Canada’s Privacy Commissioners urge feds to cool plan for expanded surveillance of communications

Parliament should take a cautious approach to legislative proposals to create an expanded surveillance regime that would have serious repercussions for privacy rights, say Canada’s privacy guardians.

Privacy commissioners and ombudspersons from across the country issued a joint resolution urging Parliamentarians to ensure there is a clear and demonstrable need to expand the investigative powers available to law enforcement and national security agencies to acquire digital evidence.

The federal government has introduced two bills aimed at ensuring that all wireless, Internet and other telecommunications companies allow for surveillance of communications, and comply with government agency demands for subscriber data– even without judicial authorization.

The resolution is the product of the semi-annual meeting of Canada’s privacy commissioners and ombudspersons from federal, provincial and territorial jurisdictions across Canada, being held in St. John’s. The commissioners unanimously expressed concern about the privacy implications related to Bill C-46, the Investigative Powers for the 21st Century Act and Bill C-47, the Technical Assistance for Law Enforcement in the 21st Century Act. Both bills were introduced in June.

The resolution states that, should Parliament determine that an expanded surveillance regime is essential, it must ensure any legislative proposals:

  • Are minimally intrusive;
  • Impose limits on the use of new powers;
  • Require that draft regulations be reviewed publicly before coming into force;
  • Include effective oversight;
  • Provide for regular public reporting on the use of powers; and
  • Include a five-year Parliamentary review.

Protecting Privacy for Canadians in the 21st Century” – Resolution of Canada’s Privacy Commissioners and Privacy Enforcement Officials on Bills C-46 and C-47

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)