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What the RCMP chief wants for Christmas

Speaking at a convention and tradeshow of defence and first responder contractors yesterday, RCMP Commissioner Bob Paulson revealed what he wanted for Christmas – warrantless access to Canadian’s Internet subscriber information.

“Some sort of administrative access to basic subscriber information…I’m all for warrantless access ton subscriber information, ” Paulson said during the talk at the Securetech 2015 security conference in Ottawa on Wednesday. “That’s what I want for Christmas.”

It’s a biggie, but Paulson makes a case for it saying such access is critical in order to thwart child predators and cybercrooks that rely on the anonymity of provided by the Internet. He also argued that for decades, law enforcement officers have had access to more information on people from their auto licence plates than what is contained in Internet Protocol (IP) addresses.

Police authorities say telecom companies and service providers now demand court approval for the request from authorities for basic identifying information.

“We are just asking for basic subscriber information…a license plate has more personal data in it than an IP address,” he said. “If I had to get a judge on the phone every time I wanted to run a licence plate when I was doing my policing, there wouldn’t have been much policing getting done.”

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He said technology that allows users to encrypt online communications to protect their privacy is unfortunately also allowing criminals to operate with less fear of being uncovered.

“So now these people can encrypt their communications and they can exploit children for sexual purposes and it’s a little harder to get at them from a police point of view.”

The Supreme Court of Canada, in June last year, ruled that police must secure authorization from a judge in order to obtain from Internet service providers customer data linked to online activities.

There has been growing public concern that authorities are able to access customer data with little oversight. The SC rejected the idea that federal privacy laws governing companies allowed these firms to voluntarily provide police subscriber identities.

Paulson said he will make recommendations to the new Liberal government to allow police to gain access to subscriber information without the need for warrants.

“I think we’ve been consistent in recognizing that we are very respectful of the charter and people’s charter rights and nobody is recommending that we go any further,” he said.

In August, the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police revealed that a discussion paper initiated by the Department of Justice was presented to federal, provincial and territorial cybercrime working groups of senior officials, according to a report from the Canadian Press.

The document outlined three legislative options for allowing access to basic subscriber information:

  • An administrative scheme that would not involve court approval.
  • A new judicial order process or a tweak to the existing regime.
  • A judicial order process for subscriber information with a greater expectation of privacy and an administrative, non-judicial one for less sensitive subscriber data.

Author: Nestor Arellano

Nestor Arellano is editor of Vanguard Magazine. Nestor is a seasoned journalist who has written extensively on defence and military industry issues as well as technology and business developments. He is also associate editor of Vanguard's sister publication, IT in Canada.

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