How Rogers handles government requests for customer information

Transparency reportThere’s been a lot of buzz recently about how telecom companies share customer information with government and police. So we asked Ken Engelhart, Rogers Chief Privacy Officer, for the scoop on Rogers Communications 2013 Transparency Report on Requests for Customer Information.

Ken, why is Rogers releasing a Transparency Report, and what is it?

We know some customers are concerned about government and law enforcement agencies getting access to their information. We want customers to know their info is in good hands. That’s why we’re releasing a Transparency Report.

Essentially it’s a report to our customers about the number of requests we received last year from government and law enforcement agencies, how we respond and what information we provide.

How do you handle these requests? Do government and police authorities tap in to your databases?

We don’t provide direct access to our customer databases. We carefully review requests to ensure they’re legally valid and not overly broad, and then our staff provides the information securely so that only the government or law enforcement agency requesting it can access it.

What kind of requests are we talking about?

These requests come from agencies like the police, the Canada Revenue Agency, and so on.

In about half of the requests we were forced by law to provide customer information or assisted in emergencies. The other half of requests were to confirm a customer’s name and address, which we respond to so police do not issue a warrant for the wrong person.

The types of requests include:

  • Customer name and address checks;
  • Court orders/warrants issued by a judge;
  • Government requirement orders, issued under laws like the Income Tax Act;
  • Emergency requests, like helping police in life threatening situations, such as a missing person case;
  • Child sexual exploitation emergency requests where we help police stop the sexual exploitation of a child by identifying who’s using an IP address;
  • International requests, which go through Canadian courts and sometimes result in a court order/warrant that requires us to provide info.

What kind of information are you giving out?

When we get a court order or warrant, the information provided is often things like payment history, billing records and call records. In emergency requests we provide information like location information to find a missing person or contact information for someone who has called emergency services but may not be able to communicate. We don’t look at or keep our customers’ communications like text messages and emails because our customers’ privacy is important to us.

How many requests do you get? Do you always provide the info?

Well for 2013, we had about 175,000.

And no, we don’t always provide info. If we consider an order to be too broad, we push back and, if necessary, go to court to oppose the request.

We’ve posted the report below via slideshare, or you can download it here.

Update: July 16, 2014:  After hearing your concerns and reviewing the Supreme Court ruling from last month, we’ve decided that from now on we will require a court order/warrant to provide basic customer information to law enforcement agencies, except in life threatening emergencies. We believe this move is better for our customers and that law enforcement agencies will still be able to protect the public.

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