Big Brother’s shadow: Decline in reported use of electronic surveillance by Canadian Federal Law Enforcement

Nicholas Koutros, Julien Demers


Despite popular perception of increased government surveillance, particularly since 9/11, a longitudinal study of the Annual Reports on the Use of Electronic Surveillance, published by Public Safety Canada between 1973 and 2011, demonstrates the opposite trend. This article first outlines this decline to situate the use of electronic surveillance by federal law enforcement. The second section of the article advances legal, political, and practical influences which are likely contributing to the diminished use of wiretapping by police. The purpose of this article is to present quantitative evidence to better inform the ongoing debate around extending “lawful access” regimes in Canada. By using official government statistics as a foundation, this article provides a practical grounding to the theoretical academic and legal research that often informs law, legislation and public policy governing the use of surveillance technology.

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