Media Releases

Expert report reveals Internet providers should be more transparent about how they handle our private information

March 27, 2014

Report lifts the curtain on how Internet providers protect privacy, giving Canadians an at-a-glance tool to rate their provider’s transparency

TORONTO, ON – A new report by lead­ing pri­va­cy experts has revealed that Cana­di­an Inter­net providers need to be much more trans­par­ent about how they pro­tect their cus­tomers’ pri­vate infor­ma­tion. The report found that while all providers had room for improve­ment, small­er inde­pen­dent providers tend to be more trans­par­ent over­all than their larg­er coun­ter­parts. Small­er providers also got cred­it for being more trans­par­ent about their user pri­va­cy pro­tec­tion and for more vis­i­bly keep­ing domes­tic Cana­di­an Inter­net traf­fic with­in Cana­da.

The report, enti­tled Keep­ing Inter­net Users in the Know or in the Dark, is being released today by and New Trans­paren­cy Projects. The report offers Cana­di­ans an in-depth look at the Data Pri­va­cy Trans­paren­cy of Cana­di­an Inter­net Ser­vice Providers (ISPs). The authors have also released an at-a-glance ‘Star Table’ rat­ing ISPs accord­ing to 10 trans­paren­cy cri­te­ria. Cana­di­ans can use this chart to see how their provider com­pares with oth­ers. The ISP ‘star rat­ings can also be seen in rela­tion to one’s per­son­al inter­net traf­fic using the Explore fea­ture of the inter­net map­ping tool.

The study found that there was plen­ty of room for improve­ment among the 20 ISPs cov­ered by the report. How­ev­er, small­er, inde­pen­dent Cana­di­an car­ri­ers scored bet­ter over­all than larg­er incum­bents. Inde­pen­dent provider Tek­Savvy earned more stars across more cat­e­gories than oth­er ISPs. Cana­di­an ISPs were over­all more trans­par­ent than the for­eign car­ri­ers that han­dle domes­tic Cana­di­an inter­net traf­fic. They gen­er­al­ly don’t even acknowl­edge their com­pli­ance with Cana­di­an pri­va­cy law, notably the Per­son­al Infor­ma­tion Pro­tec­tion and Elec­tron­ic Doc­u­ments Act (PIPEDA).

The project was spear­head­ed by Prof. Andrew Clement and Dr. Jonathan Obar at the Fac­ul­ty of Infor­ma­tion, Uni­ver­si­ty of Toron­to. Pro­fes­sor Clement explains that: “We’ve just seen that in 99% of Cana­di­an Bor­der Ser­vices Agency’s requests for sub­scriber infor­ma­tion, tele­com com­pa­nies have turned this sen­si­tive data over with­out a war­rant. Inter­net providers must be account­able to the Cana­di­an pub­lic for how they han­dle our per­son­al infor­ma­tion. ISPs that proac­tive­ly demon­strate trans­paren­cy can show lead­er­ship in the glob­al bat­tle for data pri­va­cy pro­tec­tion and bring­ing state sur­veil­lance under demo­c­ra­t­ic gov­er­nance.”, a com­mu­ni­ty-based orga­ni­za­tion lead­ing a 34,000-strong nation­wide pro-pri­va­cy cam­paign, says the report has revealed that Cana­di­ans need bet­ter account­abil­i­ty from their ISPs, espe­cial­ly from the tele­com giants.

“Cana­di­ans deserve to know whether their tele­com provider has their back when it comes to how they pro­tect your pri­va­cy,” says Exec­u­tive Direc­tor Steve Ander­son. “Today’s report will make it eas­i­er for Cana­di­ans to make informed choic­es about which Inter­net provider to trust with their per­son­al infor­ma­tion. It’s clear from these detailed find­ings that small­er providers are more trans­par­ent about the mea­sures they take to pro­tect cus­tomer pri­va­cy — infor­ma­tion cus­tomers need to assess which Inter­net provider is best for them.”

Ander­son con­tin­ued: “Nev­er­the­less, all Inter­net providers have plen­ty of room for improve­ment. With so much of our pri­vate infor­ma­tion now online, every Inter­net provider has a duty to safe­guard Cana­di­ans from mass gov­ern­ment sur­veil­lance — for­eign and Cana­di­an. They also need to be much more trans­par­ent about the extent of their coop­er­a­tion with war­rant­less gov­ern­ment spy­ing — Cana­di­ans deserve to know exact­ly how often the gov­ern­ment tries to invade their pri­va­cy, and exact­ly what their ISP is doing to pro­tect them.”

The report makes a num­ber of pol­i­cy rec­om­men­da­tions aimed at improv­ing ISP trans­paren­cy:

  • ISPs should make pub­lic detailed infor­ma­tion about their com­mit­ment to being trans­par­ent about when, why, and how they trans­fer pri­vate cus­tomer infor­ma­tion to the state and oth­er third par­ties.
  • The fed­er­al Pri­va­cy Com­mis­sion­er and CRTC should more close­ly over­see ISPs to ensure their data pri­va­cy trans­paren­cy, and in par­tic­u­lar that they only hand off Inter­net traf­fic to car­ri­ers with com­pa­ra­ble pri­va­cy pro­tec­tions as those in Cana­di­an pri­va­cy law.
  • Leg­is­la­tors should reform pri­va­cy laws to include robust trans­paren­cy norms.

The research has been sup­port­ed by the Social Sci­ences and Human­i­ties Research Coun­cil and the Office of the Pri­va­cy Com­mis­sion­er of Cana­da. The views expressed are those of the authors alone., Pro­fes­sor Andrew Clement and Dr. Jonathan Obar are part of the Pro­tect our Pri­va­cy Coali­tion, which is call­ing for effec­tive legal mea­sures to pro­tect the pri­va­cy of every res­i­dent of Cana­da against intru­sion by gov­ern­ment enti­ties.

Over 34,000 Cana­di­ans have spo­ken out about gov­ern­ment spy­ing in recent months at: and

About the research project:

Since 2008, the project has worked to help inter­net users “see where your data pack­ets go”, with the aim of rais­ing pub­lic aware­ness of the pri­va­cy impli­ca­tions of inter­net data pack­et rout­ing. In par­tic­u­lar, the project has mapped the sites of like­ly NSA inter­cep­tion in the U.S., enabling users to see whether their inter­net traf­fic may have been cap­tured.  It has also doc­u­ment­ed the exten­sive Cana­di­an “boomerang traf­fic” — inter­net com­mu­ni­ca­tion that starts in Cana­da and ends in Cana­da, but which pass­es through the US where it is sub­ject to NSA sur­veil­lance. The project has received fund­ing from the Social Sci­ences and Human­i­ties Research Coun­cil of Cana­da and the Office of the Pri­va­cy Com­mis­sion­er of Cana­da and is affil­i­at­ed with the New Trans­paren­cy Project and the Infor­ma­tion Pol­i­cy Research Pro­gram at the Fac­ul­ty of Infor­ma­tionUni­ver­si­ty of Toron­to.

About is an award-win­ning net­work of peo­ple and orga­ni­za­tions work­ing to safe­guard the pos­si­bil­i­ties of the open Inter­net. We work toward informed and par­tic­i­pa­to­ry dig­i­tal pol­i­cy.

Through cam­paigns such as and has engaged over half-a-mil­lion Cana­di­ans, and has influ­enced pub­lic pol­i­cy and fed­er­al law.

About’s pri­va­cy cam­paign led the suc­cess­ful cam­paign that forced the gov­ern­ment to back down on its plans to intro­duce a cost­ly, inva­sive, and war­rant­less online spy­ing law (Bill C‑30). Near­ly 150,000 Cana­di­ans took part in the cam­paign. To learn more, see this info­graph­ic.

On Octo­ber 10, 2013 col­lab­o­rat­ed with over 35 major orga­ni­za­tions and over a dozen aca­d­e­m­ic experts to form the Pro­tect Our Pri­va­cy Coali­tion, which is the largest pro-pri­va­cy coali­tion in Cana­di­an his­to­ry. The Coali­tion is call­ing for effec­tive legal mea­sures to pro­tect the pri­va­cy of every res­i­dent of Cana­da against intru­sion by gov­ern­ment enti­ties. and the BC Civ­il Lib­er­ties Asso­ci­a­tion (BCCLA) recent­ly announced they will work togeth­er to put a stop to ille­gal gov­ern­ment sur­veil­lance against law-abid­ing Cana­di­ans. has launched a nation­al cam­paign encour­ag­ing Cana­di­ans to sup­port a BCCLA legal action which aims to stop ille­gal spy­ing by chal­leng­ing the con­sti­tu­tion­al­i­ty of the government’s war­rant­less col­lec­tion of data on Cana­di­ans’ every­day Inter­net use.


Media Con­tacts

Andrew Clement
Fac­ul­ty of Infor­ma­tion, Uni­ver­si­ty of Toron­to
Tel: 416–922-0251

David Christo­pher
Com­mu­ni­ca­tions Man­ag­er,
Tel: 778–232-1858

Media Rela­tions
Uni­ver­si­ty of Toron­to
Tel: 417–978-0100

More Infor­ma­tion

  • Tele­com firms hand­ed CBSA pri­vate cus­tomer data over 18,000 times last year with­out a war­rant. Source: The Chron­i­cle Her­ald
  • Inter­net sur­veil­lance and boomerang rout­ing: A call for Cana­di­an net­work sov­er­eign­ty — Source: Jonathan Obar and Andrew Clement
  • IXmaps – Track­ing your per­son­al data through the NSA’s war­rant­less wire­tap­ping sites, 2013 IEEE Inter­na­tion­al Sym­po­sium on Tech­nol­o­gy and Soci­ety (ISTAS), Toron­to, June 27–29, 2013. Source: Andrew Clement
  • The murky state of Cana­di­an telecom­mu­ni­ca­tions sur­veil­lance. Source: Christo­pher Par­sons
  • Pro­posed online spy­ing bill would grant tele­com firms immu­ni­ty for hand­ing over pri­vate infor­ma­tion with­out a war­rant. Source: Michael Geist
  • Pri­va­cy experts ask tele­coms if they’re help­ing the gov­ern­ment spy on Cana­di­ans. Source:
  • New Snow­den docs show U.S. spied dur­ing G20 in Toron­to. Source: CBC News
  • Five high­lights from the Cana­da-Brazil spy­ing rev­e­la­tions. [Source: The Globe and Mail]
  • Pri­va­cy watch­dog on spy agency’s data col­lec­tion: ‘We want to find out more’. [Source: The Globe And Mail]
  • Canada’s spy agency may have ille­gal­ly tar­get­ed Cana­di­ans: watch­dog. [Source: Nation­al Post]
  • Inside Canada’s top-secret bil­lion-dol­lar spy palace. [Source: CBC News.]
  • Data breach pro­to­cols defi­cient in 9 fed­er­al depart­ments, watch­dog finds. — [Source: CBC News]
  • Law­ful Access back on the agen­da this Fall? — Michael Geist.
  • The secre­tive CSEC agency has a staff of more than 2,000 and a bud­get of about $400 mil­lion. [Source: CBC News]
  • Sur­veil­lance expert Ron Deib­ert on the threat spy agen­cies pose for cit­i­zens.
  • Inter­net Law expert Michael Geist on why Cana­di­ans should be con­cerned about gov­ern­ment spy­ing.
  • Pri­va­cy com­mis­sion­er Jen­nifer Stod­dart says there are sig­nif­i­cant con­cerns about the scope of infor­ma­tion that CSEC are report­ed to col­lect. [Source: CBC News]
  • In this arti­cle, The Globe and Mail describes the rev­e­la­tions about Cana­di­an gov­ern­ment spy­ing as “dis­turb­ing and unac­cept­able”
  • This doc­u­ment, obtained by The Globe through Access to Infor­ma­tion, shows how Min­is­ter MacK­ay autho­rized a top secret pro­gram to data-mine glob­al ‘meta­da­ta’ in 2011.