Phillipa Lawson, executive director, Canadian Internet Policy and Public Interest Clinic, says another driving force – although not the driving force for these proposals – is the international war against “terrorism.” South of the border law enforcement agencies have been given an almost carte-blanche access to private sector databases for counterterrorism investigation. In Europe there’s a debate raging right now over proposals to require telecom service providers to retain customer data for up to three years.

So what is being proposed here in Canada?

Let me begin by referring to the only pubic document on record here which is the 2002 consultation paper put out by the three sponsoring departments – and that’s available on the Dept of Justice Web site if you search under “Lawful Access.”

In 2002, the Federal Government put out this consultation paper and invited public comment on it. The proposals in this paper included mandatory intercept capability on the part of telecom service providers, lawful access that leads to basic subscriber information, new production orders and preservation orders.

The government received over 300 submissions to this paper, many of them came from law enforcement agencies who were of these proposals. But almost as unanimously, industry and civil society groups were very skeptical, if not highly critical of these proposals at that time.

Over the subsequent two years, the government has been working to refine the proposals to respond to many of the concerns that were raised and to make sure that they were “charter proof” – that’s the legal term used to mean: consistent with the Canadian charter of rights and freedoms, and not subject to being overturned in the courts. The current proposals are largely the same as what you see in the 2002 document, but do reflect some revisions to respond to these concerns.

It’s important to note that Canada is not proposing to introduce mandatory data collection and retention, as in Europe, not will the new legislation permit broad “fishing expeditions” in the way the U.S. Patriot Act does.

What the government is proposing is going to help with mandatory intercept capabilities on the part of telecommunications providers, and wireless access to specific subscriber data upon request by the police. And these are two issues that have generated significant critical feedback from industry and society groups.

Our Web site – Canadian Internet Policy and Public Interest Clinic (CIPPIC), where we do have a Web page on this issue with links and useful information.

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