Policing the Web: How far will Ottawa go?

Jay Thompson has a lot of respect for Canada’s police forces. In fact, one of his cousins is an officer with the Ontario Provincial Police.

Thompson even agrees with law enforcement officials and the government when it comes to ensuring a secure and legal online environment.

But that’s

pretty much where the president of the Ottawa-based Canadian Association of Internet Providers (CAIP) draws the line. After all, he says, the federal government’s Lawful Access

consultation document is unfair to CAIP’s membership, and its blurry details could stifle technological advancement.

“”The problem here is the way new technologies are developing, it’s always one step ahead of the police, and they’re unable to keep up (with online criminal activity),”” says Thompson.

Of the estimated 940 Internet service providers, or ISPs, in Canada, CAIP’s membership is about 300 companies.

Thompson recently addressed delegates at the Managing IT Security Risk Conference in Toronto where he told them one of the problems CAIP has with Ottawa over the Lawful Access bill is its requirement for ISPs to ensure “”intercept capabilities.”” That is, all Canadian telecom service providers that offer their services to the public must, at a minimum, have the technical capability to provide access to a specific telecommunication transmitted over their facilities, subject to a lawful authorization to intercept.

“”The problem is we don’t know what the costs are for us to meet this technological obligation,”” Thompson told Computing Canada. “”We have no way of understanding the hardware or administrative changes we’d have to make.””

In the Beginning

According to Thompson, the lawful access issue dates back to 1999 when the Canadian government joined discussions at the Council of Europe’s (CoE) Cyber-crime Convention aimed at curtailing online criminal activity. In its 2001 Speech to the Throne, Ottawa pledged to provide law enforcement agencies with modern tools to deal with


The following November, the government signed the treaty, thereby committing the country to its terms without industry or public consultation on the subject, Thompson says.

“”I think it’s fair to say that this bill got a push following 9/11,”” he adds.

The overall obligations of the bill will be established in legislation, says Thompson, but the details will be worked out in regulations meetings. In others words, while the framework of the proposed act will be determined in Parliament, the regulatory discussions will be conducted behind closed doors.

Furthermore, Thompson says he’s at odds with Canada’s ratification of the controversial CoE Cyber-crime Convention in the first place.

“”There’s a fear it’s going to be used as a basis to create an international electronic surveillance organization and it reflects European values that differ strongly from American or Canadian values with respect to the role of the government,”” he says.

For Canada to ratif

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Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada

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