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Canada's proposed Internet surveillance was back in the news last week after speculation grew that government intends to keep the bill in legislative limbo until it dies on the order paper. Public Safety Minister Vic Toews denied the reports, maintaining that Bill C-30 will still be sent to committee for further study. My weekly technology law column reveals that behind the scenes, Canada's telecom companies have worked actively with government officials to identify key issues and to develop a secret Industry - Government Collaborative Forum on Lawful Access.
The secret working group includes virtually all the major telecom and cable companies, whose representatives have been granted Government of Canada Secret level security clearance and signed non-disclosure agreements. The group is led by Bell Canada on the industry side and Public Safety for the government. It is designed to create an open channel for discussion between telecom providers and government. As the uproar over Bill C-30 was generating front-page news across the country, Bell reached out to government to indicate that "it was working its way through C-30 with great interest" and expressed desire for a meeting to discuss disclosure of subscriber information. A few weeks later, it sent another request seeking details on equipment obligations to assist in its costing exercises.
At a September 2011 meeting that included Bell Canada, Cogeco, RIM, Telus, Rogers, Microsoft, and the Information Technology Association of Canada, government officials provided a lawful access regulations policy document that offered guidance on plans for extensive regulations that will ultimately accompany the Internet surveillance legislation. The 17-page document indicates that providers will be required to disclose certain subscriber information without a warrant within 48 hours and within 30 minutes in exceptional circumstances. Interceptions of communications may also need to be established within 30 minutes of a request with capabilities that include simultaneous interceptions for five law enforcement agencies.