Last month, I wrote about the recent initiative to revive lawful access, the rules that govern police access to Internet and subscriber information. A cybercrime working group has held consultations (I participated in one) as law enforcement seeks new powers for warrantless access to some ISP information (called “pre-cursor” data) and a new, lower threshold warrant for other subscriber data. While law enforcement has argued that the current system is broken, the House of Commons Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security has recommended that the current approach remain unchanged.
The committee’s much anticipated report on developing a road map for national security contains dozens of recommendations (my colleague Craig Forcese reviews many of them) including one on lawful access. It states:
That at this time, and following the Supreme Court of Canada’s decision in R. v. Spencer, no changes to the lawful access regime for subscriber information and encrypted information be made, but that the House of Commons Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security continue to study such rapidly evolving technological issues related to cyber security.
Given that Liberal MPs form the majority of the committee (the report contains dissenting reports from both Conservatives and NDP), the recommendation presumably reflects current government thinking on the issue. If so, it suggests that the government has not immediate plans to reform lawful access. Committee Chair Rob Oliphant says that police sought expanded powers, but that the argument was not yet “compelling.” Lawful access isn’t going away – the issue has been debated for years – but MPs are rightly unconvinced that there is a need for warrantless access to subscriber information.