tax time or added as another line on a monthly bill, we will be paying for this. When will the government and their bosses, Big Business, get it through their head that the public is NOT an renewable resource of money that they can abuse whenever they want?

  53. Who should pay
    Government has no money, except ours. I don’t want the government to pay.

    If the CACP wants this legislation so bad, let their association foot the bill. Those who dance to the tune must pay the piper, as my der mom used to say.

    These kinds of laws are why I believe that majority governments are an unnecessary evil. They can ram through whatever they want, without real debate. Give me a messy, inefficient minority government. All politicians need checks and balances, or they become dangerous.

    Off topic – I want the next election’s debates to demand that each candidate justify, in clear terms, why they think the government has the right to dig as deeply as they want into Canadian’s pockets, at any time for any reason.

  54. Ooops!
    Now I’m a subversive, and probably associating with subversives. What list am I on now?

  55. A few small points
    This legislation will be trivial to by-pass with out-of-country VPN service without significant changes to the current internet landscape and many more restrictive laws essentially bringing us to the great-firewall-of-China status.

    For the people who won’t or can’t afford to protect themselves, I pity their future selves. This tech would easily allow an organization to profile political, sexual, and social leanings. Already facebook has the power to predict an extremely accurate profile of you, if you choose to use it. How you are going to vote, whether you support gay marriage, abortion, crime bills etc etc and this system will be everything about you and your activities, not just one site.

    This system will give the government the opportunity to almost limitless abuse of power at considerable cost savings. The exploitable nature of a system like this should preclude us allowing it to exist, ever, under any circumstance. I strongly believe this will heard a dystopian future if passed because sooner or later it will see significant abuse and corruption at a massive financial and societal cost.

  56. kasia yechimowicz says:

    I think the costs should be paid by Conservative Party members, after all, they’re the ones best able to afford all these extra fees.