Is Lawful Access Ethical Access?

Another story of crucial interest for Canadians in particular, is so-called Lawful Access legislation. Far less confusing than some of the other governmental oversight issues we’ve discussed here recently, this legislation, as the majority Conservative government is attempting to pass, will require your internet service provider (ISP) to store and make available to both the government and the police information on your internet activity.

Not only is this issue fairly straightforward and relatively simple to understand (yes, I did just sigh with relief), but this relative simplicity has led to some sweeping statements from politicians, statements which are threatening to reduce the issue to a kind of controversial caricature instead of something nuanced and thoughtful.

Anyway, to recap. As always seems to happen with these types of issue, government claims do not always mesh with the views of other expert commentators. Claiming it as long overdue, and a national security concern as well as a child safety one, the official version emphasizes its impact on drug trafficking, money laundering, smuggling, child pornography, murder and terrorism. A warrant would still be required, and the Department of Justice outline does take pains to address the issue of data retention by ISPs, claiming they will only preserve specific targeted data when they have probable cause of a serious crime. They make a fairly puzzling distinction between data retention and data preservation, assuring Canadians they will employ the latter and not the former.

But critics have pointed out that what Lawful Access boils down to is an expansion of government powers in order to spy on internet activities. And as such, is open to serious misuse and a potentially negative impact on civil liberties.

For a more detailed overview of this issue, The Huffington Post has a series of in-depth articles that sound the warning about how, in the words of Daniel Tencer, “Western governments are trying to seize control of the internet.”

And to show it isn’t only militant activists arrayed against the measures, business leaders too have expressed some fairly substantial reservations. Law professor Michael Geist perhaps sums up the opposition best: “For all Canadians, [fusion_builder_container hundred_percent=”yes” overflow=”visible”][fusion_builder_row][fusion_builder_column type=”1_1″ background_position=”left top” background_color=”” border_size=”” border_color=”” border_style=”solid” spacing=”yes” background_image=”” background_repeat=”no-repeat” padding=”” margin_top=”0px” margin_bottom=”0px” class=”” id=”” animation_type=”” animation_speed=”0.3″ animation_direction=”left” hide_on_mobile=”no” center_content=”no” min_height=”none”][lawful access] will mean that a fundamental privacy principle will have been broken […] At the moment, our law is clear that mandatory disclosure of personal information requires court oversight. Lawful access will remove this requirement and require disclosure in some circumstances.”

Perhaps the nadir was reached today (February 13, 2012) when Public Safety Minister Vic Toews essentially accused opponents of siding with child pornographers, urging them to “either stand with us or with the child pornographers”. This type of rhetoric is extremely unhelpful and SOLOS would prefer a more reasoned and nuanced debate involving consolation with all stakeholders. As with the other measures we’ve discussed recently we will be watching this one closely and we urge our readers to do the same.[/fusion_builder_column][/fusion_builder_row][/fusion_builder_container]

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