"On April 29, 2014 the Interim Privacy Commissioner of Canada, Chantal Bernier, revealed that Canadian telecommunications companies have disclosed enormous volumes of information to state agencies."
This lead sentence comes from Citizen Lab's recent post, Responding to the Crisis in Canadian Telecommunications. I heard about that post after listening to the most recent episode (#31) of Jesse Brown's Canadaland podcast, Your Telecom Provider is Selling your Information to the Government. Well worth the 32 minutes!
Using the template in the blog post above I have sent requests to Telus (mobile), Fido (mobile) and Shaw (Cable, Internet, VOIP) asking them to disclose the personal information it collects, retains, manages, and discloses about me, and I plan to post the information I receive here because CitizenLab makes such a compelling case and I want this information generally to be public:
Why Your Requests Matter
Beyond simply exercising your legal rights, these requests matter on both the personal and the national level. Personally, by filing these requests you will be empowered to think about whether you’re OK with the amount(s) of information that your telecommunications companies collect or record about you, the duration of time they record that information, and their willingness to explain who they share information with. In effect, you won’t be at the mercy of pundits and talking heads to explain whether the collection of data matters to your life, in the abstract, because you’ll have the data in hand to make your own decisions and reach your own conclusions.
Beyond self-empowerment, it’s important for Canadians generally to file these requests to telecommunications companies because the companies have so steadfastly refused to communicate with the experts, with government bodies, and with interested members of the press. Almost all of the ‘polite’ ways of figuring out what these companies are up to have been exhausted: it’s time, unfortunately, to compel these companies to explain why they collect data, how much of it they collect, and explain why they disclose the information. To be clear, telecommunications companies in the United States and Europe have already begun releasing ‘transparency reports’, or documents explaining how and why the companies share information with state agencies. Those reports are the result of American and European publics supporting their civil advocates and privacy officers, lending their incredibly powerful voices to the policy and legal efforts that had been ongoing for years. Canadians are amongst the most digitally connected populations on earth: now it’s time for us all to figure out who’s been monitoring, and disclosing, who we’ve been connecting to and whether existing practices need to be reined in.
Requests were sent via email to Shaw and Telus on May 7, 2014, and via snail mail to Fido on May 8, 2014. I received an automated email response from Telus in 24 minutes, and nothing of the sort from Shaw.
I'll be back in early June or sooner with an update.