Here Comes Lawful Access

Canadian Justice Minister Irwin Cotler spoke to a group of police organizations today and pledged to move forward this fall on the lawful access initiative.  Cotler apparently indicated that there will be a memo to cabinet on the matter in September with legislation likely to quickly follow. 

For those who have not followed the issue, lawful access envisions creating significant new network surveillance powers that would be embedded directly in the network.  Moreover, ISPs would be required to retain traffic data for significant periods of time.  Not only does the proposal (at least as it was presented privately to several groups in the spring) create new surveillance powers, but it actually reduces the level of privacy protection and oversight associated with that surveillance.  For example, one proposal floated in the spring would require ISPs to disclose subscriber information within 30 minutes to law enforcement authorities on a 24 hour, 7 day per week basis.  Incredibly, law enforcement authorities could make such a request with only a phone call under certain circumstances.  No judicial oversight.  No advance paperwork.  No privacy.

Update: Coverage this morning on this story from the Globe and Mail and the Canwest chain of papers.


  1. Rant Time!
    I find it quite disturbing that my every move can be traced without so much as a warrant to at least prove just cause. Another thing that bothers me is the single-mindedness that authorities believe that these measures will “protect” us, has anyone considered how easily these measures can be abused by authority figures (or simply a talented social engineer?).

    I think a lot of the blame for this slide in privacy laws can be attributed to the cultural overflow from south of the border. The incessant use of the “T bomb” (terrorism) has given license to anyone with an agenda to subvert our privacy.


  2. Thats nice, so how do we stop this absurd ruling from passing? Im getting royally sick of this nonsense coming from this government. I dont live in america, nor do I wish to. I would like to live in a FREE country, not a totalitarian mess of government officials with WAY to much power.

    This seriously needs to stop.

  3. So, M. Geist, can you give us some ideas as to how to fight this, to make sure that new laws have adequate provisions for both sides, and not just what big business and law enforcement people want? I think plenty of people will take the time to write if we could just know who to write to ! As a general rule I like your ideas and just can’t see any kind of a publicly recognised forum where we could “sponsor” you, to show your ideas have much more than simply academic interest.

  4. Ridiculous
    Has democracy become little more than totalitarianism hiding behind a fake moustache? Freedom is being surreptitiously eroded south of the border, but I had hoped that Canadians were better than this. If I visit the Conservative Party website, will the secret police break down my door and make me disappear?

  5. say no to big brother
    if the government passes this i will quit the Internet think about is it worth to pay for something thats going to spy on you i don’t want up your liberty only gives you more problems later down the road. i know what your thinking if i am not doing something wrong why should i worry,thats not the point the way the police and the government want is to know everything what you are doing and thats wrong.

  6. Thank you Micheal for helping to get this news into the public domain. Without scholars and individuals like yourself, Canada’s public interest will be increasingly misled. This initiative is completely unacceptable! How is that Canadian policy makers have begun to even consider such legislation is beyone me. If Canadians don’t stand up now, we will be going down a dark road indeed.

  7. Telecommunications Manager
    The government has still not provided clear evidence justifying the need for these additional powers. Without such justification, we should not be eroding civil liberties.

    There is inadequate oversight of law enforcement use of these powers, so as to prevent and punish abuse. If police are given additional powers, oversight bodies must be created and/or better empowered to keep such powers in check. Current oversight mechanisms are inadequate for this purpose and need to be supplemented.

    No police searches of any sort should be permitted without judicial authorization

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  9. Whodunnit? says:

    Lawful Access
    Hey, does anyone know why RIM/BlackBerry met with the folks from the RCMP and Public Safety last week, and also the PMOs office? Could it have something to do with their problems in India, or is there now a hidden push on for lawful intercept in Canada.

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