Privacy watchdog investigating RCMP data...
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Sep 22, 2014  |  Vote 0    0

Privacy watchdog investigating RCMP data collection

Report expected to be made public soon on RCMP’s collection of Canadians’ personal information without a warrant.


OTTAWA–Canada’s privacy watchdog is investigating the RCMP’s warrantless collection of Canadians’ personal data.

The Office of the Privacy Commissioner confirmed last week it is formally reviewing the police force’s collection of Canadians’ personal data from telecommunications companies. The findings are expected to be made public in the near future.

The RCMP has never met with the privacy commissioner to ensure that its requests comply with privacy laws, according to a recent disclosure to Liberal MP Irwin Cotler.

The investigation was launched after the former privacy commissioner, Chantal Bernier, revealed to the Star and the Halifax Chronicle Herald that nine telecoms were asked to turn over user data 1.2 million times in 2011.

Authorities in Canada, including the RCMP, routinely sought “basic subscriber information” — names, telephone numbers, address and Internet protocol addresses — without having to obtain a warrant.

Public Safety revealed last week that it has met with the privacy office numerous times to attempt to draft a new system of accountability for Canada’s police and spy agencies.

“Those provisions would have required that law enforcement agencies and (the Canadian Security Intelligence Service) create written records of each request, conduct regular audits of practices, deliver these audits to responsible ministers, and be subject to review by relevant oversight bodies,” said Public Safety Canada in a disclosure to Cotler.

The reform efforts have failed so far. All pieces of legislation that would have enacted the reforms have languished in Parliament and died on the order paper.

As such, data requests remain shrouded in secrecy. With the exception of voluntary transparency reports from a handful of telecoms, there is no public disclosure on the volume of requests. Customers are not informed when their data is shared with police.

Just two telecoms, Rogers and Telus, were asked approximately 275,000 times for user data in 2013, according to the companies. The third of the “big three” telecoms, Bell, has not produced a transparency report and has consistently refused interview requests on the subject.

Just before his retirement this year, former Senator Hugh Segal tabled legislation to create a civilian oversight body for Canada’s police and spy agencies. But so far it seems doomed to the same fate as the similar pieces of legislation that came before it.

Privacy Commissioner Daniel Therrien’s office also confirmed they have launched a review into private Canadians’ complaints about the warrantless access. Those complaints focus on the telecom companies themselves, for voluntarily turning information over to police.

Toronto Star

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