Canada’s ruling Conservative party is considering a new law — Bill C-52 — that gives law enforcement authorities greater access to ISP and geolocation data without a warrant. If the bill passes, police authorities requests for information Internet providers have about their customers must be honored. Such information includes, but is not limited to: e-mail address, telephone numbers, street address, data identifying the physical location of mobile phones, device unique identifiers and more.

It invites the question, “Oh Canada, where are your personal freedoms going?”

This isn’t the first time, however, that this bill was presented. Bill C-52 was introduced in the last parliament, but failed to pass. Now the Investigating and Preventing Criminal Electronic Communications Act, to give the law its full name, is being presented again in hopes that the citizenry has become more concerned about crime and terrorism than it is about privacy and liberty.

Columnist Lawrence Martin has been closely following this legistlation in The Globe and Mail, where he pointed out that the bill “will compel Internet service providers to disclose customer information to authorities without a court order. In other words — blunter words — law enforcement agencies will have a freer hand in spying on the private lives of Canadians.”

If passed, Canada’s privacy act would put it in at the same limited freedom level as countries like Bahrain, Eritrea, Libya, Malaysia and the United Arab Emirates, based on guidelines determined by Reporters Without Borders (RSF – Reporters sans frontieres).

Civil rights advocates and academics have expressed their concerns to Prime Minister in a letter, calling the bill a way to “spy on their activities further to production and preservation orders […] a form of spying that is bound to have serious chilling effects on online activity and communications, implicating fundamental rights and freedoms.”

There are no predictions yet on whether this bill will pass.

Related Links:

The Globe and Mail

The Mark guest editorial –

Letter from Privacy Commissioner –

Letter to Prime Minister Harper from digital rights advocates (PDF) –

Bill 52 –

Photo by flickr user alexindigo, used under Creative Commons license