OTTAWA - Prime Minister Stephen Harper said law enforcement and government agencies are following the rules after revelations telecom and internet companies are asked more than one million times a year for Canadians’ personal information.
Responding to questions in the House of Commons Wednesday, Harper said law enforcement agencies obtain warrants when required, and that the government expects companies to adhere to Canada’s privacy laws.
“Various Canadian investigative law enforcement and other agencies will, from time to time, request information from telecom companies,” Harper said in response to NDP Leader Thomas Mulcair. “They always do this in accordance with the law, they always seek a warrant when they are required to do so, and of course we also expect the telecom companies to also respect the law.”
The problem, according to privacy experts, is that law enforcement agencies rarely require warrants to access basic subscriber information from telecom companies. And those companies are turning over that data at “jaw dropping” rates, with an annual average of 1.19 million requests from government authorities a year.
Telecom companies have repeatedly refused to co-operate with Canada’s privacy watchdog, who has been requesting more information on the scope of the practice.
Mulcair told reporters Tuesday morning the government has a “fundamental duty” to protect Canadians privacy.
“Since they’ve arrived, the Conservatives have shown a scornful lack of respect for rules regarding the rights of the public to have access to information on the government, and they’ve shown the same scornful disrespect for people’s privacy, their personal lives, their confidential information,” Muclair said.
“(Canadians) have every right to be concerned when they hear that, but we — you know, my job is to drill down and to make sure that this information is information that should not have been purveyed, and that’s the kind of thing that we’ll make the inquiries about, for sure,” Clement said.
“We take it seriously. We take citizens’ privacy seriously. And secondly, we expect everybody to act within the boundaries of the law.”