The Toronto Star via some newly released documents is reporting that law enforcement in Canada have requested data on Canadians from telecommunication companies “millions” of times dating back to 2006:
Internal documents from Public Safety Canada reveal authorities requested telecom companies to turn over “basic subscriber information” at least1.13 million times a year between 2006 and 2008.
That figure matches revelations from the federal privacy watchdog earlier this year that authorities sought subscriber information 1.2 million times in 2011.
“It suggests that there have been huge numbers of requests for years now taking place largely below the radar screen . . . without very much public awareness,” said Michael Geist, a University of Ottawa law professor and Star columnist, who obtained the documents.
So, what info are they getting? Here’s a partial list:
“Basic subscriber information” can include details like name, address, Internet protocol (IP) address, telephone number, email address and local service provider identity. The federal government and law enforcement agencies have argued this amounts to “phonebook information” — police seem to generally request names and addresses — but privacy advocates warn it can lead authorities to more personal and detailed information.
To top it off, some of these requests are made without a warrant:
In the documents, the RCMP said they do not track the number of “informal” warrantless requests — verbal or written — for “customer name and address” information.
“Police do not know across Canada, in all jurisdictions, how many (customer name and address) requests (telecoms) are answering voluntarily each year,” the documents state.
That should be cause for concern. But one that may be solved by the recent Supreme Court Of Canada decision that requires a warrant for accessing this type of info. But it still remains an open question as to how the Canadian Government is going to deal with this decision as that may once again change the landscape when it comes to this issue. Regardless, I believe that this illustrates the need for increased transparency on this issue. Canadians, except for a handful of cases, should know how and when information about them is being accessed by their government or by someone related to government such as law enforcement. By not having that transparency creates the impression that government and law enforcement are simply doing whatever they want with no rules, boundaries, of limitations. And that is not good for all concerned.