The Hill Times runs three letters to the editor in response to Barry Sookman's column last week including one from me.
Archive for October, 2006
My weekly Law Bytes column (Toronto Star version, homepage version) reports on government documents obtained under the Access to Information Act that provide some insight into how officials view, and have managed, Internet surveillance legislation. It uncovers a clear recognition of the negative public reaction to the lawful access proposals, a divide-and-conquer strategy for managing that reaction, and lingering internal doubts about the effectiveness of Canadian privacy legislation to address Internet privacy threats.
The negative public reaction is no secret to anyone who has followed the issue through the media. Indeed, a Department of Justice memorandum drafted just after the last federal election acknowledges that "although the public generally responds positively to the idea of 'getting tough on crime', proposals to introduce new investigative tools raise concerns about the surveillance powers of the state and the public’s underlying anxiety is heightened by the media and statements of privacy and civil liberties advocates." The memorandum continues by noting that "in the past, media coverage (albeit based on inaccurate and misleading interpretations) was highly critical and alarmist. Almost all stakeholders indicated generally that the lawful access proposals seemed to be moving ahead without the government having provided a convincing justification for the new measures."
With internal discussion focusing on public anxiety and critical media coverage, the issue may be well be viewed as a political liability that is best avoided by a minority government.
Should lawful access legislation be reintroduced, officials will be armed with detailed analysis of how stakeholder groups are likely to react.
Appeared in the Toronto Star on October 30, 2006 as Public No Pushover on Snooping Law The push for new Internet surveillance capabilities dates back to 1999, when a diverse group of government departments and agencies began crafting proposals to institute new surveillance technologies within Canadian networks along with additional […]