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Lawful Access

Modernizinating Lawful Access

The government introduced a bill to modernize law enforcement for the 21st century. This bill is being spun as an attempt that allows police to apply their existing powers in a new technological medium. Police say they need these powers to protect children and fight criminals using new sophisticated tools. In the words of Mrs. Lovejoy "Won't somebody please think of the children?!"

There are however some fairly serious privacy concerns with the bill and how this bill will be used by police, national security organizations, and others. The main concern is that the bill is overly broad, going far beyond what law enforcement needs to accomplish their stated objectives.

Government: Update Investigative Techniques, Not Privacy

The Government is willing and eager to update police surveillance laws in order to meet challenges posed by new technological changes, but when asked by the Privacy Commissioner of Canada and the House Standing Committee on Access to Information, Privacy and Ethics to update the Privacy Act so that existing privacy protections will apply to new forms and uses of information, the answer was no.


UK Example: Lawful Access Legislation is a Dangerous and Slippery Slope

Reports from the UK show that authorities have made more than 500,000 requests for confidential communications data over the past year alone - roughly 1 for every 78 adults in the UK. These requests come under an Act that allows authorities to gain access to information on who individuals have been phoning, emailing, which websites individuals visit, etc.

Originally enacted for the purpose of combating terrorism, the UK example shows how easy it is for lawful access legislation to lead to abuse - in some cases, the access powers were used to snoop on suspected litterers.

Defenders of the UK Act, like those who tout the Canadian version, say the Act does not allow access to the content of communications, but only the 'traffic' (who you are speaking to, etc.).

While the Canadian version of lawful access is not as broad as the UK version, this demonstrates that it is indeed a slippery slope and care should be taken to ensure the proper safeguards are in place before any expansion of police powers is allowed.

See the UK Information Commissioner's full report as well as a breakdown of some of the numbers.

US 'Lawful' Access Not Even Helpful

Post 9/11, President Bush, on questionable legal grounds, authorized a secret 'lawful' surveillance program that allowed the FBI, CIA, NSA and other agencies to eavesdrop on the electronic communications of Americans and others. A also asking for expanded powers to lawfully access online identification information without a warrant. Yet law enforcement and national security agencies have still to demonstrate any need for these expansive powers and specifically for the lack of oversight involved.

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