#CyberFLASH: Why Canada’s Telecom Regulator Is Suddenly Acting More Like the Cops

crtc_logo“If you abide by the law, you have nothing to fear.”

These might sound like the words of a police chief or FBI official, but they were actually spoken in 2014 by Jean-Pierre Blais, the buttoned-down head of Canada’s equally buttoned-down telecommunications regulator, the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission. At the time, Blais was announcing the CRTC’s role in enforcing Canada’s newly introduced anti-spam legislation, or CASL.

The message was clear: the CRTC is ready to get its hands dirty. And now it finally has.

In November of 2015, CRTC inspectors executed the first search warrant in the regulator’s nearly 50-year history. They entered a building in Brampton, Ontario to retrieve documents as part of a telemarketing investigation. Less than a month later, the CRTC executed yet another warrant, this time under CASL, shutting down a botnet server in Toronto as part of an international operation involving multiple agencies.

So far, it looks as though the CRTC is living up to Blais’ tough talk in 2014. And yet, knocking on doors and executing warrants seems a lot like something the cops would do, not a federal regulator in Canada.

The CRTC’s new attitude has its roots in the passing of Bill C-37 in 2005. This amended the Telecommunications Act to give the regulator new powers to enter and inspect businesses and places of interest, seek warrants to inspect people’s homes, and levy fines against telemarketers. The bill also created the National Do Not Call List (DNCL).

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