University of Guelph Political Science Society Blog

The follies of ‘Lawful Access’

Currently, ISPs can voluntarily disclose information to police, but are not required to unless authorities produce a warrant. The new bill will force ISPs to turn over, without a warrant, customers’ names, address, phone number, e-mail address, and Internet Protocol (IP) address. The new data will be transmitted in real time to authorities. The government has not shown that their current powers are insufficient. Judicial oversight of the process helps to prevent abuse, and this will be removed.

This is a severe violation of privacy rights. The federal and all provincial/territorial privacy commissioners have spoken out against the bill on the grounds that it is wrong to monitor customers without their knowledge and the lack of judicial oversight. The commissioners are worried that for those police which are not subject to a provincial privacy office, police will have virtually unfettered discretion in this area. Additionally, no law enforcement agencies have stated that their current powers are insufficient. One is left wondering what the purpose of this bill truly is.

This bill is also financially worrying to everyday Canadians, as it will raise internet prices. It will force Internet Service Providers (ISPs) to install costly surveillance technology. This cost will be passed on to users, significantly increasing internet usage price. The federal government recently created an initiative to provide rural broadband improvements and create affordable broadband for all Canadians. The new bill will severely dent this initiative and will unfairly impact low-income Canadians in obtaining adequate and affordable internet access, an essential requirement in today’s information age.

Finally, the bill is worrying because information obtained can be stored in a police database. This will include personal and financial information. What better way for a cyber criminal to target a massive amount of financial information than a hit on a poorly guarded database? It is virtually impossible to stop a hacker nowadays; many government websites have been reported hacked. With such centralization of information, it’s simply asking for trouble.

The bill is currently dead on the order paper and will be reintroduced when the House resumes at the end of January. Now is the time when people of all political stripes must unite against such a foolhardy decision. The Public Safety Minister has refused to heed the concerns of the privacy commissioners. The government has not yet presented an adequate reasoning for implementing this bill. Given the current situation in Parliament, debate will be stifled and the bill will be pressed through: this will be severely detrimental both to our democracy and to our privacy rights.

Canadians against the new “Lawful Access” bill should sign the Stop Spying petition. Hopefully, the government will take heed and realize the follies of its poorly thought out policy.

Original post here.

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