Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Creepy Legislation - Your First Introduction

In the rather debatable logic of "better security in the post-9/11 era", the Liberal Government has introduced Bill C-74 as an amendment to the telecommunications act.

In many respects, this legislation is a long overdue reworking of what we used to know as "wiretap". The old wiretap rules had some pretty strict boundaries that meant that enforcement authorities had to convince a judge that they had probable cause before they could demand access to a telephone company's facilities in order to tap a particular phone line.

In today's world, the rather 'wire-centred' view of the old act really don't work. People have cell phones; e-mail is pervasive, and travels paths that we can't possibly guess; wireless network access is steadily becoming commonplace. The number of ways to nest a signal within other signals and communications is amazing. With a little bit of creativity, it is possible to open "tunnels" in the internet where protocols are nested one atop the other to bury a signal before someone can do anything with it.

My worry about this legislation, in its current form, is I don't think it provides adequate provisions for CSIS or the RCMP to show reasonable cause before they get access to communications data. It obliges ISPs and cellular providers to have very advanced logging and tracking capabilities, and to make those records available to the law enforcement officials "on demand". This is very bothersome for several reasons:

1. The costs incurred in gathering and archiving this data will become my direct cost as a consumer. The law enforcement agencies are not financing this expense, and the ISP world (or cell providers) sure as heck won't.

2. Ministerial approval/appeal is not an adequate protection for private citizens. I am deeply worried that there doesn't appear to be any reasonable appeal through the courts in this legislation. Just as giving the police "carte-blanche" rights to tap telephone lines is an unreasonable invasion of privacy, providing unfettered access to our digital communications is similarly troubling.

I will admit that I've only given the bill a cursory read, and I may well have misunderstood or missed entirely some of the counter balancing clauses, but a first pass reading gives far too much latitude to the law enforcement agencies without providing the private citizen with notification and recourse to unreasonable search and seizure of our communications.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...






(Big Sister too!)