Christopher Parsons, a postdoctoral fellow at the Citizen Lab, told The Varsity that “Metadata at this point, is as or more invasive in its collection and analysis than the content of a communication. Any suggestion that because its metadata, it’s any less invasive, just isn’t true.”
“If you were to monitor the metadata coming out of my phone for a day, it would be a lot more revealing than any actual content. This would include things like where I was, when I made the phone calls, how long they were, who I made them to, and who those people talked to,” said Parsons. Using this information, Parsons said, intelligence agencies can determine movement patterns, browsing tendencies, shopping and lifestyle habits, all without figuring out specifically what was said in the conversation.
The Citizen Lab’s campaign for government surveillance oversight has been at the heart of the debate on consumer telecommunications and Internet privacy. Last week, they issued an open letter to several Canadian phone and Internet service providers (ISPs). The letter asked them to publicize the extent of customer information divulged to law enforcement and other intelligence agencies. When contacted by The Varsity for further comments on the Citizen Lab’s campaign, Jennifer Kett, Senior Manager at Rogers Media Relations said they were currently reviewing the request. She added: “We take the privacy and security of our customers’ personal information very seriously. We require a properly executed warrant to disclose customer information to law enforcement or any other body. If we believe that a request is overreaching we will take steps to challenge it.” Kett declined to provide further details when asked, saying that the review of the Citizen Lab’s request was pending. Bell Canada did not respond to multiple contact attempts.
* Amitpal Singh, “U of T academics at forefront of online privacy battle”