An anticipated bill, entitled “An Act to enact the Investigating and Preventing Criminal Electronic Communications Act and to amend the Criminal Code and others Acts” appears on the parliamentary order paper published on Friday, for introduction this coming week. More to follow ... (See: Order Paper and Notice Paper No. 79.)
The Montreal Gazette reported on its anticipated reappearance:
New law could allow police to view people's web-surfing habits
MONTREAL - Police will get much easier access to the web surfing habits and personal information of all Canadians if a new law, expected to be introduced in the House of Commons next week, passes.
Privacy watchdogs caution if the so-called Lawful Access law is passed, it would give police access to web browsing history, sensitive personal information, and it would grant greater permission to track the cellular phones of suspects, and much of it without the requirement of a warrant.
The bill, which is on the order paper for the week starting Monday, would require Internet service providers and cellular phone companies to install equipment that would monitor the activities of their users so that the information could be turned over to police when requested. It would also grant greater permission to law enforcement authorities to activate tracking mechanisms within cellular phones so they can follow the whereabouts of suspected criminals. If there is a suspicion of terrorist activity, the law would allow such tracking to go on for a year, rather than the current 60-day limit.
This isn’t the first time this law has been introduced. The most previous incarnation of the Lawful Access law died on the order paper when the most recent federal election was called last year.
Public Safety Minister Vic Toews said the law will give the tools to police to adequately deal with 21st century technology, and said anyone opposing the law favours “the rights of child pornographers and organized crime ahead of the rights of law-abiding citizens.”
However, Canada’s privacy commissioner raised a red flag about the law late last year, and wrote a letter to Toews saying she was concerned about the permissions it will grant police.
“In the case of access to subscriber data, there is not even a requirement for the commission of a crime to justify access to personal information – real names, home addresses, unlisted numbers, email addresses, IP addresses and much more – without a warrant,” Jennifer Stoddart wrote. “Only prior court authorization provides the rigorous privacy protection Canadians expect.”
Michael Geist, a law professor at the University of Ottawa, and an outspoken critic of the law, said he’s worried about all the information police will be able to obtain without a warrant.
“The ability to use that kind of information in a highly sensitive way without any real oversight is very real,” Geist said.
As an example of the new powers, Geist said authorities would be able to use equipment to find the cellular phone numbers of people attending a protest, and then be able to ask a cellular phone company to disclose personal information of the people attached to those cellular phone numbers. Police could then track their web behaviours and monitor their movements by tracking their cellular phones.
Geist said Canadians should also be concerned that the information obtained by police here could be shared with their counterparts around the world.
Geist added this could also be a tremendous waste of money, because ISPs would be required to spend a lot to put in place the advanced monitoring infrastructure proposed.
“One thing (the government) has never provided is the evidence to show how the current set of laws has stymied investigations or created a significant barrier to ensure that we’re safe in Canada,” Geist said.
He argued recent investigations into child pornography and the Sûreté du Québec’s recent tapping in of Blackberry Messenger communication to make an arrest of suspected mobsters in a murder case in Montreal show the current laws already work well.