Canada’s role in the surveillance activities remains a bit of mystery, yet there is little doubt that Canadian telecom and Internet companies play an important part as intermediaries that access, retain, and possibly disclose information about their subscribers’ activities.
Canada’s telecom companies remain secretive about their participation in the surveillance activities, with no transparency reports and no public indications of their willingness to disclose customer information without a court order.
For example, Bell and Rogers link their email systems for residential customers to U.S. giants with Bell linked to Microsoft and Rogers linked to Yahoo. In both cases, the inclusion of a U.S. email service provider may allow for U.S. surveillance of Canadian email activity. Moreover, Bell requires other Canadian Internet providers to exchange Internet traffic outside the country at U.S. exchange points, ensuring that the data is potentially subject to U.S. surveillance.
Under Canadian law, telecom companies and Internet providers are permitted to disclose customer information without a court order as part of a lawful investigation. According to data obtained under Access to Information, the RCMP has successfully obtained such information tens of thousands of times.
In fact, Bill C-13, the so-called “cyberbullying” bill, includes a provision that is likely to increase the number of voluntary disclosures without court oversight since it grants telecom companies and Internet providers complete immunity from any civil or criminal liability for those disclosures.