Canadian Legislation Would Force ISPs to Hand Over User Data

OTTAWA — Canada is looking at legislation that would allow law enforcement to demand user data from Internet service providers without an initial warrant.

According to the CBC, two measures — the Investigative Powers for the 21st Century Act and the Technical Assistance for Law Enforcement in the 21st Century Act — would require Canadian ISPs to install intercept-capable equipment on networks and then provide police and Canada's national security agency with "timely access" to customer information such as names, home addresses, and IP addresses.

"We must ensure that law enforcement has the necessary tools to catch up to the bad guys and ultimately bring them to justice," said Justice Minister Rob Nicholson at a press conference Thursday, adding that "21st-century technology calls for 21st-century tools."

The legislation is designed to modernize current Canadian criminal code and assist law enforcement in targeting Internet and technology crime, as well as working with other nations on international investigations, the official said.

"We must provide our law enforcement with the tools they need to keep our communities safe," said Minister Van Loan. "High-tech criminals will be met by high-tech police. This is a great day for the victims and their families who have been long calling for these legislative changes, and those who work tirelessly every day to ensure that when there is a threat to safety police can intervene quickly."

A court order for deep investigations and the interception of communications will still be required, even under the new laws. Nations including the United States, United Kingdom, Australia, New Zealand, Germany, and Sweden have similar legislation on the books.

Van Loan also said that while ISPs will have to pay for the new intercept equipment, the government may provide "reasonable compensation" if a service provider finds it has upgraded existing hardware.

ISPs would have 18 months to make changes, and the law provides a three-year exemption for companies with fewer than 100,000 subscribers.

The Register notes with concern that Canada's government also is proposing amendments to other criminal codes and acts to allow police to obtain both telephone and Internet transmissions with a warrant for live data or a production order for historical data. This would force service providers to retain data related to certain investigations, and also allow law enforcement greater covert privileges, including the remote activation of existing tracking technology in cell phones and other communication devices. Such power alarms many civil rights advocates.

Canadian officials said business and consumer sides were all consulted in developing the bills, including telecoms, civil liberties groups, victims' advocates, police associations, and provincial/territorial justice officials.

"The safety of our citizens, both in our communities and in cyberspace, is a responsibility that this government takes very seriously," said MP Daniel Petit, according to Market Watch. "The proposed legislation strikes an appropriate balance between the investigative powers used to protect public safety and the necessity to safeguard privacy and the rights and freedoms of Canadians."

An online version of the legislation will be available at the government site