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Privacy czar questions cyberbullying bill’s accountability measures

Federal privacy commissioner Jennifer Stoddart is shown in Ottawa on April 23, 2010.

PATRICK DOYLE/The Globe and Mail

The federal privacy commissioner says she has questions about the government's cyberbullying bill – including the lack of accountability and reporting mechanisms to shed light on new investigative powers.

Jennifer Stoddart issued a statement after an outpouring of concern from civil libertarians that the bill tabled last week goes too far in expanding police powers to probe online behaviour.

The bill makes it illegal to distribute "intimate images" without consent and easier to have such pictures removed from the Internet.

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But the legislation also updates production orders and warrants for the digital age, and would give police new tools to track and trace telecommunications to determine their origin or destination.

Stoddart's office wants to know more about the new investigative powers and the thresholds for their use.

She says her office also has questions about the potentially large number of "public officers" who would be able to use these significant powers.

The government insists the measures are needed to help authorities keep pace with modern technology.

The commissioner's office says it will share more comprehensive comments on the bill with Parliament.

"We recognize that law enforcement authorities need up-to-date tools to fight online crime at a time of when technologies are changing rapidly," Stoddart says in the statement, "but this must be done in a way that respects Canadians' fundamental right to privacy."

Stoddart leaves the commissioner's post next week. Chantal Bernier of her office has been named interim commissioner.

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