The push for new Internet surveillance capabilities – dubbed the "lawful access" initiative – dates back to 1999, when government officials began crafting proposals to institute new surveillance technologies within Canadian networks along with additional legal powers to access surveillance and subscriber information. Over the past decade, lawful access has stalled despite public consultations, bills that have died on the order paper, and even a promise from former public safety minister Stockwell Day to avoid mandatory disclosure of personal information without court oversight. Last June, current Public Safety Minister Peter Van Loan tabled the latest lawful access legislative package. Much like its predecessors, the bill establishes new surveillance requirements for Internet service providers. In an about-face from the Day commitment however, it also features mandatory disclosure of customer information, including name, address, IP address, and email address upon request and without court oversight.
My weekly technology law column (Toronto Star version, Ottawa Citizen version, homepage version) notes that lawful access has long faced at least two significant barriers. The first involves ISP costs associated with installing new equipment and responding to disclosure requests. The government has attempted to address those concerns by promising to help pay the bills. It plans to provide some funding for new equipment and, in a little noticed provision, has opened the door to paying ISPs for providing customer name and address information to law enforcement authorities.