Police asked telcos for client data in over 80% of criminal probes

Police asked telcos for client data in over 80% of criminal probes:

In recent years, civil liberty advocates, journalists and Canada’s privacy watchdog have repeatedly sought details on the frequency with which telecom companies hand over data to police officers.

Not all are convinced that the 80-95 per cent estimate is accurate.

“How exactly did they derive such high numbers? What is the methodology?” asks Chris Parsons, a post-doctoral fellow at Citizen Lab, an academic unit at the University of Toronto’s Munk School of Global Affairs.

“If it is sound, that indicates an incredibly high rate, assuming that all crimes or all investigations are some way linked with telecommunications data.”

Last year, TekSavvy, Rogers and Telus became the first telecommunications companies to release transparency reports — following in the footsteps of their U.S. counterparts and spurred to action by a questionnaire sent by a group of academics led by Parsons. Bell Canada was alone among the large telcos not to issue a report.

Previously released government documents suggested that Public Safety officials worried that the firms might divulge “sensitive operational details” in their reports.

The federal department sought advice on whether any potential legal issues might exist around the disclosure of how telecommunication companies interacted with police, the newly released ministerial briefing says.

“If I were being very charitable, it could be a way to assuage the concerns that ISPs [internet service providers] may have had,” said Parsons. “Less charitably, it could also mean that Public Safety was interested in seeing if there was a way to prevent the reports from coming out.”

Many internet and phone service providers cited potential legal issues — along with a litany of other reasons — as why they failed to disclose any figures.


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