Eastlink says data handed over only with warrant
Ottawa makes 1.2 million requests for private information from telecoms every year
Halifax-based Eastlink says it will only hand over personal information if there is a warrant or a legislative obligation, responding to news federal agencies are requesting telecommunication companies to hand over masses of private customer information.
Chantal Bernier, Canada's interim privacy commissioner, revealed Tuesday that nine telecommunication companies got a total average of 1,193,630 requests from federal enforcement bodies for private customer information every year.
The breadth is difficult to swallow for Halifax privacy lawyer David Fraser.
"The scale of it is really quite shocking. And it raises a bunch of other questions," said Fraser, an attorney with McInnes Cooper.
Eastlink is reassuring customers it will only hand out their information if there's a warrant or under certain legislation, like the Income Tax Act.
Fraser said that's comforting.
"To put it very shortly, they should have a big sign, a big welcome mat that says, 'Come back with a warrant,'" he said.
What remains a mystery is why the government needs so much information in the first place.
It's also not clear how many of an estimated 35 million Canadians are swept up in the approximately 1.2 million requests.
"The number of times I decide to call my wife in the run of a day and where I am and what number I use, that sort of information is nobody's business but my own," said Fraser.
Canada's interim privacy commissioner wants to know a lot more about what telecoms are doing.
"I would like to know the scope of personal information that is disclosed to government authorities, with or without a warrant, and what type of information is disclosed," Chantal Bernier said.
Bernier said she wants privacy laws changed so service providers have to break out statistics to give Canadians an idea of how many requests they comply with.