Canadian Telecoms Refuse to Disclose How Often They Hand Over Personal Data

by Istvan Fekete on April 30, 2014

The government turn to telecoms for private customer information about 1.2 million times each year, according to documents released by the federal privacy commissioner’s office on Tuesday. What’s interesting, though, is that it’s unclear how many of those requests are made without a warrant.

Fact is, Canadian telecom companies have complied with the government’s requests for customer data at least 784,756 times, the documents reveal. But this is only part of the reality: The actual total is likely even greater, since only three of the nine telecom companies shared data with the commissioner’s officer about how many times they have granted government requests for customer data.

The numbers were uncovered when the country’s privacy commissioner Chantal Bernier made public that Canadian telecom companies refused to disclose how often they release confidential customer information to the federal government without a warrant.

Bernier has asked the wireless players multiple times to disclose this information, but without success. “I’m not disputing that there are times when there is no time to get a warrant — life is in danger,” Bernier said. “What we would like is for those warrantless disclosures to simply be represented in statistics so that Canadians have an idea of the scope of the phenomenon.”

“We have tried many times. We have sought out information from the telecoms to find out,” Bernier said. “They’ve given us very general comments.”

The news comes hot on the heels of a previous report from the Chronicle Herald revealing that the Canada Border Services Agency alone accessed telecom customer data almost 19,000 times in one 12-month period, without presenting a warrant.

As NPD consumer affairs critic Glenn Thibeault highlighted, the documents show the dated status of the current privacy laws. This demands action, he believes, because privacy laws need to be modernized and strengthened to better protect Canadians’ personal data.

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Written by: Istvan Fekete. www.digitcom.ca. Follow TheTelecomBlog.com by: RSS, Twitter, Facebook, or YouTube.

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