Government issues warrant to amend online surveillance bills

| February 16, 2012

After receiving immense public pressure to make amendments to new online surveillance legislation that the government re-introduced on Tuesday, Prime Minister Harper announced today that these proposals could change as the bill makes its way through Parliamentary debate. The legislation will be referred to legislative committee prior to second reading, leaving room for significant changes in principal as opposed to minor changes of a technical nature.

The proposed legislation at issue is Bill C-30, An Act to enact the Investigating and Preventing Criminal Electronic Communications Act and to amend the Criminal Code and other Acts -- it is otherwise known as the "lawful access" legislation. If this name sounds familiar, it's likely because the government unsuccessfully tried to introduce similar legislation in 2009 and again in 2010. Heavily criticized by the federal and provincial privacy commissioners -- as well as by civil society and the public -- these past efforts never made their way to a legislative committee. Nevertheless, the new bill remains largely unchanged from these earlier attempts.  Some of the more alarming provisions include:

  • new powers that will let police force telecommuncations companies to identify anonymous online activity on request, and even where there is no reason to suspect the information might be useful to an investigation;
  • new requirements for internet service providers to maintain sophisticated technologies for real-time wiretapping of internet communications;
  • immunicty for telecommunications companies that choose to hand over customer data to police, even in situations where it is completely unreasonable to do so; and
  • a surprising lack of sufficient Parliamentary review or oversight coupled with gag orders likely to prevent telecommunications companies from warning individuals when abusive requests have been made.

Reprisals against this bill have been pouring out from across all party lines. However, we strongly encourage everyone to keep up the pressure. The government has not yet commited to any specific amendments or improvements.  We encourage you to talk to your M.P. and sign the petition now.