Electronic Surveillance

Electronic surveillance, given its low-cost/high efficiency and broad-ranging nature, is potentially the most insidious form of surveillance available. 'Lawful Access', a deceptively innocuous term given to the government's attempts to expand its power to spy on Internet activity by removing traditional safegaurds on its ability to use electronic surveillance. It does so by providing new ways by which law enforcemet and other state agents can lawfully access and intercept online activity and information. CIPPIC is working with other groups and individuals concerned about increasing government surveillance to assess and respond to the Canadian government's "lawful access" proposals. CIPPIC is concerned that attempts to update 'lawful access' capabilities are far from targeted and will have serious detrimental impact on Canadians' civil liberties.

Litigation

PIPEDA Complaints

Law Reform

As Bill C-59, the National Security Act, 2017, winds its way through committee (SECU), the Government has made available a lightly redacted copy of its briefing notes developed in support of the Bill. A central point of contention in Bill C-59 is the proposed CSE Act, which will provide a new and comprehensive framework for the CSE, Canada's foreign signals intelligence agency. Elements of this framework are long overdue, such as its creation of NSIRA, which will have far-reaching capabilities to review the CSE's activities, and an Intelligence Commissioner which, if properly empowered, will provide an independent check on some of the CSE's activities.  However, as we (jointly with the Citizen Lab) pointed out in a recent analysis, the CSE Act requires significant  revision if it is to provide a reasonable framework for the CSE's activities. The briefing notes provide helpful additional insights into Bill C-59 and in particular into some of the CSE's anticipated uses of its new powers embodied in the proposed  CSE Act. However, we re-joined the Citizen Lab in analyzing these briefing notes and concluded that the government's justifications for some of the more controversial elements of the CSE Act (particularly its new poers to carry out cyber operations and an exceptoin that will permit it to direct its ativities at Canadians when collecting 'publicly available information') simply fall short. Specifically, the briefing notes present only the most innocuous uses to which the CSE's new powers might be put, painting an extremely sparse picture of provisions that are far more permissive in scope. The short analysis supplements this sparse presentation, and reaffirms the need for reform of the new proposed provisions. Read the analysis, which is authored by (in alphabetical order) Lex Gill (Citizen Lab), Tamir Israel (CIPPIC) and Christopher Parsons (Citizen Lab) after the jump, or you can obtain the analysis in PDF format here.

Image Credit: Junaldrao, "Jorge Bamboa, The Tip of the Iceberg", June 2, 2017, CC-BY-ND 2.0, Flickr

CIPPIC joined the Citizen Lab today in releasing a detailed analysis of Bill C-59 which, among other things, seeks to comprehensively modernize the Communication Security Establishment (CSE)'s legal framework. The CSE, Canada's foreign intelligence agency, is granted expansive powers and a mandate that is intended to be 'foreign facing', a tradeoff intended to limit safeguards applied to the Establishment while limiting its ability to impact on Canadians. The Bill C-59 reforms in many ways improve the CSE's current operational regime, by requiring the CSE to operate in a proportionate manner and under some independent control for the first time. Ultimately, while the Bill modernizes many of the CSE's powers and capabilities, it remains stuck in the past with respect to its oversight and control regime—a regime that remains driven by executive authority. The report suggests over 50 reforms to the Bill, with varying degrees of impact. Of particular concern is the Bill's open embrace of mass and bulk surveillance practices, a range of newly introduced exceptions that will grant the CSE more scope to operate domestically, a new domestic private sector cybersecurity regime, and new cyber operation powers that would allow the CSE to disrupt and undermine security, the integrity of communications networks and human rights in Canada and abroad.

At the same time, the report points to deficiencies in the independent control and oversight mechanism proposed by Bill C-59. The embodiment of these mechanisms (the Intelligence Commissioner) is presented as a quasi-judicial check on the Minister's otherwise broad powers to authorize the CSE's activities. However, the Commissioner lacks the independence and scope of oversight necessary to meaningfully carry out the function envisioned for it. Notably, while the Commissioner may now refuse some authorizations as issued by the Minister of National Defence, the process remains largely driven by the executive branch of government. The Commissioner lacks basic fact-finding powers, mechanisms for direct adversarial input, formalized appeal mechanisms and even the obligation to issue reasons when approving a ministerial authorization. The scope of Commissioner oversight is similarly deficient. As others have noted, Commissioner approval is only required if CSE activities would otherwise violate a law of Canada or the Charter, a triggering mechanism that falls well short, allowing significant invasive CSE conduct to fall outside the scope of Commissioner control. Critically, Bill C-59 introduces a range of new cyber operation powers that could well be the most invasive in the Establishment's toolkit, yet these fall altogether outside the scope of Commissioner control. As Bill C-59 continues to make its way through parliamentary committee, it is hoped that some of these issues (and others itemized in a civil society coalition statement) will be addressed.

Image Credit: Gautier Poupeau, "Magnifying Glass [Loupe], 1963, Roy Lichtenstein", July 14, 2013, CC-BY-2.0, Flickr

The Supreme Court of Canada issued its long-awaited decisions in R v Marakah, 2017 SCC 59 and R v Jones, 2017 SCC 60 today, issuing a strong statement on the protection of privacy in digital contexts. The decision held that text messages continue to enjoy constitutional protection even after they are received by their intended recipient, meaning the state cannot bypass constitutional protections simply by directing its search to the recipient's cell phone, social media account or service provider. As CIPPIC argued in its interventions [Marakah, Jones], the decisions being appealed adopted a formalistic approach to concepts such as 'control' and 'access' which apply robustly in the physical world (who controls the data at the time of access, from what location is the data accessed) but have minimal bearing on privacy expectations in digital spaces. By contrast, the majority of the Supreme Court adopted a broad analysis of the privacy interests at stake, with outgoing Chief Justice Beverley McLachlin emphasizing the choice of a private conversation medium (i.e. text messaging) as driving the privacy analysis, concluding that "... privacy in electronic conversations is worthy of constitutional protection. That protection should not be lightly denied." Indeed, as McLachlin, CJ, explains on behalf of the majority in Marakah, the choice of a private messaging medium is, in and of itself, an exercise of effective control, underpinning privacy expectations in electronic messages that extend to their recipient. The choice to engage in a private electronic conversation creates a context where the sender can reasonably expect the messages to remain secure against the eyes of the state.

Image Credit: Matt Karp, CC-BY-NC-ND 2.0, May 7, 2010, Flickr

CIPPIC has helped organize letters from over 40 prominent individuals and organizations supporting Chelsea Manning's legal team in its bid to reverse her refusal of entry into Canada. As CIPPIC points out in its own letter of support, the whistleblowing activities which formed the basis for Ms Manning's sentence in the United States have been integral to debates surrounding many matters of public interest—including a casual disregard for civilian life in the Iraqi and Afghanistan wars and a program of extra-judicial assassination targeting senior Taliban and Al-Qaeda officials. These disclosures could not be shown to have caused any direct damage, and Ms Manning's sentence for her crime of conscience has since been commuted by former US President Barack Obama. Refusing Ms Manning entry into Canada on the basis of her conduct is an injustice that should be reversed. The campaign was spearheaded by independent researcher Lex Gill. CIPPIC's letter can be read here: https://cippic.ca/uploads/20171012-LT_GoC_re_Chelsea_Manning.pdf

Image credit: CC-BY 2.0, Jackie: Flickr

CIPPIC joined the BC Civil Liberties Association, Dr. Christopher Parsons and Privacy International in writing to Canada's two primary national security oversight bodies, SIRC and the CSE Commissioner. Drawing on an analysis of human rights transparency obligations, the letter notes recent efforts by these two bodies to examine cross-border data sharing arrangements entered into by the two agencies they oversee, CSIS and CSE, respectively. It then poses a few questions regarding the oversight bodies' respective abilities to find out about and assess information sharing arrangements, and regarding the processes by which information-sharing arrangements are formed. The letter constitutes the Canadian instance of an international campaign that sent comparable requests to national security oversight bodies in over 40 countries around the world. The objective is to gain a clearer picture of international data flows between national security agencies, and to establish a dialogue with national security oversight bodies on this matter. Read the letter here: https://cippic.ca/uploads/20170913-LT_re_intel_sharing_agreements-CA.pdf

CIPPIC joined a number of civil society groups in a submission outlining concerns regarding a proposition by the Council of Europe to adopt a second protocol to its Cybercrime Convention with the objective of lowering current safeguards in place when law enforcement agencies seek access to data stored in foreign countries. The submission, which was spearheaded by our friends at EDRi, establishes a number of preliminary baseline requirements for any international instrument aiming to facilitate cross-border law enforcement access to data. While only a starting point, some of the minimum requirements in the submission will surely need to be addressed if the proposed second protocol is to have the legitimacy and global adoption its authors hope. These include:

  • Limiting the second protocol to addressing gaps left by a reformed MLAT regime
  • The need for competent and independent judicial authorization as a centre-piece to any cross-border data access regime
  • The data hosting state must be notified when a foreign law enforcement agency accesses data hosted within its territory
  • A right to challenge foreign data requests in the country of the affected data subject, and by that country's standards.

In addition, as pointed out by the Electronic Frontiers Foundation in a comment on the second protocol, the proposal should not operate to lower existing protections such as Canada's prohibition on sharing digital identifiers without judicial authorization or the United States' requirement for probable cause-based production orders. Finally, the letter calls for a prohibition on data localization laws that are imposed without any privacy justification, for the primary objective of imposing often arbitrary and invasive surveillance obligations. For example, Russia has been taking increasingly aggressive steps in compelling global online platforms to host Russian data locally to facilitate invasive surveillance and censorship practices.

Agents of the State

In a submission filed with the Senate Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs in May 2007 on Bill C-31, CIPPIC objected to the expansion of personal information used for secondary purposes without the consent of electors. Under the Act, Elections Canada is required to share names and addresses from the National Register of Electors with political parties for fundraising and other campaign purposes. Bill C-31 would have added date of birth to the lists of electors shared for these purposes.  As a result of opposing to this proposal by the Privacy Commissioner of Canada and CIPPIC, sharing of date of birth was removed from the bill before it was passed by the House of Commons.

Privacy in domain name registration (CIRA & ICANN)

In response to planned outsourcing by the British Columbia government of certain database administrative duties to a U.S.-linked company, the British Columbia Privacy Commissioner invited public input by August 6, 2004 on the extent to which the USA Patriot Act allows US authorities to access the personal information of British Columbians, and the implications of such access for public body compliance with privacy legislation.

New information and communication technologies such as the Internet, email, cellphones, and encryption offer individuals new ways to communicate, organize, and engage in criminal behaviours, creating challenges for law enforcement agencies in their efforts to investigate and prosecute criminal activity. On the other hand, these same technologies provide authorities with access to potentially vast amounts of personal information on individuals.

Last month, Public Safety Canada followed through on commitments to review and consult on Canada’s national security framework. The process reviews powers that were passed into law following the passage of Bill C-51, Canada’s recent controversial anti-terrorism overhaul, as well as invite a broader debate about Canada’s security apparatus. While many consultation processes have explored expansions of Canada’s national security framework, the current consultation constitutes the first modern day attempt to explore Canada’s national security excesses and deficiencies. Unfortunately, the framing of the consultation demonstrates minimal direct regard for privacy and civil liberties because it is primarily preoccupied with defending the existing security framework while introducing a range of additional intrusive powers. Such powers include some that have been soundly rejected by the Canadian public as drawing the wrong balance between digital privacy and law enforcement objectives, and heavily criticized by legal experts as well as by all of Canada’s federal and provincial privacy commissioners. The government’s framing of the issues are highly deficient. Specifically, the consultation documents make little attempt to explain the privacy and civil liberties implications that can result from the contemplated powers. And while the government is open to suggestions on privacy and civil liberties-enhancing measures, few such proposals are explored in the document itself. The consultation documents also fail to provide detailed suggestions for improving government accountability and transparency surrounding state agencies’ use of already-existent surveillance and investigative tools. 

In light of these deficiencies, we will be discussing a number of the consultation document’s problematic elements in a series of posts authored in conjunction with Christopher Parsons at the Citizen Lab, beginning with today's installment (after the jump, or in PDF format) regarding the government’s reincarnation of a highly controversial telecommunication subscriber identification power.

CIPPIC staff discuss issues arising from proposed lawful access legislation.

R v Fearon, 2014 SCC 77, SCC File No 35498

Chehil/MacKenzie v. Her Majesty the Queen, S.C.C. FIle Nos. 34524 & 34397

Telus Communications Company v. Her Majesty the Queen, 2013 SCC 16

PIPEDA complaint that Canada.com's decision to outsource storage of customer emails to the United States failed to provide an adequate level of protection by exposing those emails to the risk of police access through invasive surveillance powers.

Canadian Banks and SWIFT

Bill 622: CSEC Transparency & Accountability

On February 14, 2012, the federal government once more introduced a legislative package of lawful access bills: Bill C-30Protecting Children from Internet Predators Act

Lawful Access (Bills C-50, C-51 & C-52)

Government reintroduces online spying legislation (Winter 2010)

In an open letter to the House of Commons Standing Committee on Access to Information, Privacy and Ethics, CIPPIC and a number of civil society organizations voice serious concerns with respect to Bill C-29, currently before the House and scheduled for second reading early next week. The Bill, ironically dubbed the 'Safeguarding Canadians' Personal Information Act', proposes a number of amendments to Canada's federal privacy protection statute, PIPEDA. Far from improving privacy, the Bill threatens to erode civil liberties in serious ways. Even where it attempts to improve privacy, it falls short by failing to provide any incentive for compliance.

The most troubling elements of the Bill pave the way to a dramatic expansion in the ways in which private businesses can be used in investigations against their own customers. While privacy should never be a bar to legitimate investigations of actual wrongs, the law provides mechanisms such as warrants, production orders, mandatory disclosure laws, and discovery processes that ensure investigations can occur with proper safeguards in place. This Bill essentially bypasses all of these safeguards by adding and expanding exceptions that permit organizations to simply give away their customer's information and includes elements evocative of the US PATRIOT Act and all the civil liberties violations that accompanied it.

Canada's 2010 Digital Economy Consultation

Bills C-46 & C-47, collectively the 'lawful access' or 'online surveillance' legislation, introduced on June 18, 2009.

Public Safety Canada consultations on online surveillance legislation (Fall 2007)

On November 15, 2005, the federal government introduced Bill C-74, the Modernization of Investigative Techniques Act (MITA), "an act to compel all telephone and Internet companies to create and maintain infrastructures that are intercept capable and to provide access to basic subscriber contact information such as a name, address or telephone number." Note that this bill does not introduce new Production Orders, Preservation Orders, or other Criminal Code amendments that are described below as part of the broader package of "Lawful Access" proposals on which the government has been consulting.

Department of Justice consultations on electronic surveillance legislation, March 2005