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RCMP, thwarted by encryption, wants back doors to all digital communications in Canada


Staff member
I read this piece in the Star today, obviously a PR push by the RCMP to try and re-frame the privacy debate in their favor and influence the public and politicians. I guess Canadian privacy laws may soon be up for modification.

The RCMP's premise is that they need sweeping new and intrusive capabilities in order to do their jobs. They let some reporters into their file room to review some 'top secret' files to prove their case. I guess that was the hook they used to get reporters to cover this story.

Anyway, cutting through the PR fluff, it all boils down to this: they say criminals are going free because they could not break encryption on files and communications. While I sympathize with them, encryption is not new to this world and in fact, the overstepping and illegal privacy breaches by the NSA and police and intelligence agencies of the world has led to more encryption (Google's for example), not less.

Perhaps they should really go back to common, everyday police work like infiltrating criminal and terrorist groups with undercover officers instead of hoping to tap and capture everything in Canada. Thinking Canadians are some giant maple tree they can just drive a spigot into and pipe the maple syrup directly into their offices, may sound good to them, but it still won't break encrypted files and data. Most importantly, it tramples on the privacy rights of Canadians.

With information sharing between the UK, and the US, the police are probably already collecting all our meta data anyway. If they can't get license to obtain private data from Canadians directly, they just ask the partner countries for it. Police are already using 'Stingray' devices that emulate cellphone towers and capture vast amounts of mobile data and communications from average Canadians unbeknownst to them. If it wasn't for Snowden, we wouldn't have known any of this.

Giving the police more data and thus more encrypted data isn't the answer because they can't even de-crypt what they already have.

We need more privacy, not less, AND we need better police work to capture criminals and terrorists.
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Stop Bill C-10


TRIBE Member
If it wasn't for Snowden people would still be called Paranoid or crazy when bringing up Big Brother spying


Staff member
Taxpayers would have to foot bill for new high-tech police powers, wireless industry says
Industry group says data interception and retention technology would be expensive
By Dave Seglins Robert Cribb and Chelsea Gomez, CBC News Posted: Nov 19, 2016 5:00 AM ET Last Updated: Nov 19, 2016 5:00 AM ET


Police are lobbying for laws that would force phone and internet providers to install equipment to intercept digital traffic and store data. The wireless industry says that would be expensive and taxpayers would have to cover the cost. (Reuters)
Dave Seglins and Chelsea Gomez are journalists with the CBC News Investigative Unit in Toronto. They partnered with Robert Cribb, investigative journalist at the Toronto Star, to examine the growing digital challenges in police investigations and proposals to change laws affecting the privacy of Canadians. dave.seglins@cbc.ca and chelsea.gomez@cbc.ca

Canada's top telecommunications industry group says any government move to force its members to install equipment to intercept digital traffic and store data to aid police investigations would have to be covered by taxpayers.

"We have always submitted that there should be a mechanism for the government to cover the costs or possibly law enforcement," said Kurt Eby, director of regulatory affairs and government relations for the Canadian Wireless Telecommunications Association.

"Every time the government looks to add a layer such as this, there is going to be cost incurred."


Kurt Eby, director of regulatory affairs and government relations for the Canadian Wireless Telecommunications Association, says the group's members will comply with whatever new measures the federal government enacts, but he says a major concern for the industry is the security of customers’ information. (CBC)

The federal government is holding public consultations on Canada's Anti-Terrorism Act, which includes proposals for new investigative powers for police to gather digital evidence.

Police are lobbying for laws that would require telecommunications and internet service providers to retain user data like email, text and call records, and force those same companies to build intercept capabilities into their networks to enable investigators to tap digital communications.

Data Retention
There is currently no regulation to require telecommunications companies to store data for any length of time.

Once police open an investigation, they can obtain a warrant and begin to track a suspect's data. The problem, they argue, is due to inconsistent storage practices in the industry, historical data that could be crucial to the investigation has often already been deleted or lost.

"There's nothing worse than trying to go and recreate somebody's movements through cell sites or to deduce who the offender is and the data's all been destroyed," RCMP Commissioner Bob Paulson told CBC News and the Toronto Star.

Eby says communications companies will comply with whatever new measures the federal government enacts, but he says a major concern for the industry is the security of customers' information.

'Every time the government looks to add a layer such as this, there is going to be cost incurred.'- Kurt Eby, the Canadian Wireless Telecommunications Association.
"We want to make sure that whatever the requirement is — that it can be complied with in a way that negates any possibility of this data being breached and falling into anyone's hands other than someone who has the lawful authority to review it," he said.

"How long are you going to hold this data for? Where is it going to be?"

RCMP Chief Supt. Jeff Adam points to Australia as a model for Canada to consider. Legislators there recently implemented a two-year data retention regulation.

He says police in Canada would be required to obtain a warrant before accessing the data and any mandatory retention would only apply to "metadata" — in the case of phone calls, the historical transaction records of who-called-who when, and not the actual content of messages.


RCMP Chief Supt. Jeff Adam says police in Canada would be required to obtain a warrant before accessing the data. (Patrick Doyle/the Toronto Star)

Critics argue it's not safe to keep data longer than is strictly necessary for business purposes due to the heightened risk of data breaches and hacking.

Chris Parsons, a technology and privacy researcher at the University of Toronto's Citizen Lab, says the Australian experience has been plagued by problems, including the fact it's forced some smaller companies out of business due to the costs.

He also believes mandatory data retention in Canada would create a chill among citizens, who would self-censor knowing the state is mandating collection of their records.

"It's an immediate state of suspicion," Parsons said.

"It means that citizens may speak less, associate less, do less online on the basis that they are concerned what it could be."


Chris Parsons, a technology and privacy researcher at the University of Toronto’s Citizen Lab, says the Australian experience with mandatory data retention has been plagued by problems. (Chris Young/Canadian Press)

"It would be equally very helpful," he continued, "to have a surveillance camera in every room that we were in. And police would never access it except under judicial warrant when they know something has gone wrong. But I don't think many Canadians want a surveillance camera in every room they're in because something might go wrong."

Former Ontario privacy commissioner Ann Cavoukian says it may be possible to accommodate the police desire for data retention and to build in protections for customers.

"If it had to be done, we could ensure that the data were encrypted and put in a vault, if you will. You have to have provisions that would protect the data very strongly."

The second police proposal the government is considering in its green paper on national security is to force communications providers to install mandatory interception equipment into all networks.

For decades, telephone companies have had the ability to assist law enforcement, with a warrant from a judge, to intercept phone calls. But there's been an explosion in wireless and internet providers in recent years, many of which don't have the same infrastructure as their bigger rivals, leaving police unable to easily tap digital communications like cellphone calls, emails and text messages.

RCMP Commissioner Bob Paulson says nearly 70 per cent of telecommunications companies can't comply with interception orders from the courts.


RCMP Commissioner Bob Paulson supports proposals to require communications providers to build intercept and data-retention capabilities into their networks. (Patrick Doyle/the Toronto Star)

CBC News and the Toronto Star this week reported details from ten ongoing RCMP investigations in which police say they hit digital roadblocks. In four cases, police obtained warrants to intercept suspects' communications, but the phone or internet providers lacked the equipment or capability.

For example, the RCMP provided details of one investigation in Eastern Canada where investigators obtained warrants to monitor a group of terrorism suspects. The phone of one of the prime targets was connecting to multiple cellular networks, none of which had interception capabilities. The Mounties spent two months and $250,000 to engineer a custom tool to intercept the communications.

The telecommunications industry says it would comply with mandatory interception requirements if they become law, but it would be difficult and expensive to keep up with technological advances.

"What people are using in terms of messaging apps, the way they are communicating and the way the technology works is going to be vastly different at the end of the month, or different at the end of the year," Eby said.

"And you invest in that and then that technology is obsolete by the time you try to use those systems, then that doesn't really benefit anyone."

from the cbc


Staff member
In other news, due to public apathy and lack of of any kind of strong privacy lobby, the UK just enacted broad spectrum legislation to spy on it's own citizens:

'Extreme surveillance' becomes UK law with barely a whimper

Investigatory Powers Act legalizes range of tools for snooping and hacking by the security services

A bill giving the UK intelligence agencies and police the most sweeping surveillance powers in the western world has passed into law with barely a whimper, meeting only token resistance over the past 12 months from inside parliament and barely any from outside.

The Investigatory Powers Act, passed on Thursday, legalizes a whole range of tools for snooping and hacking by the security services unmatched by any other country in western Europe or even the US.

The security agencies and police began the year braced for at least some opposition, rehearsing arguments for the debate. In the end, faced with public apathy and an opposition in disarray, the government did not have to make a single substantial concession to the privacy lobby.

US whistleblower Edward Snowden tweeted: “The UK has just legalized the most extreme surveillance in the history of western democracy. It goes further than many autocracies.”

Snowden in 2013 revealed the scale of mass surveillance – or bulk data collection as the security agencies prefer to describe it – by the US National Security Agency and the UK’s GCHQ, which work in tandem.

But, against a backdrop of fears of Islamist attacks, the privacy lobby has failed to make much headway. Even in Germany, with East Germany’s history of mass surveillance by the Stasi and where Snowden’s revelations produced the most outcry, the Bundestag recently passed legislation giving the intelligence agencies more surveillance powers.

The US passed a modest bill last year curtailing bulk phone data collection but the victory of Donald Trump in the US presidential election is potentially a major reverse for privacy advocates. On the campaign trail, Trump made comments that implied he would like to use the powers of the surveillance agencies against political opponents.

The Liberal Democrat peer Lord Strasburger, one of the leading voices against the investigatory powers bill, said: “We do have to worry about a UK Donald Trump. If we do end up with one, and that is not impossible, we have created the tools for repression. If Labour had backed us up, we could have made the bill better. We have ended up with a bad bill because they were all over the place.

“The real Donald Trump has access to all the data that the British spooks are gathering and we should be worried about that.”

The Investigatory Powers Act legalizes powers that the security agencies and police had been using for years without making this clear to either the public or parliament. In October, the investigatory powers tribunal, the only court that hears complaints against MI6, MI5 and GCHQ, ruled that they had been unlawfully collecting massive volumes of confidential personal data without proper oversight for 17 years.

One of the negative aspects of the legislation is that it fails to provide adequate protection for journalists’ sources, which could discourage whistle blowing.

One of the few positives in the legislation is that it sets out clearly for the first time the surveillance powers available to the intelligence services and the police. It legalizes hacking by the security agencies into computers and mobile phones and allows them access to masses of stored personal data, even if the person under scrutiny is not suspected of any wrongdoing.

Privacy groups are challenging the surveillance powers in the European court of human rights and elsewhere.

Jim Killock, the executive director of Open Rights Group, said: “The UK now has a surveillance law that is more suited to a dictatorship than a democracy. The state has unprecedented powers to monitor and analyse UK citizens’ communications regardless of whether we are suspected of any criminal activity.”

Renate Samson, the chief executive of Big Brother Watch, said: “The passing of the investigatory powers bill has fundamentally changed the face of surveillance in this country. None of us online are now guaranteed the right to communicate privately and, most importantly, securely.”

Trump’s victory started speculation that, given his warm words for Vladimir Putin, he might do a deal with the Russian president to have Snowden sent back to the US where he faces a long jail sentence. Snowden has lived in Russia since leaking tens of thousands of documents to journalists in 2013.

But Bill Binney, a former member of the NSA who became a whistleblower, expressed skepticism: “I am not sure if the relationship a President Trump would have with President Putin would be bad for Snowden.

“In Russia, he would still be an asset that maybe Putin would use in bargaining with Trump. Otherwise, Snowden does have a large support network around the world plus in the US and Trump may not want to disturb that. Also, I think any move to get Snowden out of Russia and into US courts would also open up support for at least three other lawsuits against the US government’s unconstitutional surveillance.”

from the guardian:
'Extreme surveillance' becomes UK law with barely a whimper
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