SURFERS BEWARE: SURVEILLANCE AHEAD
Federal government expected to revive Internet
monitoring bill: Bell Sympatico
Michael Hammond, CP; CanWest News Service contributed
to this report
Published: Wednesday, June
One of Canada's largest Internet service providers
is warning customers that the federal government is expected to revive an Internet surveillance bill.
If the legislation is reintroduced, it could allow police unfettered
access to personal data without a warrant, experts warn.
Bell Sympatico has informed its customers that it intends
to "monitor or investigate content or your use of your service provider's networks and to disclose any information necessary
to satisfy any laws, regulations or other governmental request."
Their new customer service agreement is a clear signal the telecommunications
industry expects the Conservative government to revive the surveillance law, said Michael Geist, an Internet law professor
at the University of Ottawa.
"Everybody expects it's going to be reintroduced," Geist said.
Melisa Leclerc, a spokesperson for Public Safety Minister Stockwell Day,
said no decision has been made on the bill, known as the Modernization of Investigative Techniques Act.
But Leclerc noted Day has spoken to telecom industry officials about
bringing it forward as early as the fall session.
"We're working on it," she said.
The act originally was introduced by the Liberals last November, but
died on the Commons order paper when their minority government fell shortly after.
Last August, then-Justice Minister Irwin Cotler told CanWest News Service
that law enforcement agencies have lagged behind as use of the worldwide Web exploded over the last decade.
Cotler said the Liberal government of the time wanted to put police and
security forces on a "level playing field.
"Criminals and terrorists are making use of the most sophisticated technology,"
Cotler said. "They have become experts, frankly, in trans-border communications and transportation technology."
Surveillance laws in the United
States sparked controversy recently after several newspapers reported the U.S. Treasury Department
has been secretly monitoring online banking activities to track terrorist financing.
Geist said Bell's new customer service agreement shows that Canadian
telecommunications companies already are preparing to comply with new online surveillance legislation.
Bell Sympatico did not return calls requesting an interview.
Geist says he fears police will be able to demand customer information
from Internet providers without having to make a case before a judge, opening the door to an abuse of civil rights.
The recent arrest of 17 men in the Toronto area on terrorism charges proves Canada
already has effective law enforcement tools, Geist said.