The debate on Bill C-13 opened yesterday in the House of Commons with opposition MPs calling on the government to split the bill into two (cyberbullying and lawful access) and raising concerns about the voluntary disclosure provision that would give Internet providers complete criminal and civil immunity for voluntary retention and disclosure of subscriber information. When asked about the issue, Justice Minister Peter MacKay said the following:
The provision would clarify that the police officer can lawfully ask – and he points out – that individuals and groups voluntarily preserve data or provide documentation, but only when no prohibition exists against doing so. That is to suggest that organizations would still be bound by the Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act, something known as PIPEDA, which makes it clear that an organization is entitled to voluntarily disclose personal information to the police, without the consent of the person to have the information relayed.
However police have to have lawful authority to do so. They still have to obtain a warrant. They can ask that the information be preserved and temporarily put on hold so that it cannot be deleted, but in order for police to access that information that is frozen, they must still obtain a warrant. There is no warrantless access.
Unfortunately, MacKay is wrong.