All Your Communications Are Belong To Us

Via pogge (ProgBlogs reprazent!): Canada’s government appears to be just as scornful of civil liberties as that of our southerly neighbours.

CBC News reports on a document it has obtained, detailing a consultation process undertaken by the Conservative government to see “how law enforcement and national security agencies can gain lawful access to [telephone and internet] customers’ information.” ‘Lawful access’ without first obtaining a court order:

The information would include names, addresses, land and cellphone numbers, as well as additional mobile phone identification, such as a device serial number and a subscriber identity module (SIM) card number.

The consultation also seeks input on access to e-mail addresses and IP addresses. An IP address is a number that can be used to identify a computer’s location.

The document says the objective of the consultation is to provide law enforcement and national security agencies with the ability to obtain the information while protecting the privacy of Canadians.

The document says that under current processes, enforcement agencies have been experiencing difficulties in gaining the information from telecommunications service providers, some of which have been demanding a court-issued warrant before turning over the data.

“If the custodian of the information is not co-operative when a request for such information is made, law enforcement agencies may have no means to compel the production of information pertaining to the customer,” the document says. “This poses a problem in some contexts.

However, the Tories haven’t exactly been allowing much daylight to illuminate their efforts to circumvent the rule of law enable law enforcement agencies to efficiently and expediently obtain sensitive information “while protecting the privacy of Canadians” – to the justifiable consternation of many Canadian privacy advocates:

Michael Geist, chair of internet and e-commerce law at the University of Ottawa, said the process is not being conducted publicly as two previous consultations have been, in 2002 and in 2005.

The consultation has not been published in the Canada Gazette, where such documents are normally publicized, or on the agencies’ websites.

Interested parties have been given until Sept. 27 to submit their comments, which is a short consultation time, Geist said. Several organizations and individuals contacted by only received their documents this week.

More pointedly, a number of parties that took part in the previous consultations, including privacy and civil liberty advocates — and even some telecommunication service providers — have not been made aware of the discussion, he said.

“It’s really disturbing particularly in light of the fact that they’ve had two prior consultations on lawful access in the past, so it’s not as if they don’t know the parties that are engaged on this issue,” Geist said.


Canada’s move is in contrast to one by the United States, where last week a federal judge overturned a part of the Patriot Act that allowed the Federal Bureau of Investigation to secretly obtain personal records about customers from internet providers, phone companies, banks, libraries and other businesses without a court’s permission.

As is to be expected when dirty laundry (or a stench reminiscent of that which on occasion permeates Denmark) is unexpectedly aired, the government has quickly backpedaled. A spokesperson from Public Safety Canada now claims that the Tories were “not trying to keep the consultation secret and would post the document on the internet” today and that “[t]the deadline for submissions would also be extended, although no decision on a date has been made yet.

pogge calls bullshit:

No, they’re not trying to keep it secret, exactly. They’ve just tried to keep it as quiet as possible in the hopes that no one would notice until it was too late. Because, as the article points out, Canadian law enforcement agencies are asking for powers that go beyond even what their American counterparts have. And it appears that the game is being rigged to give them what they want.

As an aside, The Briefing makes the observation that “[t]he proposed changes effectively mirror the previous Liberal government’s “lawful access” bill that died on the Commons floor when the last election was called. Along with compelling service providers to provide information to police upon request the “lawful acces[s]” bill had also called on them to implement technologies to allow the government to intercept internet traffic.” As Geist noted earlier this year in his blog, (opposition) Liberal MP Marlene Jennings tried to resurrect “lawful access” this past March in the form of a private members bill.

Proving once again that, Blue or Red, the political elites in Ottawa have about as much respect for the privacy and liberty of the citizenry as their counterparts in Washington, London or Canberra do.

Update: Mentarch has compiled an exhaustive round-up of Canadian coverage, well worth your perusal.

4 Responses to “All Your Communications Are Belong To Us”

  1. And to think, after Bush won reelection, so many liberals wanted to move up North to Canada.


  2. matttbastard says:

    *Snerk* Canada only <i>seems</I> more enlightened by relative comparison. Things have admittedly gotten worse, post-9/11 AND since the Harris Harper [edit: Freudian slip there] Tories took power – actually, if you want to get technical, it’s been all downhill since the Grits (Liberals) introduced a tax-cuttin’, service guttin’, Bay-Street fluffin’ neoliberal budget that ever since has left our social safety net in (relative) tatters (and shifted the political discourse decidedly to the right).

    It’s like saying Burger King tastes better than McDonalds: regardless, the beef is still tainted (and even Swedish meatballs have more substance).

  3. whoa whoa whoa… Okay, that’s where I draw the damn line! The Whopper is a TASTY burger. Get me? TASTY. You look up tasty in the dictionary it has a picture of whopper with my fat ass about to eat it, so back off.


    Neoliberals? Are you kidding me? At this point neo(your ideology here) makes me very twitchy.

  4. matttbastard says:

    Wikipedia to the rescue!

    Well, if we ever start a CFLF book club, remind me to include ‘Fast Food Nation’ on the reading list (and, totally unrelated, James Weinstein’s The Long Detour).

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Connect with Facebook