Canada's Proposed Cyberbullying Law Also Quietly Gives Police Powers to Gain Lawful Access to Electronic Communications

#Politics

Fri, Nov 22nd, 2013 11:00 by capnasty NEWS

A newly proposed Canadian legislation that claims to be designed to stop cyberbulling, actually "goes well beyond" its claimed intentions, gives police extended powers and tackles "a wide range of crimes, including terrorism, organized crime, theft of cable, fraud and hacking." Remember Bill C-30 Lawful Access? Same thing disguised as another.

The bill’s investigative tools that go beyond cyberbullying were not explained — or mentioned — in a backgrounder on the proposed law posted on Mr. MacKay’s website. That omission prompted critics such as the British Columbia Civil Liberties Association to call the cyberbullying law a “Trojan horse” for a controversial previous law, since withdrawn by the government, that would have expanded police powers to gain lawful access to electronic communications.

“This is essentially a cut-and-paste job” from that previous law on Internet surveillance, said Micheal Vonn, policy director for the BCCLA. The proposed new law would set a lower standard of “reasonable suspicion” when police seek a judge’s permission to view e-mails and other communications, she said.

Dr. Michael Geist, law professor at the University of Ottawa, notes that the innocently called Bill C-13, the Protecting Canadians from Online Crime Act currently being "marketed as an effort to crack-down cyber-bullying" is actually bringing back the vast majority of Bill C-30's lawful access provisions.

Canadian [Justice Minister Peter] MacKay was asked about the issue in a Hill Times piece in September with a spokesperson confirming the latter part of the Nicholson's commitment, but not the first part:

“[W]e have no plans to move forward with measures related to the warrantless mandatory disclosure of basic subscriber information or the requirement for telecommunications service providers to build intercept capability within their systems."

Of course, Nicholson's commitment went further than that since he stated that attempts to modernize the Criminal Code would not include measures contained in Bill C-30. The government has simply ignored that commitment by focusing on cyber-bullying and claiming that the remaining provisions are a response to the Federal/Provincial/Territorial Ministers Responsible for Justice and Public Safety June 2013 report on cyber-bullying that recommended bringing back lawful access:

The Working Group strongly recommends that the Federal Government enact investigative tools and procedures which will enable law enforcement to keep pace with modern technology, similar to those elements which have previously been introduced by the Federal Government.

With that foundation, Bill C-13 includes several provisions designed to target cyber-bullying and dozens of pages of reforms that come straight from prior lawful access bills. The bill excludes warrantless mandatory disclosure of basic subscriber information and the requirement for telecommunications service providers to build intercept capability within their systems, yet that is cold comfort given the Snowden revelations about ubiquitous surveillance that may include access to subscriber information and the collection of seemingly all Internet and communications traffic.

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