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More on Canada's "Big Brother" plan to wiretap the Internet

More on Canada's "Big Brother" plan to wiretap the Internet
More on Canada's "Big Brother" plan to wiretap the Internet

Previous Politech message: 

-------- Original Message --------
Subject: Canada's Big Brother Plan to Reshape the Internet
Date: Mon, 22 Aug 2005 07:43:21 -0400
From: Michael Geist  
To: Declan McCullagh  
References: <> 


Of possible interest -- my weekly Law Bytes column examines the
lawful access plan in light of Canadian Justice Minister Irwin
Cotler's announcement late last week that the Canadian government
plans to move forward on the initiative this fall.

Although the specifics of the actual bill remain unknown, the spring
2005 consultations provided a good sense of what Canadians can expect.

If enacted, lawful access would compel Internet service providers to
install new interception capabilities as they upgrade their networks.
The country's major ISPs, who provide service to the majority of
Canadians, will eventually be capable of intercepting data, isolating
specific subscribers, and removing any encryption or other changes
that they make to data transmissions.

The proposal will likely contain an exemption for smaller ISPs, but
all will be required to report on their readiness to conduct
interceptions six months after the law takes effect.  Failure to
comply with the new standards would carry stiff penalties with fines
of up to $500,000 and potential imprisonment for five years.

Lawful access would also provide law enforcement authorities with a
wide range of new powers.  For example, authorities could apply for
new "production orders" with which they could compel disclosure of
tracking data such as cell phone usage as well as transmission data,
including telecommunications and Internet usage information.

Law enforcement authorities would also have access to a new
"preservation order" that could be used to compel ISPs to preserve
Internet usage information for up to three months, forcing ISPs to
store far more data than is currently the case.

Among the most troubling aspects of the lawful access proposals are a
series of new powers that are not accompanied by any judicial
oversight.  Law enforcement authorities, including the police, CSIS
agents, and even Competition Bureau authorities, will have the right
to obtain ISP subscriber information simply upon request without a
warrant.  In fact, the proposals even envision ISPs responding to
such requests in certain situations within 30 minutes based solely on
a phone call.

The column argues that before supporting this initiative, Canadians
ought to ask some tough questions.  I ask five:

1. Are all these new powers necessary?
2. Do the new powers contain sufficient judicial oversight?
3. Are the lawful access provisions constitutional?
4. Is lawful access strictly designed to address the threat of terrorism?
5. Will lawful access actually prove successful in battling Canadian terror?

Read the column for my answers which, not surprisingly, are critical
of the lawful access initiative.

Toronto Star version at

Freely available hyperlinked version at


Professor Michael A. Geist
Canada Research Chair in Internet and E-commerce Law
University of Ottawa, Faculty of Law
57 Louis Pasteur St., Ottawa, Ontario, K1N 6N5
Tel: 613-562-5800, x3319     Fax: 613-562-5124 

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