Compromise sought on government Internet surveillance

The Privacy Commissioner of Canada is negotiating with the Conservative government on how to satisfy police desire for easier access to Internet subscriber information while maintaining proper judicial oversight, the Globe and Mail reports.

After obtaining a memo under the Access to Information Act, the Globe reports the Privacy Commissioner’s office is looking “to help find a middle ground between security and privacy” after the government’s first proposal for Internet surveillance faced a harsh public outcry. With Bill C-20, the government sought to eliminate the need for a warrant when asking Internet service providers (ISPs) to hand over subscriber’s personal information to legal authorities. Currently, the practice is voluntary but nearly always complied with.

Chantel Bernier, assistant privacy commissioner of Canada, is looking for a compromise on Internet surveillance.

Public Safety Minister Vic Toews didn’t help convince the public of why the bill was necessary when he compared those who spoke out against the bill as being in support of child pornographers. But now the Privacy Commissioner’s office is asking academics to help find a balanced way to catch the bad guys without putting the innocent at risk for losing their privacy.

What’s being proposed is a five-step process where police would apply to court for an order to obtain subscriber data. A judge would review the application and see if it sets out a “reasonable suspicion” that a law has been broken and the information requested is related to that offence. The judge could then approve the order and it would require the ISP to provide the information.

It’s a process similar to one used currently by police to obtain financial information.

Source | Globe & Mail

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