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RCMP: Warrantless Access to Data Would 'Certainly Assist’ New Cyber Crime Unit

The RCMP's new cyber crime strategy includes a push for new investigative tools.
Image: Flickr/Bobby Hiddy

The Royal Canadian Mounted Police will soon have a new cyber crime unit at their disposal, and according to Canada's top police force, they need new tools to fight online crime.

Those tools may include warrantless access to your data, and the ability to circumvent encryption technologies that shield users' messages from spying.

The RCMP announced the creation of the new unit, and a new cyber crime strategy, in a press conference with reporters on Wednesday. According to Chief Superintendent Jeff Adam, the unit will investigate "high-profile" cases with "national implications" and work closely with domestic and international partners. The initiative will be fully in place by 2020.


Part of the RCMP's new cyber crime strategy is to support the "modernization" of Canada's laws relating to investigating cybercrime, and the success of this initiative will be judged by whether or not it results in new "investigative legal tools" for police. According to Adam, this will entail the RCMP providing their "perspective" to legislators on things like warrantless access to user data, and the use of encryption technologies.

"Some of the barriers [are] access to information, both due to encryption, location and jurisdiction, and our identification of the persons who may or may not be involved in that criminal activity," Adam said, when pushed on what the RCMP's "perspective" is. "Any and all of those access will determine our success in cyber crime fighting."

"We will take the advice and follow the guidance of the government"

"We are committed to exploring […] how Canadians expect the police to enforce the laws on the internet, and one of those may or may not be warrantless access," Adam said. "It would certainly assist in some areas, but we will take the advice and follow the guidance of the government."

Adam noted that "going dark," a phrase popular with US law enforcement that refers to concerns regarding police's ability to investigate encrypted communications, is a specific concern for the RCMP.

Canada's police have been pushing for new investigative powers relating to cyber crime for a while now. In August, the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police adopted a resolution supporting the creation of laws that would afford police "real-time" access to customer information held by internet service providers. In November, RCMP Commissioner Rob Paulson said that he was "all for warrantless access to subscriber info."

This kind of change would invalidate a 2014 Supreme Court decision that ruled police need a warrant to access subscriber information.

The RCMP's new cyber crime unit will receive $30 million in funding over five years, Adam said, and will create 40 new positions for officers and civilian computer crime experts.