Government changes tune on ISP lawful access

Last week I blogged about a semi-secret consultation by Public Safety Canada on Internet Service Providers and lawful access. In other words, PSC was looking at ways of compelling ISPs to disclose their users' names, addresses and other identifiers to law enforcement. The blogosphere was quick to point out this idea is completely stupid, as is a 'consultation' that excludes numerous privacy stakeholders including civil liberties advocates. Some typical blog reactions can be found here and here. And oh, how the government flip-flopped. First, PSC said they would post the consultation document online and extend the consultation period. Then, PSC Minister Stockwell Day did a complete 180 and announced there would be no ISP disclosure without a warrant.

Said Day:

"We have not and we will not be proposing legislation to grant police the power to get information from Internet companies without a warrant. That's never been a proposal. It may make some investigations more difficult, but our expectation is rights to our privacy are such that we do not plan, nor will we have in place, something that would allow the police to get that information."

Among the many conclusions that can be drawn from this sordid little episode is that PSC knew ISP lawful access was a sensitive issue, and tried to sneak a little legislative change past Canada's Internet users. Once their little scheme was sniffed out by some vigilant media-types (credit mostly to Michael Geist), they had to scupper the whole thing. I'm not sure what's worse: that our government tries to be sneaky, or that they're so bloody bad at it.