Ever since the Canadian Supreme Court declared law enforcement needed a warrant or court order to obtain ISP subscriber data, Canadian cops have been complaining. What used to be an “informal” process that required “five minutes” of paperwork (and led to law enforcement requesting ISP user data every 27 seconds), now apparently takes up to “ten hours” and is apparently damn near impossible to complete.
As a result, law enforcement has
been forced decided to drop cases in which it couldn’t put together enough probable cause to secure a warrant or court order. For some reason, the affected agencies seem to feel this is indicative of a broken system, rather than the way it always should have been. If an officer doesn’t have enough agency to justify a request for subscriber data, does he or she really have enough information to justify a continued investigation?
The Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) were the first to complain about the warrant requirement, circulating a memo late last year that declared the ruling was probably resulting in dropped cases — although this claim also seemed to be short on supporting information.
“Evidence is limited at this early stage, but some cases have already been abandoned by the RCMP as a result of not having enough information to get a production order to obtain (basic subscriber information),” the memo says.
Apparently, this round of complaints didn’t gain enough traction to motivate legislators to undercut the Supreme Court decision. So, law enforcement officials are trying again, but this time they’re using one of the cheapest and most overused rhetorical ploys: child molesters/pornographers going unarrested.
An RCMP spokesman confirmed the court decision has hampered the ability of police to track down Internet child abusers.
The ruling “has added extra administrative steps to such investigations by requiring police to obtain production orders for basic subscriber information,” said Sgt. Harold Pfleiderer.
“Now, investigations of online child exploitation usually take more time. In many cases, there is insufficient information for police to obtain a production order even with the jurisdictional request information.”
When Pfleiderer says “administrative,” he’s actually referring to the minimal efforts officers must make to ensure the civil liberties of Canadian citizens aren’t violated. To him, it’s just extra paperwork. To the rest of the nation, it’s nothing more than what they’ve generally expected from their service providers when dealing with data requests: that it won’t be handed over without justification.
The RCMP want legislators to pave it an unimpeded path to subscriber data — something the Court’s decision noted was a remedy (of sorts) for law enforcement agencies who felt being asked to respect the rights of others was too much of a burden. And nothing prompts legislators to act quickly and inconsiderately like claiming an untold number of pedophiles are wandering the nation completely unarrested.
The Supreme Court ruling suggested the government could pass a “reasonable” law to allow police to obtain basic subscriber information from ISPs, but a spokesman for Public Safety Minister Steven Blaney indicated that is not yet in the works.
“Our government is currently reviewing the decision,” said Jeremy Laurin.
Adding to the stupidity, a top online porn cop paraphrases Dirty Harry to suggest some citizens should have fewer rights than others, even while still in the mostly-speculative part of an investigation.
“It’s creating a lag in our investigations,” said Sgt. Maureen Bryden of the Ottawa police online porn unit. “It’s taking more time for us to get to the serious investigations.”
“Whose rights do you really think are more important?” she said, criticizing the Supreme Court ruling. “The victim child that’s being sexually exploited? Or the offender?”
Oh, I’d say they’re equally important. The same court decision that “protects” child molesters also protects the millions of Canadian citizens who’ve never committed a criminal act in their lives. But the police want suspects to have fewer rights, even if it means those who aren’t suspects end up with fewer privacy protections.
Bryden cites a “lag” and other quotes say cases can’t be prioritized effectively to allow the pursuit of sexual offenders. But looking at the actual numbers blows any claims about workloads or priorities right out of the water. In 2011, Canadian law enforcement filed nearly 1.2 million requests for subscriber data. The 2013 stats quoted in this article cite a 50% drop off in requests related to child exploitation cases from 2013’s high of 1,038. Somewhere in between there — if request numbers remained largely flat (rather than escalating) from year-to-year — that’s still nearly 1.2 million requests for data every year that have nothing to do with Canadian law enforcement’s sudden foremost concern. I think there’s plenty of room left for shifting man-hours towards preventing child exploitation — even with the warrant requirement.