Canadian government introduces Bill to increase police surveillance of Internet

The federal government introduced legislation today which would vastly increase police surveillance of Canadians’ Internet communications. Since 2001, privacy watchdog groups, including FIPA, have squared off against successive Liberal and Conservative governments on similar “lawful access” legislation. We are quickly gearing up to oppose it again.

The latest legislative package, the “Investigative Powers for the 21st Century Act”, would:

  • require mandated surveillance capabilities at Canadian Internet Service Providers (ISPs)
  • force ISPs to disclose subscriber information such as name and address with out a warrant, and
  • grant the police broad new powers to obtain transmission data and force ISPs to preserve data.

According to Internet law expert Michael Geist, “The legislative approach appears to be very similar to the Liberal lawful access bill of 2005 that died on the order paper It is pretty much exactly what law enforcement has been demanding and privacy groups have been fearing. It represents a reneging of a commitment from the previous Public Safety Minister on court oversight and will embed broad new surveillance capabilities in the Canadian Internet.”

Prof. Michael Geist’s website

From FIPA:

Lawful Access Info Page

Comments on the Lawful Access Proposals (March 2005)

The Lawful Access Proposals: Why Canadians Should Say “No” to Expanded Electronic Surveillance by Police– FIPA, Feb. 13, 2003

Comments on the Government of Canada’s Lawful Access Consultation Document – Submission to Department of Justice by BC Freedom of Information and Privacy Association (FIPA), Dec. 16, 2002

Canadian Senator’s Bill Aims to Crack Down on Spam

The suspension of Parliament in the ongoing political crisis is not likely to interfere with a much-needed anti-spam bill tabled earlier this year.

Bill S-202, the Anti-Spam Act, which received its second reading in early December before Parliament was prorogued, would crack down on spam by prohibiting the sending of commercial emails to Canadians without their prior consent.

Introduced by Senator Yoine Goldstein, the bill would also ban practices such as automated “email harvesting,” and would require all commercial email messages – even those sent legitimately – to have a clear subject line, accurate contact information, and an easy way to unsubscribe.

While Canada has a national privacy law, it is the only G8 country that does not have any anti-spam laws and technically it is not illegal to send spam emails in Canada.

“Canada needs this legislation and I really intend to be able to push it forward – I’m really committed to getting it through in 2009,” says Goldstein.

As well as providing police with new tools, Bill S-202 would equip Internet Service Providers (ISP) with the authority to block, filter and refuse spam messages. Upon giving reasonable notice, ISP’s would also be able to refuse or cancel service or refuse access to any person who has been convicted under the bill or who sends commercial electronic messages that the ISP has reasonable grounds to believe are sent in contravention of the bill.

Businesses aware that they were being promoted by spam would also be liable unless they took action to stop the messages or notify authorities.

Exemptions would be made for certain groups, such as charities, political parties, polling firms and businesses that have a pre-existing relationship with an email user. However, these groups would still be required to allow users to opt out of further messages.

This year marks the 30th anniversary of the first spam email ever sent.

Read the full article

Privacy chiefs vow to fight surveillance together, call for global cooperation

A group of international data and privacy protection commissioners has decided to act together to challenge the surveillance society which they claim is developing. Commissioners from the UK, France, Germany and New Zealand will adopt common policies.

At the annual Conference of Data Protection and Information Commissioners, held last week in London, a joint set of objectives was adopted by the international commissioners aimed at tackling what they see as a growing international issue of constant citizen surveillance.

“The protection of citizens’ personal data is vital for any society, on the same level as freedom of the press or freedom of movement,” said the communique adopted by commissioners. “As our societies are increasingly dependent on the use of information technologies, and personal data collected or generated at a growing scale, it has become more essential than ever that individual liberties and other legitimate interests of are adequately respected.”

The document calls on data and privacy commissioners to support the establishment of an international convention on data protection, which first agreed on by commissioners in 2005.


SEE: The adopted document (7 page/83KB PDF)

Lawyers ask feds to take action against nosy Internet suppliers

The 36,000-strong association representing Canada’s lawyers is calling on the federal government to take action against a “trend” of cyber spying by Internet service providers.

The Canadian Bar Association crafted a letter to three federal cabinet ministers after Bell Sympatico, Canada’s largest ISP, amended its service agreement with customers three weeks ago to reserve the right to “monitor or investigate” activity for possible reporting to government.

“We urge you to ensure that Canadians’ private information remains appropriately protected,” wrote Brian Tabor, president of the 36,000-member Canadian Bar Association.

The Bell clause, which took effect June 15, advised subscribers that the company retains the right to “monitor or investigate content or your use of your service provider’s networks and to disclose any information necessary to satisfy any laws, regulations or other governmental request.”

For more details, see:

Ian Mulgrew, Vancouver Sun, July 10, 2006, “Bell’s move to monitor us an ominous portent

Ottawa Citizen, Friday, July 07, 2006, “Rein in nosy Internet suppliers, lawyers tell government

Canadian Bar Association Homepage, July 5, 2006, “CBA Says Monitoring By ISPs Could Erode Lawyer-Client Confidentiality

Prof. Michael Geist, Jul. 3, 2006, “Bell Controversy Puts Spotlight on Net Surveillance