The federal privacy watchdog is trying to help the Conservative government find a compromise in its contentious bid to bolster Internet surveillance powers.
A blueprint solicited by the privacy commissioner's office proposes new procedures to give police and spies key information about Internet users while retaining the principle of judicial oversight, a memo obtained under the Access to Information Act shows.
The internal memo reveals assistant privacy commissioner Chantal Bernier asked University of Montreal law professor Karim Benyekhlef to come up with the proposal,"to help find a middle ground between security and privacy", following intense public outcry about the government's planned approach in Bill C-30.
The federal legislation would allow police, intelligence and Competition Bureau officers access to Internet subscriber information, including name, address, telephone number, email address and Internet protocol address, without a warrant. An IP address is the numeric label assigned to a computer on the Internet.
Currently, release of such data, held by Internet service providers, is voluntary.
Opponents of the bill say allowing authorities access to Internet subscriber information without a court-approved warrant would be a dangerous infringement of privacy because even that limited data can be revealing.
The privacy commissioner's office understands the challenges faced by law enforcement in fighting online crime "at a time of rapidly changing communications technologies and the need to modernize their tactics and tools accordingly," said Scott Hutchinson, a spokesman for the commissioner.
The office wanted to see whether there was a tool that would help authorities get judicial approval to obtain the information they want within desired time limits, he said in a written response to questions.
"Our office has thus far consulted with the Canadian Chiefs of Police on this document and we continue our analysis of this issue," Hutchinson said.