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Privacy Experts ask telecoms if they are helping the government spy on Canadians

Academic researchers and civil liberties groups send detailed request aimed at revealing full extent of government spying on Canadians through telecom providers

Many of these groups and academics are members of 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.

“Canadians deserve answers about the full extent of this government’s spying activities,” says OpenMedia.ca Executive Director Steve Anderson. “I wish the government would come clean on warrantless spying on innocent Canadians, but hopefully the telecom companies will be more forthcoming knowing the potential damage to their brand if they don’t respond. We already know that U.S. telecom giants have been caught red-handed helping the U.S. government spy on their customers. That’s why we’re asking telecom companies to state clearly whether or not they are partners in government spying on law-abiding Canadians.”

Explaining why he launched the initiative, Dr. Christopher Parsons said: “Canadians’ digital lives are channelled through the systems and networks of Canada’s largest telecommunications companies. However, Canadian citizens presently have little information concerning how, when, and why these companies disclose telecommunications information pertaining to their subscribers to government agencies. With data on Canadian practices in hand, scholars, advocates, and regular Canadians alike will be able to knowledgeably shape public policy on how best for our governments to protect Canadians’ security and privacy.”

This initiative comes against the backdrop of shocking revelations of blanket government surveillance of the online activities of law-abiding citizens. In recent months Canadian spy agency CSEC was revealed to have partnered in a massive illegal spying operation on Canadian soil during the Toronto G-20 summit. Justice Minister Peter MacKay is also pushing a worrying revival of Vic Toews’ failed online spying bill that would give a range of authorities access to the private lives of almost any Canadian, even if they are not suspected of any wrong-doing.

Last August, the government’s then watchdog over CSEC said he believes the agency may have been spying on Canadians. In October, OpenMedia.ca joined with the B.C. Civil Liberties Association (BCCLA) to announce a court challenge that aims to stop all illegal government spying against Canadians. Both OpenMedia.ca and the BCCLA are also working with over 40 major Canadian organizations in the Protect our Privacy Coalition to demand effective legal measures to protect Canadians’ privacy from government spies.

Over 27,000 Canadians have spoken out about government spying in recent months at: https://OpenMedia.ca/CSEC and http://OurPrivacy.ca

About OpenMedia.ca

OpenMedia.ca is a network of people and organizations working to safeguard the possibilities of the open Internet. We work toward informed and participatory digital policy.

Through campaigns such as StopTheMeter.ca and StopSpying.ca, OpenMedia.ca has engaged over half-a-million Canadians, and has influenced public policy and federal law.

About OpenMedia.ca’s privacy campaign

OpenMedia.ca 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.

Earlier this year, OpenMedia.ca launched its Secret Spying campaign, to demand answers and immediate action from the government after it was revealed that a secretive government agency has been spying on the telephone and Internet activities of individuals, including law-abiding Canadians.

On October 10, 2013 OpenMedia.ca collaborated with over 40 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.

OpenMedia.ca and the BC Civil Liberties Association (BCCLA) recently announced they will work together to put a stop to illegal government surveillance against law-abiding Canadians. OpenMedia.ca has launched a national campaign encouraging Canadians to support a BCCLA legal action which aims to stop illegal spying by challenging the constitutionality of the government’s warrantless collection of data on Canadians’ everyday Internet use.



David Christopher
Communications Manager, OpenMedia.ca
[email protected]

More Information

  • New Snowden docs show U.S. spied during G20 in Toronto. Source: CBC News
  • Five highlights from the Canada-Brazil spying revelations. [Source: The Globe and Mail]
  • Privacy watchdog on spy agency’s data collection: ‘We want to find out more’. [Source: CBC News.mail.com/news/politics/privacy-watchdog-on-spy-agencys-data-collection-we-want-to-find-out-more/article12459998/">The Globe And Mail]
  • Canada’s spy agency may have illegally targeted Canadians: watchdog. [Source: National Post]
  • Inside Canada's top-secret billion-dollar spy palace. [Source: CBC News]
  • Data breach protocols deficient in 9 federal departments, watchdog finds. - [Source: CBC News]
  • Lawful Access back on the agenda this Fall? - Michael Geist.
  • The secretive CSEC agency has a staff of more than 2,000 and a budget of about $400 million. [Source: CBC News]
  • Surveillance expert Ron Deibert on the threat spy agencies pose for citizens.
  • Internet Law expert Michael Geist on why Canadians should be concerned about government spying.
  • Privacy commissioner Jennifer Stoddart says there are significant concerns about the scope of information that CSEC are reported to collect. [Source: CBC News]
  • In this article, The Globe and Mail describes the revelations about Canadian government spying as “disturbing and unacceptable”
  • This document, obtained by The Globe through Access to Information, shows how Minister MacKay authorized a top secret program to data-mine global ‘metadata’ in 2011.

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