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“Modernization” of surveillance a step backward for privacy

The B.C. Civil Liberties Association (www.bccla.org) is opposing the federal government’s latest proposal to facilitate increased police surveillance of telecommunications systems. Today the government introduced Bill C-74, the Modernization of Investigative Techniques Act. This is the latest re-packaging of a proposal that has been circulating for years under the name “lawful access”. The bill would require all telecommunications service providers to build police surveillance capacity into their technologies and require telecommunications service providers to give customers’ subscriber information (name, address, IP address, telephone number,
cell phone number) to the police on request.

According to BCCLA President, Jason Gratl: “The Government is marketing this plan as an absolute necessity if police are to keep pace with criminals’ sophisticated use of new technologies, but they’ve done absolutely nothing to support this claim. Canadians are being asked to take it on faith that we need a surveillance infrastructure built into our telecommunications systems and that the police need to access our subscriber information without a warrant. The Government’s claim that an after-the-fact reporting of access requests for subscriber information will “protect privacy” is fatuous. You protect privacy by having judicial oversight by way of warrants, not reporting after privacy has already been breached.”

Today’s bill deals with only some of the surveillance issues that were the subject of two major Government consultations. While this bill is expected to die on the order paper when an election is called, it is likely that it will be reintroduced in the new year and that other bills dealing with surveillance may follow.

Jason Gratl: “This week’s privacy bombshell is that an investigative reporter was able to use an American company to get detailed telephone records of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada using only her name and home address. Privacy rights are under attack because of technological advances and the Government is citing technological advances to justify more privacy erosion.”