Police back online surveillance bill

Proposed federal legislation that is drawing heat from privacy critics would bring policing tools in line with the other G8 nations

Proposed federal legislation that is drawing heat from privacy critics would bring policing tools in line with the other G8 nations, police officers in the Capital Region say.

The federal government’s proposed Bill C-30, known as the Protecting Children from Internet Predators Act, will soon be reviewed by a special committee before it returns to the House of Commons.

If enacted, one component of the bill – which sparked the most public outrage – would require Internet providers and cellphone companies to give inquiring police officers their customers’ names, addresses, phone numbers, email addresses and Internet protocol addresses, which are unique identifying numbers.

Currently, companies voluntarily turn over these details, without requiring a warrant, most of the time, Minister of Public Safety Vic Toews said publicly last week.

But he said the process takes too long.

Sometimes police aren’t given customer details they asked for, said Oak Bay police Chief Mark Fisher. “They’d tell you to get a warrant.”

The updated legislation would give investigators more time to track individuals posting online suicidal messages, Fisher said.

Investigators would also be better able to trace threats made over the Internet, as well as dropped 911 calls, he said.

Addressing controversy that the proposed bill would jeopardize individual privacy, Saanich police Sgt. Dean Jantzen said, “I can’t make a phone call and find out what your Internet browsing history is.”

Police would still require a warrant to access that information, he said.

Under the new legislation, police will be required to keep detailed records of their information requests, which can be audited at any time, Fisher noted.

The Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police has been asking since 2000 for legislative changes that would bring Canada in line with other G8 nations.

The Victoria Police Department declined to comment on the proposed legislation, but spokesperson Const. Mike Russell said, “VicPD does support Bill C-30.”

 

The RCMP also declined to comment.