#CyberFLASH: Should police see your data? Think about it says Goodale

goodale.jpg.size.custom.crop.1086x713OTTAWA—Canadians need to think about how far police should be allowed to go in accessing their electronic devices and communications, the federal public safety minister says.

A federal review of cybersecurity will provide a chance to discuss a proposal from Canada’s police chiefs for a new law that would compel people to hand over passwords with a judge’s consent, Ralph Goodale said Wednesday.

The Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police says the measure is needed to fight criminals in cyberspace who increasingly use tools to hide their identities and communications.

In the United States, there are literally thousands of smartphones and other digital devices “sitting on shelves” because authorities can’t get into them, said Terrence Cunningham, a police chief in Massachusetts and president of the International Association of Chiefs of Police.

“And we know that those devices hold the answers to the questions that we need so that we can hold people accountable and prosecute some of these cases,” Cunningham said during the Canadian chiefs’ annual conference this week.

After a speech Wednesday to the gathering, Goodale acknowledged that smartphones contain a wealth of personal data and can reveal much more about a person than an ordinary physical search might.

But he added that while Canadians value their privacy, they also want police to have the necessary tools to investigate crimes. “I think Canadians recognize the imperatives on both sides.”

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#CyberFLASH: Police chiefs want law that would force people to reveal passwords

iStock_63192683_MEDIUMCanada’s police chiefs want a new law that would force people to hand over their electronic passwords with a judge’s consent.

The Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police has passed a resolution calling for the legal measure to unlock digital evidence, saying criminals increasingly use encryption to hide illicit activities.

There is nothing currently in Canadian law that would compel someone to provide a password to police during an investigation, RCMP Assistant Commissioner Joe Oliver told a news conference Tuesday.

Oliver said criminals — from child abusers to mobsters — are operating online in almost complete anonymity with the help of tools that mask identities and messages, a phenomenon police call “going dark.”

“The victims in the digital space are real,” Oliver said. “Canada’s law and policing capabilities must keep pace with the evolution of technology.”

The police chiefs’ resolution comes as the federal government begins a consultation on cybersecurity that will look at issues including the best way to balance online freedoms with the needs of police. The consultation runs until Oct. 15.

Police demands for access to online communications and the concerns of civil libertarians about privacy rights have created tensions around the globe in recent years.

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