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Now that they need a warrant, police seek less info on Rogers customers


Police are requesting far less customer information from internet providers and telecommunications companies now that they need to get warrants, a new report from Rogers suggests.

Rogers’s 2014 Transparency Report shows that the total number of law enforcement requests for customers’ names, addresses and billing records fell from 174,917 in 2013 to 113,655 in 2014.

The biggest drop was in requests for customer names and addresses attached to a listed phone number or an IP address without a warrant.

Rogers said it stopped providing that kind of information without a warrant in June 2014, except in emergencies. That was when the Supreme Court of Canada ruled that internet service providers can’t disclose names, addresses and phone numbers of their customers to law enforcement officials voluntarily in response to a simple request — something ISPs had been doing hundreds of thousands of times a year.

Ken Engelhart, Rogers’s chief privacy officer, said after reviewing the court ruling and hearing concerns from customers, the company strengthened its policy covering those types of requests.

“We believe this was the main reason for the decrease in requests for 2014 over the previous year,” he added in a statement.

In 2014, Rogers provided customer names and addresses linked to:

  • A phone number only 29,438 times, compared to 87,856 times in 2013.
  • An IP address, for use in child exploitation investigations, only 384 times, compared to 711 in 2013.

Requests with warrant also down slightly

Surprisingly, following the Supreme Court ruling, law enforcement requests with a court order or warrant also dropped. Rogers got just 71,501 such requests in 2014, compared to 74,415 in 2013.

Such requests can include detailed information, including payment histories, billing records and call records.

Requests from government agencies and departments under laws such as the Customs Act and the Income Tax Act were also slightly down — to 2,315 in 2014, compared to 2,556 in 2013.

Rogers, which published its first transparency report last year, included two new types of information in this year’s edition:

  • The number of requests for the location or contact details of someone who calls 911 from a cellphone – 50,439, down from 55,900 in 2013.
  • The number of requests it refused, providing no customer information – 2,278

Engelhart noted that if Rogers will refuse requests that it considers too broad, including one last year that involved over 30,000 Rogers customers.

“While the request was withdrawn, we are pursuing the matter in court to ensure your rights are protected in the future,” Engelhart wrote on the Rogers Redboard blog.

A report released in March by researchers at the University of Toronto and the University of Ontario Institute of Technology found that most Canadian internet service providers tell customers very little about what they do with customers’ personal information.

It found that Teksavvy, Rogers and Telus were the only major internet providers that informed customers through transparency reports about how often third parties request customer data and how often the data is disclosed.

CBC | Technology News