The Mark: What Lawful Access means for Canadian online security

By Alexander Ly and Adam Webb for The Mark

Canadian privacy online is about to be put at serious risk. As if internet malefactors and unruly privacy settings on major applications weren’t enough to dissuade Canadians from exercising their online liberties, a trio of invasive bills centred on “information disclosure, mandated surveillance technologies, and new police powers” is set to be fast-tracked through Parliament. Under the euphemism “lawful access,” Bills C-50, C-51, and C-52 aim to “modernize” the Criminal Code and the Competition Act and push the limits of state surveillance.

Having been postponed twice before this year’s federal election, the “lawful access” bills have continued to haunt privacy and public-interest groups concerned about the lack of related scrutiny coming from the House and mainstream media. Now, with the current session of Parliament and a majority government, the bills may be propelled into law without a much-needed examination of their scope or their general necessity.

Under current laws, internet service providers (ISPs) can voluntarily disclose customer information to the authorities, but they are only required to do so if served a warrant. Bill C-52, Section 16 (1), would supersede this liberty, and force providers to disclose consumer information to the authorities without a court order. Making matters worse, Bill C-50 would enable the police to intercept “communications” – as vaguely defined by Bill C-51 – without a warrant as long as they deem the intervention necessary. This shift toward warrantless investigations removes court oversight from the monitoring of wired and mobile internet, and allows law-enforcement authorities, without justification, to have a free hand in spying on the private lives of law-abiding Canadians.

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