Government Agencies Ask Telecoms for Private Data 1.1 Million Times Annually

Privacy commissioner canada

Canada’s Interim Privacy Commissioner Chantal Bernier reports government agencies annually seek private data from telecom companies well over 1 million times annually—without you knowing whether your data was shared or not, reports the Chronicle Herald:

Nine telecoms and web companies told the privacy office that government agencies asked them for data a combined total of 1,194,000 times annually.

It seems the agencies got what they wanted the vast majority of the time. The companies report that information on at least 785,000 customer accounts was disclosed. But this total comes from only three of the nine respondents.

The document only casts light on a portion of the total disclosures. Canada has over 30 telecoms.

The following 13 companies were asked for data on how much info they provided to government agencies: Bell Canada, Telus, Rogers, Saskatchewan Telecommunications, Globalive Wireless, Shaw, Microsoft, Facebook, Apple, Google, Twitter, Research in Motion and eBay.

Only 9 responded jointly through a lawyer (we’re guessing members of the CWTA), while four others refused to respond; the Privacy Commissioner has no idea which four did not respond.

The companies refused to disclose what kind of data was handed over and whether or not warrants were part of requests. Customers are not notified when data is given out, therefore they are unable to contest these disclosures in court.

“We have tried many times,” said Chantal Bernier, the interim privacy commissioner of Canada. “We have sought out information from the telecoms to find out and they have given us very general comments.”

The only agency that detailed disclosure details was the Canada Border Services Agency, which received close to 20,000 pieces of data annually without a warrant 99% of the time.

The Office of the Privacy Commissioner Investigating Bell

It was also revealed the The Office of the Privacy Commissioner was investigating Bell and their recent change in privacy policy, which collects user data on customer location, internet surfing habits, phone calls and more to better target ads.

Bernier told the Senate transport and communications committee—which is also investigating Bell—on Tuesday the carrier’s new target ads increase revenue by 2.6 times compared to standard ads.

Your private data should be protected and companies need to disclose when it is being given to government agencies, don’t you think?

Founder and Editor-in-Chief of iPhoneinCanada.ca. Follow me on Twitter, and @iPhoneinCanada, and on Google+.

  • phoneguy

    Law enforcement agencies can request information limited to a customer’s name ,phone number and address through provisions in Canada’s PIPEDA (Personal Information and Electronic Documents Act), these requests are also not allowed to be disclosed to a customer, and do not require a warrant, but rather only that the request is part of an ongoing legal investigation.