Liberal MP responds to concerns about BlackBerry security bill


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A little while ago, we wrote about a proposed bill by MP Marlene Jennings regarding forcing smartphone manufacturers to allow their devices to be infiltrated by police and government. BlackBerry Cool wrote about the article in the hopes of shedding light on the fact that decreasing security measures on these devices could have a negative impact on their ability to sell to high end enterprise and government clients that require a great deal of device security. Marlene Jennings replied to our concerns.

Ottawa, April 1, 2009

Dear BlackBerry Cool,

Thank you for your letter on my private member’s bill, C-285, The Modernization of Investigative Techniques Act (MITA). I appreciate especially hearing from someone like yourself, Mr. McInnes, who is an expert in the high tech field.

Let me just say at the outset that I have received similar feedback to what you sent me, and I am not taking your concerns with my bill lightly.

First, a bit of background on why I am proposing this measure.

Ever since they were first elected in January 2006, the Conservative government has promised to bring in legislation to deal with the ability of Canadian law enforcement agencies to investigate crime and terrorism in the face of rapidly evolving communications technology. The Conservatives have continually promised that such legislation would be ready in “a matter of weeks”. Three years have passed, and the Conservatives have still done nothing.

I tabled MITA in 2007 – and then re-tabled it in 2009 – in the attempt to spur the government into action. We need to find ways to combat criminal activities that far too often go undetected under the cover of impenetrable technology.

My private member’s bill, C-285, would require telephone and internet service providers to include an interception capability in the new technologies they use. This bill would thus reduce the ability of criminals, organized crime members and child pornographers (to name but a few) to use sophisticated technologies to carry out their criminal activities undetected. MITA doesn’t at all change the current requirement that law enforcement officers must obtain court authorizations in order to lawfully intercept communications.

I believe government must have a smart strategy on crime, one that is efficient, integrated and respectful of individual rights. Interception of criminal organizations using the internet to conduct their illegal activities requires an intelligent approach. This is, I hope, exactly what my bill proposes.

Are there parts of my bill that could raise controversy? Yes, I want MITA to stimulate debate and discussion of all its component parts. I am entirely open to well-reasoned arguments. That could mean whole sections proposed in MITA be completely removed, like for instance the measures proposed that would allow for the release of individuals’ basic contact information (name, address, telephone or cell phone number or IP address) without requiring court authorization.

Let the debate begin and may good, effective, efficient legislation result, one that carefully and properly balances individual privacy rights with the right to live securely and in safety.


Marlene Jennings

Hon. Marlene Jennings, P.C., M.P.