My weekly Law Bytes column (Toronto Star version, homepage version) reports that the the Conservative government is preparing to launch a Cyber-Security Task Force. Although the Ministry of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness does not list any information about the task force on its site, GEDS, the government’s electronic directory service, was recently updated to include a Cybersecurity Task Force Secretariat. The Secretariat apparently at least includes an Assistant Deputy Minister and a senior policy analyst.
While the move to address shortcomings in Canada’s cyber-security framework is welcome, the creation of this task force raises three important issues. First, who will be on the task force? It is essential that the task force include representation from both privacy and civil liberties groups.
Second, what other legislation could be introduced in such an environment? With a cyber-security task force on the way, speculation will increase that the Conservative government is also preparing to bring back so-called "lawful access" legislation.
Third, how will Canadians be protected against online fraud and other Internet-based criminal activity? The National Task Force on Spam, expressed concerns about the ineffectiveness of Canadian law to counter spam, phishing, and spyware. It recommended that the government introduce new legislation to help prevent such activities, which have been closely linked with identity theft, massive consumer losses, as well as reduced confidence in e-commerce and Internet communications.
Given the growing reliance on Internet communications, the move to address cyber-security issues is long overdue. In tackling the issue, however, the government should ensure that privacy, civil liberties, and consumer protection considerations are included in the discussions.