In the National Post, Ontario's Information and Privacy Commissioner adds her strong voice to the call for increased scrutiny of any "lawful access" proposals:
Privacy Commissioner Ann Cavoukian: Privacy invasion shouldn’t be ‘lawful’ | Full Comment | National Post:
By Ann Cavoukian
I must add my voice to the growing dismay regarding the impact of impending “lawful access” legislation in this country. In my view, it is highly misleading to call it “lawful.” Let’s call it what it is — a system of expanded surveillance.
At issue is the anticipated re-introduction of a trio of federal bills that will provide police with much greater ability to access and track information, via the communications technologies we use every day, such as the Internet, smart phones and other mobile devices. I have no doubt that, collectively, the legislation will substantially diminish the privacy rights of Ontarians and Canadians as a whole.
Let’s take a brief look at the surveillance bills, which were introduced prior to the last election:
- Bill C-50 would make it easier for the police to obtain judicial approval of multiple intercept and tracking warrants and production orders, to access and track e-communications.
- Bill C-51 would give the police new powers to obtain court orders for remote live tracking, as well as suspicion-based orders requiring telecommunication service providers and other companies to preserve and turn over data of interest to the police.
- Bill C-52 would require telecommunication service providers to build and maintain intercept capability into their networks for use by law enforcement, and gives the police warrantless power to access subscriber information.
I well understand the attraction for law enforcement officials — the increased ability to access and track our e-communications, with reduced judicial scrutiny, would put a treasure trove of new information at their fingertips.
However, we must be extremely careful not to allow the admitted investigative needs of police forces to interfere with or violate our constitutional right to be secure from unreasonable state surveillance. The proposed surveillance powers come at the expense of the necessary privacy safeguards guaranteed under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. The federal government must be persuaded to acknowledge the sensitivity of traffic data, stored data and tracking data, and strongly urged to re-draft the bills. For a start, the proposal for warrantless access to subscriber information is untenable and should be withdrawn. If special access to subscriber information is considered to be absolutely necessary, it must take place under a court-supervised regime.
The government needs to step back and consider all of these implications. A comprehensive cost-benefit analysis should precede the entrenchment of so many significant public policy decisions. Public Parliamentary hearings must also be scheduled to ensure that civil society, as well as the telecom industry, has a full opportunity to provide input.
Canadians must press the federal government to publicly commit to enacting much-needed oversight legislation in tandem with any expansive surveillance measures. Intrusive proposals require, at the very least, matching legislative safeguards. The courts, affected individuals, future Parliaments and the public must be well informed about the scope, effectiveness and damaging negative effects of such intrusive powers.
We can, and must, have both greater security and privacy, in unison. It cannot be one at the expense of the other. The true value of privacy must be recognized in any effort to modernize law enforcement powers. Imposing a mandatory surveillance regime on the public and its telecom service providers must not go forward without strong safeguards to protect the future of our fundamental freedoms.
Ann Cavoukian is the Information Privacy Commissioner of Ontario.