Canada’s Lawful Access Bill Appears to Have Contained a Provision to Enable PRISM-Style Surveillance

As the revelations about U.S. secret surveillance continue, one of the more interesting recent articles was a Buzzfeed piece that focused on a Utah ISP that hosted a “little black box” in the corner inserted by the National Security Agency.  The article describes how a Foreign Intelligence Service Act (FISA) warrant allowed the NSA to monitor the activities of an ISP subscriber by inserting surveillance equipment directly within the ISP’s network. The experience in Utah appears to have been replicated in many other Internet and technology companies, who face secret court orders to install equipment on their systems.

The U.S. experience should raise some alarm bells in Canada, since the now defeated lawful access bill envisioned similar legal powers. Section 14(4) of the bill provided:

The Minister may provide the telecommunications service provider with any equipment or other thing that the Minister considers the service provider needs to comply with an order made under this section.

That provision would have given the government the power to decide what specific surveillance equipment must be installed on private ISP and telecom networks by allowing it to simply take over the ISP or telecom network and install its own equipment. This is no small thing: it literally means that law enforcement (including CSIS) would have had the power to ultimately determine not only surveillance capabilities but the surveillance equipment itself. 

While Bill C-30 is now dead, the government may be ready resurrect elements of it. Earlier this month, a cyber-bullying report included recommendations that are lifted straight from the lawful access package. For example, recommendation four states:

The Working Group recommends that the investigative powers contained in the Criminal Code be modernized. Specifically, the Working Group recommends that an approach consistent with recent proposed amendments on this subject to better facilitate the investigation of criminal activity, including activity that is conducted via telecommunication be introduced and implemented as part of any legislative package responding to cyberbullying. These amendments should include, among others:

  • Data preservation and demand orders;
  • New production orders to trace a specified communication;
  • New warrants and production orders for transmission data and tracking;
  • Improving judicial oversight while enhancing efficiencies in relation to authorizations, warrants and orders;
  • Other amendments to existing offences and investigative powers that will assist in the investigation of cyberbullying and other crimes that implicate electronic evidence.

Many of these powers were addressed in the lawful access bill and may be making a comeback in legislation this fall. Given the growing awareness of the sensitivity associated with meta-data, provisions that target transmission data and tracking (ie. metadata) require careful scrutiny to ensure that there is effective oversight and appropriate limits on the data collection.


  1. Please Enter Your Name says:

    Don’t worry about all that. If we don’t like it, we can just vote for another party next election and that will fix the problem, right?
    Isn’t that what we’re supposed to believe?

  2. Perhaps yes!
    @ Please Enter:
    Well, as a matter of fact, one candidate’s father once famously stated that “The State has no business in the bedrooms of the nation.”
    This is a natural extension of that, it seems.

  3. “The Minister may provide the telecommunications service provider with any equipment or other thing…”

    Seriously? “Other thing”? The Minister can’t provide the service provider with stuff?

  4. Mike The Ghost says:

    I say “no!” to (l)Awful Access. The police aren’t even using the tools they do have- why should we give them more privacy-invasive toys?

  5. Dawnjay186 says:

    Canada’s Lawful Access Bill Appears to Have Contained a Provision to Enable PRISM-Style Surveillance
    Data Entry professionals play an important role in organizations by ensuring the smooth and efficient processing of large amounts of information and data. Most Data Entry jobs include entering data into a computer system or into some type of secure file system and may include other types of clerical activities. It is a general requirement that Data Entry workers be able to read and type. Data Entry jobs are very telecommuting friendly as they can be done remotely from a home computer. Data Entry jobs may also be called Information Manager, Word Processor, Typist, Clerk, Keypunch Technician, Transcriptional, Record Coder, Captioned and Database Technician. Please be sure to check out many of the contract, flexible, freelance, part time and full time opportunities for Data Entry telecommuting jobs here.

    SEO service

  6. “Never let a crisis go to waste” A US politician once said that but isn’t that the motto of a lot of politicians? There is certainly an issue that needs to be addressed in regards to bullying online and elsewhere. You can be sure the government will take advantage of this, it’s what they do. They’ll likely do nothing to solve the problem but will cause our privacy to be invaded. I can hear the question: “If you don’t have anything to hide then why should you fear?”. I do not have anything to hide. I likewise have nothing to share. When I do decide to share something I should be the one who decides to do that and not the government.

  7. Well, duh.
    I mean, none of this should be surprising any more.

    However, I’m happy that at least a few people speak up about it. But it’s sad that it doesn’t raise much of a din with the general public. (sheep)

    It wasn’t long ago that the rallying cry was all about how our freedoms were fought & died for; now it’s people clamouring over the quickest & most expedient way to give it all away.


  8. haven’t you already stated that
    … blanket national security provisions allow this type of behavior in canada? why is there complete silence regarding this issue in Canada as if it’s not already occurring? why is there no investigation by the canadian media into what csec is doing? by some accounts the current government are complicit in the use of creative interpretations of law to assist the nsa in their domestic data gathering

  9. WarOnSociety says:

    government vs the people
    People need to start waking up and realize it’s the government vs the citizens. You can throw away your party loyalties. If this is what a “conservative” government comes up with then I can only imagine what the radical progressive parties of the liberals, ndp, etc. would do. I’m considered a conservative but these crop of “conservatives” in Harpers government are progressives not conservatives. Progressives love big powerful controlling government, and that is what this is. I want government to be too small to be able to interfere like this.

  10. they are all evil
    They are all evil. What we need to do is get rid of the government. Why don’t see this? Police beating up on innocent people. I guess people will have to use a vpn outside of Canada and USA.