For several months I and a handful of others in the Canadian privacy and security community have been mulling over what Bill C-30, better known as Canada’s ‘lawful access’ legislation, might mean for the future of encryption policy in Canada. Today, I’m happy to announce that one of the fruits of these conversation, a paper that I’ve been working on with Kevin McArthur, is now public. The paper, titled “Understanding the Lawful Access Decryption Requirement,” spends a considerable amount of time considering the potential implications of the legislation. Our analysis considers how C-30 might force companies to adopt key escrows, or decryption key repositories. After identifying some of the problems associated with these repositories, we suggest how to amend the legislation to ensure that corporations will not have to establish key escrows. We conclude by outlining the dangers of leaving the legislative language as it stands today. The full abstract, and download link, follows.
Canada’s lawful access legislation, Bill C-30, includes a section that imposes decryption requirements on telecommunications service providers. In this paper we analyze these requirements to conclude that they may force service providers to establish key escrow, or decryption key retention, programs. We demonstrate the significance of these requirements by analyzing the implications that such programs could have for online service providers, companies that provide client software to access cloud services, and the subscribers of such online services. The paper concludes by suggesting an amendment to the bill, to ensure that corporations will not have to establish escrows, and by speaking to the dangers of not implementing such an amendment.
Download paper at the Social Sciences Research Network
The Government of Canada has, at least temporarily, backed away from pushing through its tabled lawful access legislation. While many critiques of the legislation abound – some of which I’ve recently noted surrounding warrantless access to subscriber information – there have been limited critiques of the actual financial costs associated with the bill. While some public commentators have suggested that the legislation will threaten small Internet service providers’ financial viability, there has yet to be a formal, detailed, and public financial accounting of lawful access-related costs.
I’m incapable of offering this accounting. The same is true for every other Canadian, whether they are a government bureaucrat, private citizen, corporate agent, or government Minister, because the legislation itself remains murky. Thus, rather than suggest that the legislation will cost X dollars, in this post I outline why people cannot cost out the bill if they solely rely on existing public information.
I begin this post by quickly outlining what the Canadian government suggests that the legislation will cost. Having done so, I move to critique the origins of the government’s numbers. This entails first examining the issue of interception capabilities, second, of storage costs, and third, of the status of Telecommunication Service Providers’ existing lawful access capacities. I conclude by noting the lack of clarity surrounding C-30’s breadth and the need for clarity during the legislative, rather than regulation-setting, stage of the bill’s development.
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The most recent version of the Canadian Government’s lawful access legislation is upon us. The legislation expands the powers available to the police, imposes equipment- and training-related costs on Telecommunications Service Providers (TSPs), enables TSPs to voluntarily provide consumer information to authorities without a warrant, forces TSPs to provide subscriber data without warrant, and imposes gag orders on TSPs who comply with lawful access powers. Economic and civil rights costs are, as of yet, murky. Despite being an extremely lengthy piece of legislation, Bill C-30 lacks the specificity that should accompany serious expansions to Canadian policing and intelligence gathering powers.
In this post, I first outline a ‘subscriber data regime’ to discuss what does – and may – be entailed in accessing Canadians’ subscriber data. Second, I explain how subscriber data can be used for open-sourced intelligence gathering. Third, I argue that an administrative process of expanding subscriber identifiers is inappropriate. Finally, I articulate why warrants are so important, and why court approval should precede access to subscriber data. In aggregate, this post explicates the concerns that many civil advocates, academics, and technical experts have with access to subscriber information, why Canadians should be mindful of these concerns, and why Canadians should rebuff current efforts to expand warrantless access to subscriber information.
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Last year I was approached by the founder and editor in chief of The Winston Report to update and publish one of my postings on Canada’s forthcoming lawful access legislation. The Report is the quarterly journal of the Canadian Association of Professional Access and Privacy Administrators (CAPAPA). The updated piece that I contributed is more compact than what I originally wrote on this site, though I think that this makes it a stronger, more direct piece. I want to publicly thank Sharon Polsky for the opportunity that she provided to me, and for being so kind as to position my piece as the lead featured article in the Winter edition of the journal. I also want to thank my tireless editor, Joyce Parsons, for her incredible work strengthening my prose. A preprint version of my contribution, which retained a creative-commons license as part of my agreement with the editor in chief, is made available to you below under the normal Creative Commons Attribution, Noncommercial 2.5 Canada license.
Download pre-print .pdf version of (Un)Lawful Access: Its Potentials, and its Lack of Necessity.
Canadian advocates, government officials, and scholars are all concerned about the forthcoming lawful access legislation. A key shared concern is that authorities could, under the legislation, access telecommunications subscription records without court oversight. Moreover, as a condition of accessing these records businesses might be served with gag orders. Such orders would prevent Canadians from ever knowing (outside of court!) that the government had collected large swathes of information about them. In response to concerns aired in public, the Public Safety Minister has insisted that the legislation would merely let police access “phone book” information from telecommunications providers.
I maintain that such assertions obfuscate the sheer amount of information contained in the records that authorities would collect. The aim of this post is to make clear just how much information is contained in a single lawful access “phone record”, demonstrating that the government is seeking information that grossly exceeds what is contained in the white or yellow pages today. As a result, I first provide an example phone record that resembles those in every phonebook in Canada and then offer an example of a lawful access record. Remember that such requests may be filed to multiple service providers (e.g. Internet service provider, web forum hosts, blogs, mobile phone companies, etc) and thus a swathe of records can be combined to generate a comprehensive picture of any particular individual. By the conclusion of the post it should be evident that information provided under lawful access powers is more expansive than the phone records government ministers allude to and lay bare those ministers’ technical obfuscations.
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Different countries have different privacy laws, and different attitudes towards what should be counted as private information. As Peter Fleischer rightly notes, this often means that citizens of various nation-states are often confused about their digital privacy protections – in part because of the influx of foreign culture (and the presumed privacy standards in those media) – and consequently are unaware of their nation’s privacy resources, or lack thereof.
Google Corporation has recently begun to suggest that a global data protection system has to be implemented. In his private blog (which isn’t necessarily associated with his work with Google) Fleischer notes that,
…citizens lose out because they are unsure about what rights they have given the patchwork of competing regimes, and the cost of compliance for businesses risks chilling economic activity. Governments often struggle to find any clear internationally recognised standards on which to build their privacy legislation.
The ultimate goal should be to create minimum standards of privacy protection that meet the expectations and demands of consumers, businesses and governments. Such standards should be relevant today yet flexible enough to meet the needs of an ever changing world. Such standards must also respect the value of privacy as an innate dimension of the individual . . . we should work together to devise a set of standards that reflects the needs of a truly globalised world. That gives each citizen certainty about the rules affecting their data, and the ability to manage their privacy according to their needs. That gives businesses the ability to work within one framework rather than dozens. And that gives governments clear direction about internationally recognised standards, and how they should be applied. (Source)
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