OTTAWA – A new administrative scheme that would allow police to obtain basic information about Internet subscribers without a warrant is one option being considered by federal officials following a landmark Supreme Court ruling that curbed access to such data, Canadian police chiefs say.
A researcher who has long pressed for more transparency around police access to subscriber data said Monday that law-enforcement agencies have yet to make the case for warrantless access – especially since companies can make information available quickly in a genuine emergency.
“We’re not at a point where it’s clear the police have a legitimate concern,” said Christopher Parsons, a postdoctoral fellow with the Citizen Lab at Toronto’s Munk School of Global Affairs.
In June last year, the Supreme Court ruled police need judicial authorization to obtain subscriber data linked to online activities. The high court rejected the notion the federal privacy law governing companies allowed them to hand over subscriber identities voluntarily.
The court judgment came amid swelling public concern about authorities quietly gaining access to customer information with little evident scrutiny or oversight.
Parsons wants police to release more statistical information about their requests. “They actually have to make the argument with data, so we can have an evidence-based policy discussion.”
He would also like to see civil society groups and others included in the discussions about possible legislative change.