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Archived - Fact Sheet : Privacy Protection and the Protecting Canadians from Online Crime Act

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The Need to Update the Law

Canada’s criminal laws in the area of computer crime have not been updated since the 1990s, before the prevalence of social media and the abundance of technology available today. 

Technology has evolved considerably since then, and this evolution is challenging conventional investigative methods. Although theCriminal Code allows police to obtain evidence of crimes committed using the Internet and other communication technologies, it is ineffective and inefficient because the police and the courts must try to apply investigative tools that were designed in an earlier era where today’s technology simply did not exist. 

According to Statistics Canada, in 2012, 83% of Canadian had access to the Internet at home1.  Canadian Press reports that more than 19 million Canadians – more than half the population – are on Facebook at least once a month2. Worldwide, the World Bank reports that in 2012, 35.6% of people were Internet users.3 The number of people accessing the Internet can only be expected to increase and the technology involved will become more sophisticated, making it even more essential to update legal tools to support the on-line safety of Canadians. 

Bill C-13, the Protecting Canadians from Online Crime Act, aims to ensure that police will be able to perform their jobs more efficiently, ensuring Canadians’ privacy and civil liberties are respected, while maintaining accountability and transparency.

In essence, the amendments proposed in Bill C-13 would ensure that the same type of information that is currently available to law enforcement agencies for telephone calls would be available to police for newer technology such as computers, smart phones and the Internet. Such tools are not qualitatively new but rather update existing tools to respond to new technologies.

No New Tools to Access Information without Judicial Authority

Law enforcement agencies cannot intercept private communications or obtain tracking data without being authorized to do so by law.  A warrant, court order or other lawful authority is needed for the collection of evidence that targets information about specific individuals and can only be carried out for a specified period of time. Nothing put forward in the proposed legislation would change these requirements. Under the proposed legislation there is no change to the current approach to legal thresholds and judicial authorities for investigative tools.

Furthermore, this Bill would enhance privacy protections in the existing provisions that relate to tracking warrants, so that police would need to meet the higher threshold of “reasonable grounds to believe” criminal activity has taken or will take place in order to receive a judicially authorized warrant when seeking authority to track an individual through a thing usually worn or carried by that person.  

The new Bill does not contain former Bill C-30’s controversial amendments relating to warrantless access to subscriber information and telecommunication infrastructure modification. 

Additional Privacy Considerations

Another privacy related proposal is the requirement to destroy computer data that has been preserved once that data has been produced pursuant to a production order or on the expiry of a preservation demand or order.  This ensures that third party holders of personal information are not unduly collecting information they do not need in their ordinary course of business.

The Government of Canada is strongly committed to maintaining the rule of law through all of its legislation.  It will continue to ensure that such authority will be exercised bearing in mind privacy interests and human rights protected in Canadian laws such as the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, the Privacy Act, and the Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act.  None of the proposed investigative tools (e.g., production orders, preservation demands and orders and warrants) permit information to be obtained in the absence of a judicial order.

This legislation has been developed and modified to respond to concerns expressed from a privacy perspective, while ensuring law enforcement has the tools to investigate crime in the context of modern technology.  The Bill has also been drafted to ensure its compliance with the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. 

Key Privacy Differences: C-30 Versus C-13

C-30

C-13

Would have created a mechanism for police to access subscriber information without prior judicial authorization.

Telecommunications service providers would have been required to provide basic subscriber information to designated police, CSIS and Competition Bureau officials upon request. This identifying information would have been limited to a subscriber’s name, address, phone number, email address, IP address, and the name of their service provider. These provisions would not have provided access to the contents of an individual’s communications.

No information provided to police without prior judicial authorization.

Would have required telecommunications service providers to modify their infrastructure to implement and maintain a technical capability to enable lawfully authorized interceptions.

Access to the actual content of communications would still have required prior judicial authorization.

No requirement for infrastructure modifications for telecommunications service providers to provide intercept capability.

1 http://www.statcan.gc.ca/daily-quotidien/131126/dq131126d-eng.htm

2 http://news.ca.msn.com/money/facebook-releases-stats-about-canadian-usage

3 http://data.worldbank.org/indicator/IT.NET.USER.P2/countries/1W?display=graph

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Department of Justice Canada
November 2013


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