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Thank you Supreme Court of Canada for slapping some sense into the Harper government

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Online privacy decision means 'back to the drawing board' for Tories

By Laura Payton, CBC News


The Conservative government is going to have to go "back to the drawing board" on its cyberbullying and digital privacy legislation following Friday's Supreme Court decision, the head of the Canadian Civil Liberties Association says.

Sukanya Pillay, the executive director of the Canadian Civil Liberties Association, said the Supreme Court decision affirming privacy rights will affect legislation in front of Parliament that would enshrine warrantless access powers and protect businesses that turn over customer information to police.

"This decision is basically saying you can't do that," Pillay said in an interview with CBC News.

"I think that they will have to take it back to the drawing board. I think that this decision sends a clear signal that warrantless access is not allowed."

A number of groups have raised concerns about Bill C-13, which the Conservatives refer to as the cyberbullying bill, but which includes a number of elements from the controversial Bill C-30 that aimed to expand police internet search powers. Privacy experts and others have also raised concerns about Bill S-4, the digital privacy act, which would update the Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act, or PIPEDA.

Police say they need the powers laid out in the cyberbullying bill, which many have recommended the government split so that the privacy issues can be dealt with separately.

Court plugged 'huge accountability gap'

The ruling allows for warrantless access under certain circumstances where there isn't time to get a warrant, Pillay said, if there's a risk of imminent harm

"The Supreme Court of Canada has recognized that, look, there's a huge accountability gap here and they've plugged it, and that's fantastic," she said.

The Canadian Civil Liberties Association​ is challenging the provision in PIPEDA that allows for warrantless access.

The ruling means there would be a day or two delay in investigations, Sgt. François D'Aoust said. D'Aoust works in the Ottawa Police Service's Internet Child Exploitation Unit.

"I was a little bit disappointed in the Supreme Court of Canada's decision today," he said.

"However, we have to respect the decision of the Supreme Court of Canada and we will make it work and we will continue to investigate and arrest these predators."

Will 'certainly slow down' investigations

D'Aoust said the Ottawa police make about two requests a week to internet service providers. The police usually get the information from the ISPs within a day or two, he said. Having to draft a warrant and have it signed by a justice of the peace or judge could double that time.

"It'll certainly slow down many of our investigations, however, we will develop new policies and new procedures that will ensure that it will not affect any future cases," D'Aoust said.

Spokespeople for Justice Minister Peter MacKay and Industry Minister James Moore said the government is reviewing the ruling.

Daniel Therrien, the newly appointed privacy commissioner, said in a statement that he encourages parliamentarians to "carefully consider the implications of this ruling," which he said are important.

"In particular, [the ruling] confirms that an immunity clause that protects a person who voluntarily discloses personal information to police does not in itself constitute any 'lawful authority' for the state to obtain that information under Canada’s federal private sector privacy legislation," Therrien said.

Online privacy decision means 'back to the drawing board' for Tories - Politics - CBC News
 
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