Maclean's Magazine
vol.108, no.12, p.6
Monday, March 20, 1995
Opening Notes

Civil Surfing'

Just what are the civil liberties of those surfing the Internet? The answer is of major concern to many people, including three professors of computer science at universities across Canada, who late last year founded Electronic Frontier Canada. They want to ensure that the principles enshrined in the Charter of Rights and Freedoms are protected. David Jones, a professor at McMaster University in Hamilton who is one of the group's founders, says, for instance, that electronic-mail should be regarded as confidential as a letter or telephone call.

Some recent legal disputes, however, indicate that the jury is still out on the issue of cyberspace monitoring. In an Ottawa case, parolee Ken Scott-Humphry, 49, was jailed for three weeks before Correctional Services cleared him of violating a condition of his parole. He had posted a Usenet query in an antique gun discussion group asking about suppliers for gunpowder and bullets on behalf of a friend with a gun collection. In another case, officials at the University of Guelph, Ont., voluntarily handed reams of computer printouts to police investigating charges of unauthorized use of a computer and mischief. Charges against one individual were withdrawn when a university report acknowledged that anyone could have been the culprit because passwords were readily shared. But the constitutionality of the university providing computer correspondence without a search warrant was never determined. Big Brother, it may turn out after all, is watching.

Copyright © 1995 by Maclean's Magazine. All Rights Reserved. Reprinted with permission.