‘Lawful Access’ refers to legislation or government policies that extend authorities’ powers to access communication data. Authorities can include a range of state actors, including security and intelligence services, policing bodies, ‘peace officers’ (e.g. sheriff, warden), or designated government regulatory organizations. In Canada, recent legislative efforts would have expanded the powers held by peace officers, policing groups, Canadian Security and Intelligence Services (CSIS), and the Competition Bureau.
These changes to law and policy are traditionally associated with three kinds of access powers: search and seizure provisions, interception of private communications, and the mandatory production of subscriber data. Search and seizure provisions govern the warrant requirements for searching individuals or property or to lawfully seize evidence. Interception provisions govern the live capture of communications, which can include audio-, video-, and text-based communications formats. Modifying production order powers can affect the ease by which authorities can collect billing information about individuals from service providers, as well as information that can subsequently be used to ‘stitch together’ disparate online communications. In an Internet context, this information might include IP addresses, unique mobile device identifiers, email addresses, or pseudonyms that a subscriber might have registered with the service provider.
Lawful access powers were comprehensively tabled by the federal government in February 2012 as Bill C-30 “Protecting Children from Internet Predators Act.” The legislation was subsequently killed in February 2013 prior to advancing to Committee hearings. The following summarizes some of the ways that surveillance capacities could have, specifically, been expanded under this lawful access legislation:
Together, these powers expand the capacity of authorities legally to access citizens’ and residents’ communications from online service providers such as social networking companies, mobile device providers, and Internet service providers. Lawful access legislation that has been put forward by successive federal governments of Canada that would have affected each of these industries.