Sympatico eyes your keystrokes
Web surfers beware. Big Brother Bell Sympatico may be watching.
The Internet service provider advised its subscribers in a revised service agreement in mid-June that the company retains the right to "monitor or investigate content or your use of your service provider's networks and to disclose any information necessary to satisfy any laws, regulations or other governmental request."
Bell denies that the change in wording is in preparation for the feds' possible revival of an Internet surveillance bill, which critics suggest will allow police full access to personal information.
"Bell takes customer privacy very seriously," says Bell spokesperson Paolo Pasquini . "To suggest that we were illegally or routinely monitoring our customers beyond the legislative requirements is false."
Pasquini claims that Bell would only turn such info over to police or government when mandated by a court order or warrant, which was its policy in the past. So why the revised language in the agreement?
"It just puts us on par with the rest of the Internet service providers in Canada," Pasquini says.
Indeed. Ron Deibert, director of U of T's Citizen Lab, says the change in Bell's language suggests privacy laws are moving toward giving the government more leeway to eavesdrop, which means Internet service providers will be required to retain more of their users' data and records.
"This is part of a larger trend toward greater intrusiveness, and the onus falling on Internet service providers to comply with regulations," says Deibert. "Technically, monitoring of Internet service providers isn't necessary because there are already enough laws in place to catch illegal activity, but there's also an absence of a legal environment when it comes to putting restrictions on what the government can [access] in Canada."
Deibert notes that a lot of monitoring tools are already embedded in anti-spam and anti-virus software.
"E-mail, Web surfing, any kind of chat -- it's subject to surveillance unless you use encryption, and even then there are gaps," he says.
He believes Internet service providers are gearing up for the change in legislation, which Public Safety Minister Stockwell Day 's office says could happen as soon as this fall.
"We're still assessing the pros and cons," says Day's spokesperson Melissa Leclerc .
Bike lockers' missing key
The city is offering a secure solution for a few commuter cyclists worried about leaving their bikes outside downtown. But at a price. Last week, 16 bike lockers at City Hall and six at the Exhibition GO station were made available, supposedly to encourage cycling for those put off by bike thieves.
But some bike advocates wonder whether the $10 a month (plus GST) locker rental fee (renters must lease the lockers for a minimum of four months) will actually discourage cycling. It'll also cost you $90 if you lose the key.
Matthew Blackett of Spacing Magazine recommends ditching the minimum lease period and allowing cyclists to rent lockers daily or weekly, as they do in Europe. But more importantly, he says lockers need to be located near places of work if the city really wants people to cycle.
"There's something to be said for making lockers more accessible for people," he says.
For now, though, the city is concentrating on placing lockers near subway stations, says cycling committee chair Adam Giambrone , so those living in the burbs can ride their bikes to public transit and then head downtown on the TTC. By the end of this year, another 44 lockers will be installed at the ferry docks and various TTC stations across the city.
"Public transit and cycling working together is the way we're going," says Giambrone.
As for those pesky fees, cycling and transit project organizer Pauline Craig says they're lower than in most cities.
Gardiner holdout makes stand
Chris "you can call me Gardiner" promised not to go down without a fight should city staff attempt to evict him from his makeshift home under the expressway from which he takes his last name.
He's making good on that promise by adding rooms to the comfy three-room shanty he's built using reclaimed materials -- despite the fact that city staff visit daily to tell him he may be forcibly removed in a matter of days.
OCAP organizer Mike Desroches says the new construction wasn't just about increased space. "It was done to send a message to the city." The message: those who don't want to rely on public housing shouldn't be forced to.
The city won't say when bylaw enforcement will remove Gardiner. Officials say they need the area clear to complete work under the bridge.
But Barrie Chavel of transportation services assures me somewhat sarcastially, given the media coverage OCAP has been whipping up over Gardiner's case, "Don't worry. Everyone will know. It will not be a secret."
Despite Gardiner's open defiance, the city is pushing forward on a cleanup of homeless people living under the Gardiner between Bathurst and Spadina. Iain De Jong of the Streets To Homes program says housing has been found for six homeless people.
Gardiner, meanwhile, was busy adding to his digs this week until he and a dozen or so helpers ran out of nails. He laughs at the oppressive heat. "Hopefully, the city won't have a power outage, although that doesn't really concern me." He lives off the grid, just the way he likes it.