The Canadian Information Processing Society is urging the federal government to rethink a proposed policy that would force Internet service providers to

store customer data and release it to law enforcement agencies.

CIPS Thursday released a position paper that criticizes a consultation document called Lawful Access issued by Department of Justice Canada’s Web site in partnership with Industry Canada. The government has said it may try to introduce a law next year that could require ISPs to keep all traffic logs for six months, while allowing authorities to more closely monitor suspected criminals. It also raises the notion of a national database of every Canadian with an Internet account. The government has extended the original deadline for comments on the proposal from Nov. 15 to Dec. 16. Feedback can be submitted via e-mail to

In its position paper, CIPS makes several recommendations to ensure Canadians’ privacy rights would not be violated under the proposal. These include the appointment of a senior cabinet minister to represent citizen’s interests, an audit trails whenever investigatory materials are collected or intercepted by a service provider, and the requirement of a court order to search customer data.

John Boufford, I.S.P., CIPS’s regional director and chair of the legislative and emerging issues committee, said that the association tried to balance privacy issues with the need to provide law enforcement agencies additional tools to ensure investigations aren’t compromised.

Privacy is a fundamental right, he said, but not an absolute one.

“”I don’t think it’s any different than a bank that has a trusted relationship with a customer having to turn over any individual or organization’s banking record,”” he said. “”They get a subpoena or search warrant. If you believe in the Canadian way of life — which includes our justice process, which can be very intrusive when you’re subjected to them — it seems to me to be a reasonable trade-off.””

IDC Canada analyst Lawrence Surtees praised CIPS’s position paper on several points, but said the group was weak on others.

“”You can’t have it both ways,”” he said. “”This is one of the issues where you have to take a stand and say yes, draconian powers are needed, or they’re unacceptable, they’re too much and they’re not needed.””

Surtees said he took issue with the idea, for example, that the rise of the Internet as a communications medium called for any special legislation.

“”The state already has great powers, and that to me is the big issue: Do they really need more?”” he asked. “”All we really need to do is some fine tuning. We don’t need to commit radical surgery on the Criminal Code, on interception provisions.””

Boufford, however, said international events of the last year call for changes, provided there are appropriate limits.

“”Given some of the activities since Sept. 11, we do see that there is a need for more coordination internationally so that they can detect and try and prevent some of the terrorism that goes on,”” he said. “”But the powers should be used only for serious crimes, in our view, and secondly only police officers and not compliance people.””

In the discussion paper, the government insists that it will continue to maintain rights protected by the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, such as protection to individuals against self-incrimination.


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