Wiretapping Coming to Canada? Another Fine Mess...

Yesterday, the Globe & Mail ran a front page story about the federal government pushing for telcos to bring wiretap capabilities to all forms of networked communications, whether it be voice, Internet or email. Whoa! This is so.... un-Canadian. This is the land of legalized pot and gay marriage - huh?

In spirit, sure, I can see wanting something comparable to CALEA in this post-9/11 era. After all, Canada has been accused - rightly or wrongly - of being a safe haven for terrorists, among other things. And we're one of the few Western countries not yet touched by any ugly terrorist incidents, so Ottawa wants to be proactive. OK - better safe than sorry - now THAT'S Canadian.

The fact that this made front page news should say a lot about how extreme this notion is. Looks like the feds really want to make a statement here, and go for everything. Looks draconian to me, and I suspect their motives have more to do with desperation in an election year (where the Liberals chances of re-election are not great) than serving the public good.

As the article points out, Canada certainly lags other countries in terms of wiretap capability, but the blanket coverage proposed is a real incursion on privacy, bordering on Big Brother. It's not surprising, then that this will become hotly debated.

One of the nice things about the Globe's online versions of their articles is the reader comments that follow it. One of them correctly noted that applications like Skype will be very difficult - if not impossible - to monitor, and there are so many ways to work around wiretap with today's mushrooming communications technologies. They'd have to invest an awful lot to come up with leading edge solutions to really cover all the angles, and at that point, I can't imagine how you'd justify the expense. Are we in that much danger???

What I find most interesting is the government's out-of-the-blue strong position on this issue - trying to look like they're embracing new technology and taking a leading edge approach to the situation. It's so contrary to their views on other telecom issues, which are doing nothing to make Canada look world class, namely VoIP regulation, lack of wireless number portability, and waffling over satellite radio. To me, the brashness of their thinking on wiretap just adds to the list - another fine mess they've gotten us into...