MacKay Still Providing Inaccurate Information on Bill C-13’s Voluntary Disclosure Provision

Justice Minister Peter MacKay appeared last week before the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights and was asked once again about the inclusion in Bill C-13 of an immunity provision for intermediaries for the voluntary disclosure of personal information. MacKay again suggested that warrants would be required for disclosure, yet this is simply inaccurate. The exchange:

Hon. Peter MacKay: I would disagree with your characterization as giving Internet service providers immunity. What it is asking is that we respect the existing law, that we work closely with them, as they are in fact to use the analogy, they are the highway, they are the infrastructure in which the information travels, so by necessity we have to work with them.  On the subject that you raised yesterday and are alluding to here again, Mr. Casey, the ability to provide voluntary access to that information still requires respecting the law. It still requires adherence to what is called PIPEDA, it’s another federal statute in which what this legislation will do is freeze in time the material which is sought out and require individuals to hold that information until such time as a warrant can be obtained. So it is a preservation provision of this statute that allows police to then go about securing the necessary judicial authorization, in essence the warrant.

Mr. Sean Casey: It also protects them from civil action and criminal sanction by producing this information voluntarily.

Hon. Peter MacKay: Only if they comply with the law. They’re not immune from prosecution or civil action if they go outside the boundaries of the law, that is if they do not comply with warrants, if they do not comply with the preservation orders within the prescribed periods.

While MacKay is correct that Internet providers must comply with the law, he is wrong to suggest the voluntary cooperation only extends to preserving information until a warrant can be obtained (and he is wrong that compliance with the law is linked to compliance with warrants or preservation orders; the compliance with the law speaks to compliance with laws such as PIPEDA).

As I posted last week, this is not complicated. PIPEDA allows for voluntary disclosure of personal information without court oversight. Bill C-13 would provide complete civil and criminal immunity for ISPs that disclose subscriber information voluntarily. Such voluntary disclosure could occur without a warrant or any court oversight.  Minister MacKay’s repeated assurances that there is a warrant involved with the disclosure is simply wrong.


  1. They lie and then steal and come elections, lie again…
    Remember James Moore holding up his MP3 player at the mall, when he introduced the new copyright law, and he said it would make things we normally do legal? In reality the new law made them ILLEGAL instead.

    We are all suckers right now for letting this government and its cable companies get away with stealing our rights and our money.

  2. If you voluntarily give me your lunch money, I can’t hit you with this big stick.

  3. Carter Duchesney says:

    I heard you interviewed on the radio and you mentioned that existing sections of the CC cover off on all but the desemination of pictures of adults in Bill C-13. Could you write a bit about the sections you reference? Thank you.