A new report authored by privacy experts suggests Canadian Internet providers "need to be much more transparent about how they protect their customers’ private information."
The report found all providers have room for improvement, though smaller independent providers tend to be more transparent overall than their larger counterparts and for more visibly keeping domestic Canadian Internet traffic within Canada. Entitled Keeping Internet Users in the Know or in the Dark, the report was released today by IXmaps and New Transparency Projects.
However, Canadian ISPs are overall more transparent than the foreign carriers that handle domestic Canadian internet traffic, according to the report.
“We’ve just seen that in 99% of Canadian Border Services Agency’s requests for subscriber information, telecom companies have turned this sensitive data over without a warrant. Internet providers must be accountable to the Canadian public for how they handle our personal information," says Andrew Clement, a University of Toronto professor who spearheaded the project alongside Dr. Jonathan Obar.
"ISPs that proactively demonstrate transparency can show leadership in the global battle for data privacy protection and bringing state surveillance under democratic governance," he noted.
“Canadians deserve to know whether their telecom provider has their back when it comes to how they protect your privacy,” said OpenMedia.ca Executive Director Steve Anderson, commenting on the report. “All Internet providers have plenty of room for improvement. With so much of our private information now online, every Internet provider has a duty to safeguard Canadians from mass government surveillance—foreign and Canadian."
The report makes a few policy recommendations aimed at improving ISP transparency:
- ISPs should make public detailed information about their commitment to being transparent about when, why, and how they transfer private customer information to the state and other third parties.
- The federal Privacy Commissioner and CRTC should more closely oversee ISPs to ensure their data privacy transparency, and in particular that they only hand off Internet traffic to carriers with comparable privacy protections as those in Canadian privacy law.
- Legislators should reform privacy laws to include robust transparency norms.
The research has been supported by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council and the Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada.