The lead up to lawful access

To get a better handle on the current “lawful access” controversy, one needs to go back a bit…to 2002.

For it was in that year that the Canadian government announced plans to modernize criminal law in response to law enforcement challenges posed by new technologies.

While some of these plans originated in the 1990s, they seemed to take on a new significance in the light of 9/11, and the perceived heightened threat of terrorism.

So in August 2002, the feds went about seeking the views of various stakeholder groups, including on their new lawful access proposals.

More than 300 submissions were received, and the nature of the feedback varied…dramatically. The law enforcement community, in general, strongly supported the proposals and urged swift action.

However, several other groups and individuals expressed concern about the potential impact the proposed changes would have on privacy and civil liberties.

In August 2003, the feds released a summary of submissions they received.

It is long and hard to ferret out anything of use to John Q. Public. That may be because the consultation process is not completed and lawful access provisions are still evolving.

“We are still doing consultations with those who have [contributed] comments to the process,” said Lucie Angers, acting general counsel at DOJ. “[They] include a lot of the players from industry and law enforcement agencies.”

More formal consultations were conducted around the start of this year with separate stakeholders, including three privacy roundtables to follow up on the privacy roundtable in 2002, according to Angers.

“There is no real oversight body,” said Angers. “The legislation has not been tabled but there is certainly some dialogue between us and the small governments and some stakeholders.”

Angers said there will be two parts to the legislation: one dealing with service providers’ infrastructure capabilities, ensuring that their systems are “interceptable”, and the second including the Criminal Code component, creating preservation orders and creating follow up procedures.

“From a (Department of) Justice perspective it’s not really an expanded role,” Angers said. “I think it is an updating of the Criminal Code to align it with new technologies.”

The DOJ, she said, is responsible for the Criminal Code aspects of lawful access.

“We are still working on it,” Angers said. “We are continuing the dialogue so whenever they tell us (lawful access) legislation is tabled we will have something for them.”

Read IT World Canada’s special feature on Lawful Access

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