#CyberFLASH: Balancing police, power and privacy

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Canadians support more investigative powers for police — with a catch, Nov. 17

Your story declares that Canadians support police demands for more surveillance, even though data from the survey indicates only 34 per cent are confident that new powers will be used “reasonably and according to the law.” Presumably that is why, in every case, the survey found that people want use of these powers to require a warrant from a judge.

Yet while it mentions reports of police spying on journalists and lawbreaking by CSIS, both your story and the survey neglect to mention that warrants were granted inappropriately in the first case, and that CSIS lied to the courts about their actions in the second.

The survey also suggests Canadians support data retention by telecom providers if authorities have a warrant to access the data. However, it wasn’t asked whether they should be able to retain that data before a warrant is granted or only afterwards. Your story assumes, without any justification, that Canadians support retention of data about a person before a warrant is granted.

The report also states that 74 per cent of Canadians have never encrypted their communications, without pointing out that we do so every time we use online banking, or visit an increasing number of websites — including the Star’s! Worst of all, it leaves out that Canadians have a right not to incriminate themselves under the Charter, protecting them against giving their passwords or encryption keys in an investigation.

Finally, the survey suggests 47 per cent of Canadians think there is a right to “complete digital privacy,” while only 23 per cent think it is currently possible to have that privacy.

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#CyberFLASH: Your cellphone password could hold the key in legal battle over collecting evidence

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Here’s the scenario: Police believe there is evidence on your cellphone or computer that could assist them in a criminal investigation.

They ask that you provide your password or encryption key so they can search for clues.

Currently, there is no law compelling you to comply with that request.

But police in Canada, frustrated by evidence trails that lead to digital dead ends, are calling for a law that would make it a criminal offence to say no to a police officer carrying a judicial warrant.

It’s an idea designed to accomplish through a legal order what police are increasingly unable to accomplish technologically — getting inside digital devices containing what they believe is crucial evidence in criminal investigations.

“It’s a very radical proposal in Canadian law,” said Micheal Vonn, executive director of the B.C. Civil Liberties Association. “It changes the basic nature of how we go about achieving the ends of criminal investigation, by compelling the person who is under investigation to participate in the investigation.”

Many privacy advocates — and even some in law enforcement — call the idea an abuse of both privacy protections and the rights of Canadians against self-incrimination.

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#CyberFLASH: Ottawa should be careful on expanded police powers: Editorial

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Crime, like everything else, has been transformed by the digital age. Fraudsters, child pornographers and terrorists, among others, are becoming ever more expert in using digital technologies to commit their offences and cover their tracks.

Not surprisingly, this has created new challenges for law enforcement. Police chiefs across Canada claim investigators do not have the tools to keep up. Many say concerns about privacy have scuttled their attempts to convince politicians to provide them with the cyber-surveillance powers they need to do their job.

As Bob Paulson, commissioner of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, puts it, “We’re losing our ability, if we haven’t lost it entirely, to bring the traditional investigative response to technologically facilitated crime because of the misunderstanding, in my view, of the privacy threat.”

This week, Paulson shared with reporters from the Star and CBC News case files he says demonstrate the obstacles his force faces, an attempt to help the public understand the need for new police powers the federal government is currently floating.

The cases are no doubt disturbing, tales of child abusers and wannabe terrorists evading justice. But while they clearly illustrate new and thorny police challenges, they do not establish that the requested powers are necessary or proportionate or to what extent they would endanger privacy or even weaken security.

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#CyberFLASH: Red Deer men targeted by sextortion scam

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RCMP are investigating an extortion scam after two Red Deer men were “lured into compromising online encounters” by strangers on the internet.

Police say both victims were approached online in October by women.

The women lured the men over the internet “and then threatened to post the images online unless they were paid by their victims,” Red Deer RCMP said in a news release Wednesday.

Neither victim was defrauded of money, police said. In both cases, the women halted communication with their targets after the men informed them they were reporting them to police.

RCMP suspect there may be even more cases of this type of extortion happening in the community, but victims “may be too embarrassed to report it.”

Furthermore, investigators say these online profiles are usually fake and the scammers live in different countries, making prosecution impossible.

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#CyberFLASH: Ottawa has little regard for protecting privacy rights when it comes to national security

1297658073661_ORIGINALOTTAWA — The federal government has scant regard for privacy rights when it comes to national security, according to the federal privacy commissioner’s new annual report.

Tabled in Parliament Tuesday, it reveals:

• Only two of the 17 departments and agencies with power collect personal information from other federal entities under the new Security of Canada Information Sharing Act (SCISA) believe privacy impact assessments (PIAs) are necessary. The assessments are designed ensure privacy protection is a core consideration and are required under government policy for any new or substantially modified government programs and activities involving personal information.

The act, created under the Anti-terrorism Act of 2015, formerly Bill C-51, allows 111 departments and agencies to share information, including citizens’ personal data, with 17 departments with national security responsibilities. The information must be “relevant” to the recipient’s jurisdiction in relation to “activities that undermine the security of Canada.” The intent is to persuade bureaucrats to share information so authorities can better connect the “dots” of potential national security threats.

The act has been used 110 times between Aug. 1, 2015, when it became law, and Jan. 31, by the Canada Border Service Agency (CBSA), RCMP, Canadian Security Intelligence Service, Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada and Global Affairs Canada.

When privacy concerns about SCISA were raised last spring as C-51 made its way through Parliament, then-public safety minister Steven Blaney attempted to placate critics by insisting PIAs would be the norm.

• Thirteen of the 17 departments and agencies with national security responsibilities collected or shared information under “very broad” pre-existing legal authorities, including common law, because the Conservative government did not create detailed new legal authorities spelling out permitted collection and disclosure of information for national security.

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#CyberFLASH: How much do we really know about the Canadian intelligence community?

csis.jpg.size.xxlarge.letterboxLast year American whistle-blower Edward Snowden proclaimed that Canadian intelligence agencies have the “weakest oversight” in the Western world and compared the Canadian government’s Bill C-51 to George W. Bush’s post-9-11 U.S. Patriot Act.

Canada became a surveillance state under the Stephen Harper Conservatives. In 2014, for example, it came to light that the Government Operations Centre was monitoring residents of Newfoundland and Labrador, including Indigenous Peoples, residents of the Island’s west coast who opposed fracking, and fishermen who were protesting shrimp quotas. This ongoing problem is further complicated by multiple transnational intelligence sharing agreements, in place since World War II, that remain largely unknown to the general public.

Indeed, the rise of the surveillance state is a global phenomenon that cannot be separated from the rise of the internet. But in Canada, because of the lack of any credible oversight, it has played out in a very specific way. This has everything to do with what the Canadian public knows—and more importantly, does not know—about Canadian intelligence agencies.

Canada’s new and highly invasive so-called anti-terror legislation came into force last year with the support of then-Opposition Leader Justin Trudeau and the Liberal caucus. The Trudeau Liberals knew that in order to win the election they would need to undo—or at least promise to undo—much of the damage done by their predecessors. They would have to address the alienation felt by Canadians from having a government that used national security as an excuse to trade away its citizens’ freedom and civil liberties.

Unfortunately, they have yet to repeal or even reform Bill C-51, and recent terrorist attacks in Europe, the U.S, and here at home in Canada have provided the perfect backdrop against which to further delay the process. On August 10, for example Aaron Driver, a 24-year-old Canadian citizen who was allegedly plotting a terrorist attack in the southern Ontario town of Strathroy, died in a confrontation with police who were following up on a tip from the FBI.

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#CyberFLASH: What Aaron Driver means for the debate on amending Bill C-51

rcmp-terror-20160811The case of Aaron Driver, the ISIS sympathizer who was killed in Strathroy, Ont., on Wednesday, comes to the fore amid the outstanding question of federal anti-terror laws and the fate of Bill C-51, the former Conservative government’s controversial legislation of last year.

And on Thursday, the Conservatives spoke of both in nearly the same breath.

“I salute and thank the law enforcement and intelligence officers who put their own lives on the line to stop this potential attack on innocent Canadians,” interim Conservative Leader Rona Ambrose said in a statement distributed on Thursday morning.

“Unfortunately, the Liberal government campaigned on a promise to strip these officers of some of the essential investigative and enforcement tools to do this work, which the previous Conservative government provided through Bill C-51, and which have already been wisely used to disrupt terrorist activities nearly two dozen times since last fall. I call on the Liberal government to ensure all of Canada’s security and intelligence services keep the tools they need to do their jobs.”

On a very basic level, Driver’s fate might well factor into the general debate: a case of suspected terrorism informing a debate about how the law should be used to respond to the threat of terrorism. “This disturbing event serves to remind us that Canada is not immune to the threat of terrorism,” Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale said on Thursday.

But on the particulars, it is unclear what precisely Driver’s case might have to do with C-51.

Liberal commitment to rewrite C-51

In bestowing new powers on law enforcement and national security agencies, C-51 raised various concerns about civil liberties.

In opposition at the time, the Liberals support the bill’s passage, but vowed they would amend the legislation if they were to form government.

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