OTTAWA – The police chiefs of Canada urge the Trudeau government to sign a new electronic data exchange agreement with the United States to overcome obstacles in the fight against crimes, from fraud to cyber terrorism.
But the government and the federal Privacy Commissioner say that more consultation and research is needed to ensure adequate protection of personal information before such a move is made.
The Canadian Police Chiefs' Association recently adopted a resolution calling on the federal government to negotiate an updated sharing agreement with the US.
Control over cross-border access to information is one of the most pressing issues for law enforcement agencies.
The leaders see a chance for a virtual leap forward after Washington's signature of the Law of Clarifying Lawful Overseas Use or Data (CLOUD). The new law allows the US to enter into bilateral agreements with other countries to simplify the sharing of information on criminal cases, as long as the signatories have sufficient safeguards.
Leaders say current procedures present challenges in the age of cloud computing and mobile devices, including delays in getting information from other countries and the growing tendency of service providers to store data in different places around the world.
The heads point to two specific examples they invoke emphasizing the "inefficiencies and delays" caused by the legal mechanisms now in force for Canadian authorities seeking information from sources abroad.
In one case, Google records relating to a child pornography investigation were only received 14 months after filing a request for legal aid, which hindered both the prosecutor's and the defense's efforts. In another period, it took 22 months to receive only part of the requested Microsoft, Google and Yahoo records in a major fraud investigation.
The "cumbersome and time-consuming nature" of the legal assistance process does not meet the needs of investigations, the chiefs said in a background document to their resolution.
The document also states that the current system ignores the reality that not all states have specialized liaison offices to support the work of foreign police authorities.
The association is convinced that the American CLOUD Act would open the door to an effective agreement between Washington and Ottawa that would respect Canadian constitutional guarantees and "represent a major step forward" in the fight against crime.
The chiefs also encourage the government to address cross-border access to other countries through the Council of Europe Convention on Cybercrime, a framework for cooperation between more than 50 countries, including Canada.
The liberal government has consulted on cybersecurity, but there are not yet any key questions about how police and espionage agencies can access information that helps them resolve crimes in the digital domain without violating privacy or charter rights.
A spokesman for Ralph Goodale, Minister of Public Safety, said the federal government "recognizes that digital technologies are a challenge to law enforcement" and that it is committed to finding solutions that protect people while protecting personal privacy,
"We appreciate the input from the Canadians Association of Chiefs of Police on issues such as these," said Scott Bardsley.
"Given the complexity of this matter, involving different organizations and having privacy implications, extra time is needed to review both the general problem and the resolution."
Tobi Cohen, a spokesperson for privacy commissioner Daniel Therrien, said that while the watchdog has not yet studied the police chiefs proposal, alternative arrangements for the current international legal assistance process should not undermine privacy protection in Canadian law.
"Any new agreement for sharing information with the United States with privacy implications must be accompanied by consultation with our office," she said.
"We have also noted that international information exchange can lead to serious violations of human rights, and so impartial supervision, in the form of legal authorization for warrants and production orders, is crucial before sensitive personal information can be transferred. that the courts are best placed to balance the interests of the police and of individuals. "
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