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article imageNew Canadian legislation will give police greater powers

By Stephanie Dearing     Jun 21, 2009 in Politics
Critics claim that two new bills introduced last week to Canada's House of Commons will give Canadian police sweeping powers "without good reason," allowing a "data grab."
Called the "electronic snooping bill" by critics, Bill C-46 is a new piece of legislation brought to Canada's House of Commons June 18th that would allow police to obtain personal information about internet users without a warrant. A second bill, Bill C-47, introduced at the same time gives police the power to track a suspect using his or her cell phone, or to get the suspect's routing information. Professor Ian Kerr, who recently co-edited a free ebook, 'Lessons from the Identity Trail,' said that this legislation would allow police to get information which currently requires a search warrant. Kerr currently holds the Canada Research Chair in Ethics and Technology at the University of Ottawa. Professor Michael Geist, currently the Canada Research Chair in internet and ecommerce law at the University of Ottawa said in his blog that "given the potential for misuse ... the onus should be on law enforcement to demonstrate how the current system has harmed investigations and then we should work on ensuring that there is always - including for customer name and address information - appropriate court oversight."
According to Geist, the Investigative Powers for the 21st Century Act and the Technical Assistance for Law Act covers two key issues, ISP requirements and new police powers. Under the bill, internet service providers (ISPs) would have to conduct surveillance on all its customers, and would have to provide all customer information (name, address, ISP address, email address) when asked to - without the police having to go to court for a warrant. New police powers means that the police will be able to know what any given individual is doing online, such as what sites they visit and who they communicate with. Police will also be able to get orders to track people (via their cell phones), to have ISPs preserve a person's internet history, and finally allows for greater international cooperation to fight cybercrime.
The "Investigative Powers for the 21st Century Act" and Bill C-47 are aimed at tackling child pornography, which is a sector that thrives on the internet. However, civil rights groups in Canada have been concerned about privacy and individual rights being eroded with this legislation since earlier this year. Canadian police have been asking for these sorts of powers for years.
Ms. Micheal Vonn, Policy Director of the B.C. Civil Rights Association told the CBC on Jun 29th that Bill C-46 is "...a Trojan horse to expand police powers and essentially allow for a data grab." According to Privacy International, It is recognized worldwide that wiretapping and electronic surveillance are a highly intrusive form of investigation that should only be used in limited and unusual circumstances. Nearly all major international agreements on human rights protect the right of individuals from unwarranted invasive surveillance.
Both bills received their first readings in the House of Commons on June 18th, and will be read for a second time in the fall of 2009.
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