Privacy groups are increasing pressure on the Harper government to change its plan to give law enforcement agencies the right to demand subscriber information from Internet providers and cellular carriers without a court order.
At a seminar Friday the three pieces of legislation – expected to be introduced after Parliament resumes Jan. 30 – were called “one of the greatest threats to privacy” by Ontario privacy commissioner Ann Cavoukian and “an end run” around civil rights by Nathalie Des Rosiers, the general counsel of the Canadian Civil Liberties Association
“These bills are bad for Canada, bad for the world and bad for human rights,” added University of Toronto political science professor Ron Deibert, a cybersecurity researcher.
They and others argue that police should have to get a judicial warrant to get identifying information such as an individual’s IP address. They also want independent oversight over what police do with the information they get.
Government spokesmen have likened the information to the kind of material one could get from a public phone book. But that suggestion was dismissed by Cavoukian (pictured), who said theyll be getting much more.
She worries that with the data police will trace an individual’s movements across the Internet regardless of whether there is evidence of criminal conduct.
Without independent oversight, added Des Rosiers, police could track “nosy journalists,” potential jurors, those who are critical of the police and politicians who oversee police budgets.
Internet service providers and wireless carriers – from BCE Inc.’s Bell Canada, Rogers Communications and Telus Communications Co. to the smallest ISP – are watching closely for the latest version of the legislation and the accompanying regulations. The biggest carriers and cable companies have been quietly lobbying the government because unless changed the legislation could force them to buy monitoring equipment to comply.
A lawyer for a group independent ISPs warned last November the requirements could force some providers to close.
“Our main concern is that Internet service providers aren’t forced to bear the cost associated with all the extra powers the police have,” William Sandiford, president of the Canadian Network Operators Consortium (CNOC), which represents a number of independent ISPs, said Friday.
The Conservatives (and the previous Liberal government) have been trying to update Canada’s electronic communications surveillance legislation for years. The Harper government’s latest versions were encompassed in what were then called Bills C-50, C-51 and C-52.