On Saturday, December 1, Frank Addario spoke at the Osgoode Professional Development 6th Annual National Symposium on Technology Crime and Electronic Evidence. The program featured a number of great speakers who provided up to the minute news on how cases are being investigated, prosecuted and defended using new technology. Much of the discussion focused on new cases and legislation, including Bill C-30.
On Frank’s panel, the much coveted 4:00 p.m. Saturday slot, he pointed out that when Canadians entrust privacy invasion powers to the state we expect that authority to be used judiciously. No Parliamentarian ever promotes a new law for its distorted use. Yet the award of ex parte investigative powers to the state inevitably leads to unexpected privacy invasion that the drafters never imagined. Our wiretap laws, abused regularly before the Charter of Rights gave judges new oversight authority, is a shining example of this rule of thumb.
The potential for privacy invasion increases in a technological age. Inarguably, the state must be able to detect and combat technology-based crimes. But giving the state the power to exploit technological advances that we don’t fully understand exacerbates the risk that it will intrude in our private lives in ways we could never foresee.
Thanks to quickly unfolding technological advancements, privacy interests look different today than ten years ago. For example, because telecommunications devices are a ubiquitous feature of modern life, state access to telecommunication records (a measure proposed by Bill C-30) would give the government the power to spy on the day-to-day activities of every Canadian. The solution is to maximize judicial oversight, reduce the ex parte powers in new laws and – above all – respect the lessons history has taught us about unchecked state power.