Skip to comments.'Creepy' law clears way to track you via laptop, cellphone
Posted on 09/06/2005 4:35:54 PM PDT by Still Thinking
Surveillance bill also makes it easier for police to get warrants
Police and security agencies would be able to surreptitiously track unwitting Canadians via their cellphones, BlackBerries and laptop computers, even when the devices are turned off or their location features are disabled, under a "creepy" measure contemplated as part of the federal government's planned electronic surveillance bill.
The government made the proposal during consultations this year on a legislative package that is anticipated to be unveiled in the fall. The proposal, which was raised by justice officials with groups consulted by the government, would amend the Criminal Code to expand the types of "tracking devices" available to police under a warrant.
The definition of a "tracking device" would be changed to include a computer program, in addition to any other device that can be used to help identify the location of any thing or person.
The new definition of tracking device would take in such ubiquitous products as laptops with wireless Internet connections, cellphones with global positioning systems, and wireless personal digital assistants.
"What they are talking about clearly is devices which have an active and a passive component in the sense that the active component could be controllable by the user who could turn the machine on or off, but the passive device will be built in and accessible to police," said Richard Rosenberg, a retired University of British Columbia computer science professor and board member of the B.C. Civil Liberties Association.
"I think the assumption is that we should be trackable whether we want to or not," said Mr. Rosenberg. "It's very creepy. We will be in a society where we will have this incredible density of interconnections which will make it almost impossible to ... exercise what I think is one of our basic rights, which is anonymity in a free and democratic society."
Mr. Rosenberg said it is possible to build devices that retain select functions, even when they seem to be completely turned off. "There's no reason it couldn't happen because it's not a big complex thing to do," he explained.
Police are able to obtain warrants for tracking devices much more easily than for other types of electronic surveillance such as wiretaps.
To get a warrant for a tracking device, police need only convince a justice of the peace they have "reasonable suspicion" an offence has been or will be committed, and the tracking order would help their investigation. By contrast, for other types of surveillance, authorities must at least demonstrate to a justice of the peace they have "reasonable and probable grounds to believe" that an offence has been or will be committed, and information relevant to that offence will become available via the surveillance.
Vancouver lawyer Greg DelBigio, vice-chairman of the national criminal law section of the Canadian Bar Association, said computers and cellphones may reveal a lot more information than the types of tracking devices presently contemplated by the Criminal Code. His 34,000-lawyer association does not accept that such a serious erosion of privacy should be allowed simply on the basis of police "suspicion" a crime might be in the offing."Technology is rapidly making it increasingly difficult to remain anonymous within the world and retain privacy, despite positive steps one might take to protect these interests," Mr. DelBigio said. "We must ask: 'Just because the technology exists, is it the case that law enforcement should have access to the technology, or information available through that technology and, if so, in what circumstances and with what control?'"
Yup. Wrap them in foil.
Just tape your phone to the underside of a seat in an express bus to Nova Scotia, then go buy a new disposable phone at the 7-11.
A very real threat. I've met an engineer who has built prototype Faraday cages for cell phones and PDAs (stylish too) and have production facilities lined up in Taiwan if this type of law passes in the USA. Even as it is for current laws within China, Canada and the UK, he might start production.
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