Canadian Lawful Access Debate Returns

The Canadian Lawful Access debate was about as cold as the snow still lingering in the far north; but like the snow in some parts in Canada, the debate is now thawing with a new report surfacing over the latest moves.

Note: This is an article I wrote that was published elsewhere first. It has been republished here for archival purposes

Lawful Access may be something that some have long forgotten about. In a sense, the only thing that comes close to it in the US is probably the debate over telecom immunity. Of course, the debate over telecom immunity and the Lawful Access debate in Canada have plenty to distinguish the two debates outside of simple geography.

According to a CanWest report, an Access to Information Act request led to the discovery that the Information Technology Association of Canada (ITAC), the Canadian Chamber of Commerce, the Canadian Association of Internet Providers and the Canadian Wireless Telecommunications Association are not impressed with the Lawful Access proposition made by the government.

According to the article:

[T]hey say the proposed law could require them to buy expensive, custom-built equipment and software, because standard, off-the-shelf technology is not yet available. The groups also argue that telecom service providers need a longer transition period to upgrade their networks.

They propose amending the law to “provide reasonable compensation” to service providers for intercepting private communications on behalf of law enforcement and handing over subscriber information. The groups note that “precedents for such compensation arrangements exist in other jurisdictions,” such as Britain, the United States and Australia.

The industry proposals were submitted in August 2006. But in an interview Thursday, ITAC president Bernard Courtois said his association still has many of the same concerns.

“This is an area where the government needs to step up to its responsibility and determine the issue,” said Courtois. “Everybody is waiting to see what is going to happen on this.”

Obviously, this is not good news for any party hoping to get Lawful Access in place. The last movements on the debate was late last year when there was a quiet public consultation on the matter. At one point, the debate pitted a privacy commissioner opinion against a police chiefs opinion. Naturally, privacy advocates and organizations that support privacy, such as CIPPIC (Canadian Internet Policy and Public Interest Clinic) blasted the proposition with many others such as the CWAT echoing the sentiments that this tramples basic rights to privacy.

Meanwhile, the Conservative party (the current governing party) was last seen promising not to introduce the more controversial aspects of such legislation which includes mandatory disclosure of personal information without court oversight (a warrant essentially).

With blows to the possible legislation that the past Liberal government introduced Lawful Access as the then called Bill C-74. It died on the order paper when the government fell.

Of course, when the debate chills to the freezing point because of lack of movement, then it comes back only to receive an additional blow to the pro-lawful access camp, it’s easy for one to conclude that it would be an incredibly hard sell to many. The internet industry refuses to foot the bill, the government seems to be attempting to pinch every penny, the public was furious the last time something like this was attempted, privacy advocates blasted such legislation and movements, privacy commissioners were quite disturbed by the movement, and the government that tried to put such things in place are no longer in power. Quite a long list of potentially fatal blows to the movement that will likely take months to years to recover from if such movements are pushed into Canada again.

Drew Wilson on Twitter: @icecube85 and Google+.

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