Skip to main content
The Globe and Mail
Support Quality Journalism.
The Globe and Mail
First Access to Latest
Investment News
Collection of curated
e-books and guides
Inform your decisions via
Globe Investor Tools
per week
for first 24 weeks

Enjoy unlimited digital access
Cancel Anytime
Enjoy Unlimited Digital Access
Get full access to
Just $1.99per week for the first 24weeks
Just $1.99per week for the first 24weeks
var select={root:".js-sub-pencil",control:".js-sub-pencil-control",open:"o-sub-pencil--open",closed:"o-sub-pencil--closed"},dom={},allowExpand=!0;function pencilInit(o){var e=arguments.length>1&&void 0!==arguments[1]&&arguments[1];select.root=o,dom.root=document.querySelector(select.root),dom.root&&(dom.control=document.querySelector(select.control),dom.control.addEventListener("click",onToggleClicked),setPanelState(e),window.addEventListener("scroll",onWindowScroll),dom.root.removeAttribute("hidden"))}function isPanelOpen(){return dom.root.classList.contains(}function setPanelState(o){dom.root.classList[o?"add":"remove"](,dom.root.classList[o?"remove":"add"](select.closed),dom.control.setAttribute("aria-expanded",o)}function onToggleClicked(){var l=!isPanelOpen();setPanelState(l)}function onWindowScroll(){window.requestAnimationFrame(function() {var l=isPanelOpen(),n=0===(document.body.scrollTop||document.documentElement.scrollTop);n||l||!allowExpand?n&&l&&(allowExpand=!0,setPanelState(!1)):(allowExpand=!1,setPanelState(!0))});}pencilInit(".js-sub-pencil",!1); // via darwin-bg var slideIndex = 0; carousel(); function carousel() { var i; var x = document.getElementsByClassName("subs_valueprop"); for (i = 0; i < x.length; i++) { x[i].style.display = "none"; } slideIndex++; if (slideIndex> x.length) { slideIndex = 1; } x[slideIndex - 1].style.display = "block"; setTimeout(carousel, 2500); } //

Two telecommunications companies have released details regarding the number of demands for customer data they receive from police and government authorities, signalling a shift in how communications providers plan to deal with subscribers' privacy concerns.

How are Canada's privacy laws changing? Read the Globe's easy explanation

TekSavvy Solutions Inc., a privately owned Internet service provider based in Chatham, Ont., was the first company to break with convention, saying it handled 52 requests for customer information in 2012 and 2013. The company said it made 17 disclosures in response to law enforcement requests and refused to reveal information in 35 instances (read a PDF of the full report).

Story continues below advertisement

Rogers Communications Inc., Canada's largest cellular carrier and one of the country's biggest Internet providers, released its own report (PDF)shortly after the TekSavvy disclosure on Thursday, revealing it received a total of 174,917 requests for customer information in 2013. It did not specify how many of those requests were fulfilled.

Before Thursday's revelations, the public has had little insight into the frequency with which telecom providers share customer data with police and the government. In April, the Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada revealed that in 2011, telecom companies received 1.2 million requests for data, but that information was based on an aggregation of requests from nine different providers. Until now, the big telephone and Internet providers have generally maintained that government regulations limit their ability to share such information.

Ken Engelhart, vice-president regulatory at Rogers, said that growing customer concern over the issue in recent months prompted the company to make the numbers public and "put some sunlight on this topic."

"There was too much sensitivity in the past about not wanting to upset law enforcement officials," he said in an interview. "We realized we have to get a transparency report out quickly to make our customers satisfied that their information is being dealt with properly."

TekSavvy's report goes so far as to invoke the transparency principles of Edward Snowden, the U.S. security contractor – now charged with espionage – who one year ago started leaking top secret documents about Washington's access to American citizens' phone records.

"The Edward Snowden leaks based in the U.S. … have helped underline a key commitment that is required to achieve this mission, which is strong data privacy and transparency," Bram Abramson, the company's chief legal and regulatory officer wrote, adding, "TekSavvy has taken steps to strengthen our internal team dedicated to legal and regulatory matters."

Mr. Abramson's letter was written in response to requests from a group of privacy-oriented academics led by Christopher Parsons, a research fellow with Citizen Lab, which is part of the University of Toronto's Munk School of Global Affairs. "[TekSavvy's report] is the first time any telecommunications carrier in Canada has, in a public way, identified the conditions and the laws under which it may be required to preserve or capture or disclose information," Mr. Parsons said in an interview.

Story continues below advertisement

In a three-page document, Rogers said the approximately 175,000 requests came under several different categories, including requests to confirm customer name and address information, court orders or warrants, and emergency requests from police in life threatening situations. Mr. Engelhart said Rogers' systems are not presently set up to track how many requests were complied with, but added: "We definitely do turn down some requests and in some cases we even go to court to challenge warrants we think are overly broad."

In recent years, some U.S. telcos have released transparency reports offering statistics about what kinds of handovers they make to government authorities. The idea is starting to gain traction in Canada, where last month the federal opposition NDP began pressing for a federal panel to investigate "warrantless data collection by the federal government."

Telus Corp. spokesman Shawn Hall said Thursday the company is preparing a transparency report of its own and plans to issue it this summer. BCE Inc. did not comment on whether it plans to share such information. Both companies – which are among the country's three biggest wireless providers and also offer Internet and home-phone services – said they release customer information only when required by law. (BCE owns 15 per cent of The Globe and Mail.)

Shaw Communications Inc., the dominant Internet provider in western Canada, did not comment on whether it plans to publicize the number of requests it receives.

A pair of bills before parliament – C-13 and S-4 – would expand the situations in which telecom companies could share information with other companies or with police.

C-13 grants immunity to companies that voluntarily hand over data to police, and also allows the courts to order a company not to publicize a particular request if it "would jeopardize the conduct of the investigation of the offence." In Parliamentary committee testimony Thursday, an association representing Google Inc., Facebook Inc. and other major Internet companies warned that this is a "gag order" that could prevent them from fully disclosing the total number of requests from government.

Story continues below advertisement

Bill S-4, meanwhile, would allow companies, such as telecom giants, to share private data with another company – without judicial oversight or any requirement to report the sharing – if they believed the information could help investigate any breach of a contract or a crime. Various critics have warned Canadian lawmakers that this will open the door to large-scale, unmonitored data sharing between companies.

Your Globe

Build your personal news feed

  1. Follow topics and authors relevant to your reading interests.
  2. Check your Following feed daily, and never miss an article. Access your Following feed from your account menu at the top right corner of every page.

Follow the authors of this article:

Follow topics related to this article:

View more suggestions in Following Read more about following topics and authors
Report an error Editorial code of conduct
Due to technical reasons, we have temporarily removed commenting from our articles. We hope to have this fixed soon. Thank you for your patience. If you are looking to give feedback on our new site, please send it along to If you want to write a letter to the editor, please forward to

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff.

We aim to create a safe and valuable space for discussion and debate. That means:

  • Treat others as you wish to be treated
  • Criticize ideas, not people
  • Stay on topic
  • Avoid the use of toxic and offensive language
  • Flag bad behaviour

If you do not see your comment posted immediately, it is being reviewed by the moderation team and may appear shortly, generally within an hour.

We aim to have all comments reviewed in a timely manner.

Comments that violate our community guidelines will not be posted.

UPDATED: Read our community guidelines here

Discussion loading ...

To view this site properly, enable cookies in your browser. Read our privacy policy to learn more.
How to enable cookies