#CyberFLASH: Four ways Canada’s new transparency rules fall short.

hi-bc-archive-surveillance-camerasCanadians have become increasingly troubled by reports revealing that telecom and Internet companies receive millions of requests for subscriber data from a wide range of government departments. In light of public concern, some Internet and telecom companies have begun to issue regular transparency reports that feature aggregate data on the number of requests they receive and the disclosures they make.

The transparency reports from companies such as Rogers, Telus and TekSavvy have helped shed light on government demands for information and on corporate disclosure practices. However, they also paint an incomplete picture since companies have offered up inconsistent data and some of the largest, including Bell, have thus far refused to come clean on past requests and disclosures.

The Privacy Commissioner of Canada released a report last week that showed that all transparency reports are not created equal. For example, TekSavvy has provided information on the content of the disclosures, the number of accounts affected and instances where users were notified. By contrast, companies such as Rogers, Telus, Allstream and Wind Mobile have not disclosed this information, offering more limited data.

In an effort to create greater uniformity in transparency reporting, Industry Canada has just released new transparency reporting guidelines. The government states that it has released the guidelines “to help private organizations be open with their customers, regarding the management and sharing of their personal information with government, while respecting the work of law enforcement, national security agencies and regulatory authorities.”

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