‘Five eyes’ officials agree to seek to enable police access to private encrypted info



That is among several concrete measures that will be taken as a result of recent agreements reached by the attorneys general, and public safety and immigration ministers, of Canada, the United States, the U.K, Australia and New Zealand at their joint, and bilateral, meetings held on the Gold Coast and in Queensland Australia from Aug. 28 to 30.

The annual gathering of senior politicians fosters international legal co-operation and is worth watching because the ensuing agreements can spark important domestic law reform initiatives in Canada and its five eyes partners including, from this year’s agreement that there is an “urgent need for law enforcement to gain targeted access to [encrypted private] data, subject to strict safeguards, legal limitations and respective domestic consultations.”

Ralph Goodale

Sharing of government and other information across borders — a matter of practical concern for lawyers and their clients, as well as a red flag for civil libertarians — was a major focus at the meetings attended by federal Justice Minister Jody Wilson-Raybould, Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness Minister Ralph Goodale and Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Minister Ahmed Hussen.

“Increasing interconnection between serious and organized crime networks have globalized threats such as drugs, cybercrime, child exploitation, and financial crimes,” the ministers said, in explaining why they have instructed their officials to meet speedily to advise ministers on better information sharing and collaboration. (No date was available yet from the Department of Public Safety).

Of note to Canadian lawyers, who have for many years successfully resisted federal efforts to require them to report their clients’ dealings to the Financial Transactions and Reports Analysis Centre of Canada (FINTRAC), the ministers also agreed to support G20 and Financial Action Task Force (FATF) efforts to combat illicit finance “by increasing the transparency of legal persons and arrangements and enabling timely access to beneficial ownership information by law enforcement agencies.”

The issue of shell companies and transparency has become even more pressing in Canada due to recent concerns raised by legislators and police that organized crime will be trying to infiltrate the burgeoning licit cannabis industry.

“We also agreed to encourage collaboration between ‘five eyes’ financial intelligence units to enhance the sharing of intelligence and experience,” the ministers disclosed. “And we agreed to work closely with the private sector to promote the adequate and accurate collection of beneficial ownership information.”

On the contentious subject of creating “backdoors” for law enforcement to access encrypted private information, the ministers agreed to a “Statement of Principles on Access to Evidence and Encryption” that sets out a framework for discussion with industry on resolving the challenges to lawful access posed by encryption, while respecting human rights and fundamental freedoms.

The ministers went on to assert that their five countries “have no interest or intention to weaken encryption mechanisms. We recognize, however, that encryption, including end-to-end encryption, is also used in the conduct of terrorist and criminal activities. The inability of intelligence and law enforcement agencies to lawfully access encrypted data and communications poses challenges to law enforcement agencies’ efforts to protect our communities.”

Jody Wilson-Raybould

The ministers also agreed to share information with each other on illicit foreign interference within their countries. “In the event of a severe foreign interference incident within our sovereign nations, we agreed the five countries would co-ordinate on appropriate responses and attribution.”

The ministers also issued a lengthy list of demands for the digital industry to assist in countering the illicit use of online spaces, noting they “stand united” in their “commitment to protect our citizens from child predators, terrorists, violent extremists and other illicit actors. We are as determined to counter these threats online as we are to counter them in the physical world. We note with disappointment that senior digital industry leaders did not accept our invitation to engage on critical issues regarding the illicit use of online spaces at the 2018 Five Country Ministerial meeting. Nevertheless, we reiterate our determination to work together constructively to ensure our response is commensurate to the gravity of the threat. Our citizens expect online spaces to be safe, and are gravely concerned about illegal and illicit online content, particularly the online sexual exploitation of children. We stand united in affirming that the rule of law can and must prevail online.”

The ministers called on industry to proactively and innovatively address the illicit use of their platforms and applications. “Digital industry must take responsibility to reduce the availability of online terrorist and violent extremist content across all platforms and applications, and to do so comprehensively,” they said. “We are also increasingly seeing the use of online spaces to spread disinformation, sow division, and undermine our democratic institutions. The proliferation of interference activities and disinformation undermines the trust of citizens in online communications and information, delegitimizing the benefits and opportunities that communications and social media platforms create.”

They urged the digital industry to meet public expectations regarding online safety by:

  • Developing and implementing capabilities to prevent illegal and illicit content from ever being uploaded, and to execute urgent and immediate takedown where there is a failure to prevent upload.

  • Deploying human and automated capabilities to seek out and remove legacy content.

  • Acting on previous commitments to invest in automated capabilities and techniques (including photo DNA tools) to detect, remove and prevent reupload of illegal and illicit content, as well as content that violates a company’s terms of service.

  • Prioritizing the protection of the user by building user safety into the design of all online platforms and services, including new technologies before they are deployed.

  • Building upon successful hash sharing efforts to further assist in proactive removal of illicit content.

  • Setting ambitious industry standards, and increasing assistance to smaller companies in developing and deploying illicit content countermeasures.

  • Building and enhancing capabilities to counter foreign interference and disinformation.

  • Preventing live streaming of child sexual abuse on all platforms.

The ministers noted that they will jointly establish a senior officials group charged with monitoring industry progress on the ministers’ proposed actions on a quarterly basis and reporting back to governments. They also invited digital industry chief executive offices to update the ministers at their future five-country ministerial meetings.

“We recognize that governments also have a major role to play in addressing the spread of illicit content online,” their statement acknowledged. “We undertake to enhance information flows from government to industry, and work towards overcoming barriers to cross-sectoral collaboration. We agree to ensure our enforcement capabilities, including technical data such as hashes, can be shared with industry to support the development of scalable, Artificial Intelligence-driven solutions. Through the same innovation and cross-sectoral collaboration that has underpinned so many technological advances, the challenge of countering illicit online content is not insurmountable.”

Canada and the other “five eyes countries” are convening an “extraordinary” meeting of senior officials responsible for criminal justice, border protection and law enforcement with the aim of finding new ways to boost cross-border information sharing and their fight against “serious criminal threats.”That is among several concrete measures that will be taken as a result of recent agreements reached by the attorneys general, and public safety and immigration ministers, of Canada, the United States, the U.K, Australia and New Zealand at their joint, and bilateral, meetings held on the Gold Coast and in Queensland Australia from Aug. 28 to 30.The annual gathering of senior politicians fosters international legal co-operation and is worth watching because the ensuing agreements can spark important domestic law reform initiatives in Canada and its five eyes partners including, from this year’s agreement that there is an “urgent need for law enforcement to gain targeted access to [encrypted private] data, subject to strict safeguards, legal limitations and respective domestic consultations.”According to their official communique Aug. 30, the ministers of justice, immigration and public safety agreed to move together in many areas of legal import, including investigating and prosecuting foreign fighters and terrorist offenders; improving mechanisms to protect vulnerable witnesses; and countering foreign interference with their nations’ political processes and sovereignty.Sharing of government and other information across borders — a matter of practical concern for lawyers and their clients, as well as a red flag for civil libertarians — was a major focus at the meetings attended by federal Justice Minister Jody Wilson-Raybould, Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness Minister Ralph Goodale and Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Minister Ahmed Hussen.“Increasing interconnection between serious and organized crime networks have globalized threats such as drugs, cybercrime, child exploitation, and financial crimes,” the ministers said, in explaining why they have instructed their officials to meet speedily to advise ministers on better information sharing and collaboration. (No date was available yet from the Department of Public Safety).Of note to Canadian lawyers, who have for many years successfully resisted federal efforts to require them to report their clients’ dealings to the Financial Transactions and Reports Analysis Centre of Canada (FINTRAC), the ministers also agreed to support G20 and Financial Action Task Force (FATF) efforts to combat illicit finance “by increasing the transparency of legal persons and arrangements and enabling timely access to beneficial ownership information by law enforcement agencies.”The issue of shell companies and transparency has become even more pressing in Canada due to recent concerns raised by legislators and police that organized crime will be trying to infiltrate the burgeoning licit cannabis industry.“We also agreed to encourage collaboration between ‘five eyes’ financial intelligence units to enhance the sharing of intelligence and experience,” the ministers disclosed. “And we agreed to work closely with the private sector to promote the adequate and accurate collection of beneficial ownership information.”On the contentious subject of creating “backdoors” for law enforcement to access encrypted private information, the ministers agreed to a “Statement of Principles on Access to Evidence and Encryption” that sets out a framework for discussion with industry on resolving the challenges to lawful access posed by encryption, while respecting human rights and fundamental freedoms.The ministers went on to assert that their five countries “have no interest or intention to weaken encryption mechanisms. We recognize, however, that encryption, including end-to-end encryption, is also used in the conduct of terrorist and criminal activities. The inability of intelligence and law enforcement agencies to lawfully access encrypted data and communications poses challenges to law enforcement agencies’ efforts to protect our communities.”In respect of terrorism, and citizens returning to five eyes countries after fighting in foreign conflicts, such as in Syria or Iraq, the ministers agreed that their central authorities and law enforcement agencies “will share experiences on how evidence can be obtained and utilized more effectively in investigations and subsequent prosecutions, while respecting our international human rights obligations.”The ministers also agreed to share information with each other on illicit foreign interference within their countries. “In the event of a severe foreign interference incident within our sovereign nations, we agreed the five countries would co-ordinate on appropriate responses and attribution.”The ministers also issued a lengthy list of demands for the digital industry to assist in countering the illicit use of online spaces, noting they “stand united” in their “commitment to protect our citizens from child predators, terrorists, violent extremists and other illicit actors. We are as determined to counter these threats online as we are to counter them in the physical world. We note with disappointment that senior digital industry leaders did not accept our invitation to engage on critical issues regarding the illicit use of online spaces at the 2018 Five Country Ministerial meeting. Nevertheless, we reiterate our determination to work together constructively to ensure our response is commensurate to the gravity of the threat. Our citizens expect online spaces to be safe, and are gravely concerned about illegal and illicit online content, particularly the online sexual exploitation of children. We stand united in affirming that the rule of law can and must prevail online.”The ministers called on industry to proactively and innovatively address the illicit use of their platforms and applications. “Digital industry must take responsibility to reduce the availability of online terrorist and violent extremist content across all platforms and applications, and to do so comprehensively,” they said. “We are also increasingly seeing the use of online spaces to spread disinformation, sow division, and undermine our democratic institutions. The proliferation of interference activities and disinformation undermines the trust of citizens in online communications and information, delegitimizing the benefits and opportunities that communications and social media platforms create.”They urged the digital industry to meet public expectations regarding online safety by:The ministers noted that they will jointly establish a senior officials group charged with monitoring industry progress on the ministers’ proposed actions on a quarterly basis and reporting back to governments. They also invited digital industry chief executive offices to update the ministers at their future five-country ministerial meetings.“We recognize that governments also have a major role to play in addressing the spread of illicit content online,” their statement acknowledged. “We undertake to enhance information flows from government to industry, and work towards overcoming barriers to cross-sectoral collaboration. We agree to ensure our enforcement capabilities, including technical data such as hashes, can be shared with industry to support the development of scalable, Artificial Intelligence-driven solutions. Through the same innovation and cross-sectoral collaboration that has underpinned so many technological advances, the challenge of countering illicit online content is not insurmountable.”

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