Feds ID theft legislation not enough, expert says

The Conservative government's proposed legal measures to make it easier for police to catch identity thieves are welcome -- but far more needs to be done, says a legal expert.

Draft amendments to the Criminal Code introduced by the Federal government, yesterday would -- if passed -- make it illegal to obtain, possess or sell other people's identity information with the intention of committing fraud a crime.

Under existing legislation, a suspect must have committed -- or be in the act of committing -- fraud before charges can be laid.

While these legal initiatives may serve as some sort of a deterrent, they are only one piece of a much larger puzzle. Several other steps need to be taken if the ID theft issue is to be effectively licked, says one public interest advocate.

"It's not enough to make these activities criminal", said Philippa Lawson, Director of the Canadian Internet Policy and Public Interest Clinic (CIPPIC) at the University of Ottawa's Faculty of Law.

She suggested other "equally important" measures such as: offering incentives (positive and negative) to companies and governments to ensure they are more security conscious, empowering individuals so they can more effectively protect themselves, enforcing data protection laws, and assisting victims recover their financial reputations.

Lawson is lead investigator on an ID theft research project funded by the Ontario Research Network on Electronic Commerce (ORNEC)

She rued that in Canada we have very little data on the extent of the problem, and the incidence of various types of ID theft, but noted that "a lot of information [subsequently used in ID theft crimes] is being accessed from computer databases."

Today ID thieves today are using the Internet to advantage, the CIPPIC director noted. "You can go online and find stolen credit card numbers; and there's also a lot of online trafficking of stolen data."

Noting that the situation is getting graver, she said companies and government organizations "need to take steps to prevent the kinds of data breaches we're seeing week after week."

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