Canadian Telcos Share Subscriber Data Without Warrant

by Istvan Fekete on March 27, 2014

Canadian telcos are busy building databases of subscriber information that law enforcement agencies have access to without even showing a warrant, documents released under access to information laws reveal.

To put that into numbers: the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) accessed telecom subscriber data 18,849 times between April 2012 and March 2013, the documents provided to NDP MP Charmaine Borg show. And, by the way, this is only one agency. What about the others we don’t know about?

To further elaborate on the seriousness of this matter, here are some other facts: of those nearly 19,000 cases, the CBSA had warrants for 52, which means there were 18,797 cases of access without a warrant. And you know what? The Telcos handed out subscriber data in response to all but 25 requests, and most of the rejections were because phones weren’t active or users had left the carrier.

From what the documents reveal, telcos handed out basic subscriber information in response to requests without warrants. Of the 52 cases in which a warrant was presented, telcos handed over detailed information containing even the actual content of voice mails and text messages.

What digital law professor Michael Geist highlights, though, is that documents indicate major telecom players have built their own law enforcement databases. He also points to a document revealing that the Competition Bureau “had accessed the Bell Canada Law Enforcement database” 20 times in a one year-period.

The case enters the spotlight as Parliament is once again gearing up to debate Bill C-13, which would grant the police greater access to telecom subscriber data.

In its current form, the law allows telcos to hand over the personal information of subscribers without a warrant and without notifying the subscriber, in cases where there is a law enforcement investigation.

But the Harper government would make this easier for telcos. At issue is Bill C-13, which has been presented as a bill aiming to combat cyberbullying. But as it turns out, it brings back elements of the failed 2012 online spying bill.

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Written by: Istvan Fekete. Follow by: RSS, Twitter, Facebook, or YouTube.

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