As Liberal leader Stephane Dion promised earlier this month, Liberal MP Marlene Jennings on Friday reintroduced lawful access legislation. The Modernization of Investigative Techniques Act (MITA) is now Bill C-416, bringing back the controversial provisions last introduced in the fall of 2005 that include the installation of new surveillance capabilities within Canada's ISPs and the ability for law enforcement to more easily obtain subscriber information.
I last wrote about lawful access in the fall, when I reported on new government documents obtained under the Access to Information Act that revealed a divide and conquer strategy employed by the government to strategically minimize stakeholder criticism. Those documents also indicated that officials have expressed internal concern about the privacy protections in the face of new technologies.
Although many people expected the Conservatives to reintroduce MITA, as the months passed by it became increasingly clear that they were sensitive to the political cost associated with lawful access. Indeed, the ATIP also included a review of the public response to MITA which acknowledged 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." Given the talk of a spring election and public concern associated with greater Internet surveillance, the Liberal decision to bring back lawful access as private members' bill is likely to be little more than an unfortunate gesture, yet it serves as a reminder that this issue will continue to percolate for the foreseeable future.