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  • Personal passwords may not be private if Canada police group has its say.

    Personal passwords may not be private if Canada police group has its say. | Photo: Reuters

Police say such a law will help them fight crime, but critics say it infringes on privacy and civil liberties.

Canada’s top police organization called for a new law Tuesday that would force citizens to hand over private electronic passwords so that law enforcement can more easily access digital communications and evidence of criminals who use technology to carry out offenses.

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The Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police passed a new resolution at its conference Tuesday, with a mandate to advocate for a law forcing passwords to be handed over with the legal consent of a judge.

Critics, however have said that such a law would violate privacy and civil liberties, and could itself be illegal.

David Christopher, spokesperson from OpenMedia, an internet anti-surveillance and anti-censorship group, questioned if the proposal would be constitutional in Canada, adding that in some cases it would mean giving authorities the “key to your whole personal life.”

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Police say that it is increasingly difficult to catch criminals operating online who use software to easily hide their identities and keep their communications secure, which authorities commonly refer to as “going dark.”

“The issue of ‘Going Dark’—law enforcement’s decreasing ability to lawfully access and examine digital evidence at rest and evidence in motion due to technical and non-technical barriers—is increasingly placing public safety at risk,” said a report from the International Association of Chiefs of Police.

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Rocky Mountain Civil Liberties Association Director Sharon Polsky, said to the Calgary Herald that many people wouldn't know enough about digital security to properly understand what information they would be handing over to police, saying that such a law would be “flagrantly in violation” of Canadian privacy rights.

Michael Vonn, policy director from the British Columbia Civil Liberties told VICE Motherboard, that such a law would compel people to hand over access to devices that police could then also access other information such as messages and photos that are not related to a criminal investigation.

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