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Electronic Communications Interception and Privacy: Can the Imperatives of Privacy and National Security be Reconciled?

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University of Ottawa




This study is based on an examination of selected recent and contemporary developments in Canadian national security that have at their heart the practice of communications interception and that hold serious implications for privacy protection.

Part A examines the public reporting by the Commissioner of the Communications Security Establishment (CSE), the one window that Canadians have into the activities of one of Canada’s leading agencies for the collection of electronic communications.

Part B looks at the Canadian Cyber Security Strategy, released in 2010. As announced in the Strategy, a new office was created within Public Safety, called the Canadian Cyber Incident Response Centre (CCIRC), whose mandate and capabilities are only generally defined and which will operate without any form of external review.

Part C focuses attention on the deeply threaded insistence in the Perimeter Security and Economic Competitiveness Action Plan(announced December 11, 2011) on the achievement of enhanced intelligence sharing across a wide range of issues, including cyber security.

The final component of the study, Part D, examines the controversial draft legislation on “lawful access.” The study considers the relative merits for both national security and privacy protection of regulated versus unregulated plans for intercept capacity on the part of private sector “Telecom Service Providers” (TSPs) and government agents.

In the Conclusion the researcher suggests how the ramping up of electronic communications interception, a feature of the post 9/11 age of intelligence, can be accommodated alongside privacy protections with the right framework in place.

This document is available in the following language(s):

English only

OPC Funded Project

This project received funding support through the Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada’s Contributions Program. The opinions expressed in the summary and report(s) are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect those of the Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada. Summaries have been provided by the project authors. Please note that the projects appear in their language of origin.

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