According to a new bill introduced in Canada, Internet service providers will have to dig deep into their own pockets in order to acquire, install and maintain "intercept-capable" equipment. The bill also makes it very clear that subscriber information must be released to law enforcement in a timely manner, without the need of warrants.
Speaking about the bill, Public Safety Minister Peter Van Loan said that it did not increase the wiretapping powers of the police, but rather adapted the older legal framework to the new technological reality. Law enforcement agencies are already able to request the interception of communications based on a warrant, a requirement that will also be kept under the new proposed legislation.
However, the major problem was not the ability of law enforcement to request wiretapping, but the ability of providers to answer such requests. Many of them lack the necessary technology to intercept communications, thus becoming safe havens for outlaws. "They identify them and gravitate towards them to exploit them and continue their criminal activities undetected, out of the reach of the investigative powers of law enforcement," Minister Van Loan commented, according to CBC.
The matter of releasing customer information to the authorities was a subject of certain unclarity in the past, something that this new bill tries to address. Some ISPs were cooperating fairly well with law enforcement and were releasing subscriber information without being served with a warrant, while others feared that, if they did it, they could be sued under the Privacy Act.
Law enforcement officials expressed satisfaction with the bill, but representatives for the ISPs were not that happy. Their main concern was implementation costs, which could prove devastating for some smaller businesses. The government is ready to provide "reasonable compensations," but the ISPs will generally have to pay for the new equipment themselves. If the bill passes, companies will have 18 months to comply with its requirements, but the ones with under 100,000 subscribers will benefit from a three-year exemption.
A different bill introduced this week will require ISPs to preserve data related to certain communications or subscribers relevant to police investigations, based on a preservation order. The data can be later obtained through a production order or warrant. This doesn't pose any serious technical problems for ISPs, and is similar to the legislation in most Western countries.