Expert Report reveals which telecom companies have your back when it comes to being transparent about protecting privacy
March 12, 2015
The report features an at-a-glance ‘Star Chart’, rating ISPs according to 10 key transparency criteria. Independent ISP Teksavvy earning more stars (6) across more categories than any other major retailer. Telus (5 stars) and Rogers (4 stars) were in the middle of the pack, while customers of Bell (3 stars) and especially Shaw (2 stars) and Videotron (2 stars) will be looking for answers. The off-brands (Fido, Koodo, and Virgin) of the major telcos performed notably poorly.
“Every day millions of Canadians entrust their ISP or mobile carrier with enormous quantities of sensitive, personal information,” said Andrew Clement. “Against a backdrop of worrying revelations of mass surveillance, it’s more important than ever that ISPs be forthcoming about how they safeguard our personal information. ISPs can play a leadership role in working for strong data privacy protection - but as our report shows, there is still lots of room for improvement.”
OpenMedia, a community-based organization leading a 50,000-strong pro-privacy campaign, says the report underlines the need for much greater transparency and accountability from Internet providers.
“Canadians deserve to be able to make informed choices about which telecom providers stand up for their right to privacy,” said OpenMedia’s communications manager David Christopher. “This detailed report is an invaluable tool to help Canadians decide which Internet providers they can trust. While all providers have room for improvement, it looks like independent providers like Teksavvy take their duty to protect privacy more seriously. All Canadians deserve to know exactly what their ISP is doing to protect them from warrantless privacy intrusions.”
The project was completed with the assistance of a group of nine law students from the University of Toronto's Center for Innovation Law and Policy. They worked with Prof. Clement and Dr. Obar to update the criteria document, develop explanations to distinguish full, half, and no stars, and also took an in-depth look at the transparency of wireless service providers that control 90% of the market. Their report includes an expanded evaluation of the carriers' advocacy for privacy rights, such as statements they made in the press and positions they took in court. Canadians can learn more about their work at http://innovationlaw.org/3_plus_3/.
The report found that Canadian ISPs were overall more transparent than the foreign carriers that handle domestic Canadian internet traffic. These foreign carriers generally don’t even acknowledge their compliance with Canadian privacy law, including the Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act (PIPEDA).
The report makes a number of key recommendations:
All companies that carry personal information via the Internet need to be more transparent and proactive in promoting the privacy of their subscribers.
Across-the-board failure by non-Canadian transit providers to indicate compliance with Canadian privacy law emphasizes that Canadian carriers should avoid transferring personal data to companies that potentially expose it to U.S. mass surveillance without the legal and constitutional protection it enjoys at home. In practice this means only handing domestic traffic to Canadian carriers that keep this data exclusively within Canadian jurisdiction.
Carriers that handle Canadian Internet traffic should publish annual transparency reports in addition to the detailed information on their websites about their data privacy and transparency practices, and should make a public commitment to proactively inform customers when their personal data has been requested by a third party.
The CRTC should undertake to more closely oversee carriers to ensure their data privacy transparency, and that they comply with the law.
Legislators should update PIPEDA (Canada’s private sector privacy law) to include proactive transparency around privacy policies, and to require proactive notification of third party disclosure requests.
Canadian law enforcement and security agencies should, in turn, proactively publish statistics about requests for personal information they make to internet carriers, including the legal basis for such requests and the responses from carriers.
OpenMedia, Professor Andrew Clement and Dr. Jonathan Obar are part of the Protect our Privacy Coalition, which is calling for effective legal measures to protect the privacy of every resident of Canada against intrusion by government entities. Learn more at OurPrivacy.ca
About the IXmaps.ca research project:
Since 2008, the IXmaps.ca project has worked to help internet users “see where your data packets go”, with the aim of raising public awareness of the privacy implications of internet data packet routing. In particular, the project has mapped the sites of likely NSA interception in the US, enabling users to see whether their internet traffic may have been captured. It has also documented the extensive Canadian “boomerang traffic” - internet communication that starts in Canada and ends in Canada, but which passes through the US where it is subject to NSA surveillance.
The project has received funding from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada, the Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada and Canadian Internet Registration Authority (CIRA), and is affiliated with the New Transparency Project and the Information Policy Research Program at the Faculty of Information, University of Toronto.
OpenMedia is an award-winning community-based organization that safeguards the possibilities of the open Internet. We work toward informed and participatory digital policy by engaging hundreds of thousands of people in protecting our online rights.
About OpenMedia’s privacy campaign
OpenMedia led the successful StopSpying.ca campaign that forced the government to back down on its plans to introduce a costly, invasive, and warrantless online spying law (Bill C-30). Nearly 150,000 Canadians took part in the campaign. To learn more, see this infographic.
OpenMedia and a diverse range of other organizations are now organizing nationwide protests as part of a Day of Action against the government’s Bill C-51. Canadians can learn more at http://StopC51.ca
In October 2013, OpenMedia joined with over 60 major organizations and over a dozen academic experts to form the Protect Our Privacy Coalition, which is the largest pro-privacy coalition in Canadian history. The Coalition is calling for effective legal measures to protect the privacy of every resident of Canada against intrusion by government entities.
Communications Manager, OpenMedia.ca
Professor, Faculty of Information, University of Toronto
Assistant Professor, Faculty of Social Science and Humanities,
University of Ontario Institute of Technology
Telecom firms handed CBSA private customer data over 18,000 times last year without a warrant. Source: The Chronicle Herald
Internet surveillance and boomerang routing: A call for Canadian network sovereignty - Source: Jonathan Obar and Andrew Clement
IXmaps – Tracking your personal data through the NSA’s warrantless wiretapping sites, 2013 IEEE International Symposium on Technology and Society (ISTAS), Toronto, June 27-29, 2013. Source: Andrew Clement
The murky state of Canadian telecommunications surveillance. Source: Christopher Parsons
Spy agency CSE is monitoring private online activities on a massive scale, with Canadians among the targets. Source
Canada casts global surveillance dragnet over file downloads. Source: The Intercept
OpenMedia is crowdsourcing policy recommendation to boost privacy safeguards at https://OpenMedia.org/PrivacyPlan
OpenMedia works to keep the Internet open, affordable, and surveillance-free. We create community-driven campaigns to engage, educate, and empower people to safeguard the Internet.
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