What is “lawful access”?

Law enforcement and national security agencies conduct investigations with the aid of certain techniques, one of which is lawful access.

For the police, this involves the lawful interception of communications and the lawful search and seizure of information, including computer data.

Lawful access is a specialized tool used to investigate serious crimes, such as drug trafficking, money laundering, smuggling, child pornography, and murder. Lawful interception of communications is also an essential tool for the investigation of threats to national security, such as terrorism.

Lawful access can only be used with legal authority, i.e. a warrant or an authorization to intercept private communications, issued by a judge under specific circumstances. For example, authorizations to intercept private communications can only be used to target particular communications and can only be carried out for a specific period of time.

In order to obtain a warrant to search for and seize data, there must be reasonable grounds to believe that an offence has been committed. For the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS), both the Solicitor General and a Federal Court judge must approve each warrant application.

Communications and information may be lawfully intercepted from: