Both Rogers and TekSavvy, two telecom companies in Canada, have made it clear to the Canadian government they don’t see a justification for expanded police surveillance powers. The current Liberal government had issued a discussion paper considering an expansion of surveillance power for police. The new powers would include warrantless access to customer IP information, having telecom companies build back-doors to intercept communications, storing customer data, and building backdoors into encryption. As of yet the government has not provided adequate explanation or justification for the powers. The surveillance infrastructure has grown immensely since the days of the Cold War but this seemingly slavish devotion to the logic that expanded surveillance will keep people safe is wearing thin. It presents itself as a quicker and easier way to gather intelligence but is increasingly becoming a booming industry in and of itself more than a solution to keeping people safer as the targets of such surveillance seem to be, more often than not, law abiding citizens.
The surveillance of the internet and phone systems has grown so dramatically and is so well known, it is hard to contemplate that any would be terrorist or foreign espionage agent worth their salt would be broadcasting their plans out in the open. Encryption back-doors serve to benefit not only intelligence agencies but also hackers and those engaged in cyber-espionage attacks. All too often we are now seeing individual attacks with minimal planning but that can still generate headlines of the kind that have recently occurred in Jordon, Turkey and Germany. Expanded internet surveillance offers no protection against this. If the powers are needed the government has to justify them. Telling the public there are bad people in the world or that Canada’s allies have similar powers isn’t good enough. If the case can’t be made then the expanded powers should be reconsidered. Lawmakers would be wise to remember that hard cases make bad laws.