Telus: More Transparency from Telcos

In response to concerns about widespread Internet surveillance by police and law enforcement agencies, Telus Corp released yesterday its 2013 transparency report which reveals that it has received more than 100,000 requests for customer data from the government and law enforcement agencies in 2013.

The Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada issued a Statement in April 2014 regarding telecommunications companies’ responses to information requests from government authorities which reported that nine Canadian Telcos collectively receive an average of 1.2 million requests for information every year, impacting approximately 800,000 individual customers.

The Telus 2013 Transparency report provides interesting stats:

  • About half these requests made were for emergency calls, for instance a police trying to use cellphone location information to track down a missing person.
  • Most of the time, law enforcement and government agencies made their requests without a warrant.
  • In 40% of the court-ordered cases, Telus did not provide full information in response to the request, either because the company didn’t have the information requested, or because it challenged the legality or necessity of the request.

Earlier this year, Rogers Communications Inc. has issued a similar transparency report.

In June 2014, the Supreme Court of Canada ruled in R v. Spencer that law enforcement authorities must get a warrant before requesting Telcos to hand over information about their customers. It was reported that Telus generally required law enforcement agencies to provide a warrant before releasing data about its Internet customers even before this Spencer decision, although some exceptions were made if the request was for information related to child sexual abuse. Telus mentioned that moving forward, they will request a court order even prior to disclosing information in connection with these types of investigations.

This content has been updated on September 19, 2014 at 19 h 38 min.