Transit systems in Regina and Saskatoon say they have shared transit card information with police to help with an investigation.

Earlier this week, CBC News learned that Winnipeg Transit has handed over the private travel history of bus riders to law enforcement without requiring a warrant.

Saskatoon Transit said it hands over generic card information to police about five times a year, often to confirm whether or not a person was using the bus at a specific time.

In most instances, Director of Saskatoon Transit Jim McDonald, said requests for information from police would "confirm that pass 1234567 was used on bus 1234 at bus stop 0001 at 1200 hrs on Friday May 5, 2017."

Saskatoon Police couldn't find an example of officers asking for this information but a spokesperson said any future requests would be documented in the future for its Freedom of Information and Privacy policy.

In Regina, spokesperson Nathan Luhning said police have asked for information once, in relation to a missing persons case.

Regina police said this type of information is not requested very often and only in cases where there is a legitimate investigative purpose. 

peggo-card-data-sample

A sample of actual sample of data gathered by a transit card user in Winnipeg.

Generic card information is recorded and stored by each city's transit system as a way to monitor information on routes and bus stops.

"We use ridership data to make decisions about service changes," said Luhning. "If we see that a service is under utilized or not meeting our standards, then we may consider a route change or schedule change. It helps us with the planning of the system."

If police are to ask about the rider data, they must submit a Freedom of Information request.
 
That request must include a specific police file number.

Bus cameras

Luhning with Regina Transit said police are often more interested in video recorded from the bus, which also requires a Freedom of Information request. 

While Regina Transit informs riders that they are being recorded, it doesn't say how the recording will be used. 
 
However, Regina bus riders are not informed that the data from R-Cards is being collected and used. Last year alone, Regina buses were boarded 6.4 million times.
 
In Saskatoon, transit riders can purchase a very similar card called Go Pass.
 
On Saskatoon city buses, fare boxes can identify where and when the passes are swiped for a fare, but can not identify the user or where they off the bus.

'Quite appropriate to question it': expert

Citizens are generally unaware of the trail of information they leave behind, Tom Keenan, a professor at the University of Calgary who specializes in information security said in an interview with CBC Manitoba about Winnipeg Transit sharing travel history.

"I see a growing sensitivity to this kind of information and it is quite appropriate to question it," said Keenan.

"What we don't want to have is any kind of fishing expeditions [...] the fear is that police will go out there and see everybody who got off at a certain corner and start making inferences from that," he said.

According to the privacy and information watchdog for Manitoba, under the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act, or FIPPA, any public body can release personal information to law enforcement without the need for a warrant or the consent of the individual being targeted under certain conditions.

Corrections

  • A previous version of this story incorrectly attributed the Saskatoon Transit information to City of Saskatoon spokesperson Mark Rogstad. It has been corrected to attribute the information to Director of Saskatoon Transit Jim McDonald.
    Jun 09, 2017 4:23 PM CT
With files from Alex Soloducha, David Shield and Jacques Marcoux