Canadians opposed to ISPs releasing customer data to authorities

Here’s some data that industry regulators, Internet service providers and other companies collecting customer online information should pay attention to.

The majority of Canadians do not want ISPs to be allowed to share personal information of their customers to law enforcement agencies, according to a recent survey by poll company Ipsos Reid for the Canadian Internet Registration Authority (CIRA). CIRA is the organization that manages the .CA country code top-level domain, the policies that support Canada’s Internet community and the country’s involvement in Internet governance.

The online survey was conducted between August 19 and August 22 this year and covered a sample of 1,000 Canadian aged 18 to over 55. The poll is accurate to within +/- 3.5 percentage points, 19 times out of 20.

The survey found:

  • The survey found that three in five Canadians, or 59 per cent of the respondents, believe they should first be informed by ISPs if these businesses intend to share personal information about Internet usage such as search habits and browsing history with law enforcement agencies


  • Just one in five Canadians (22 per cent) agree that in order to protect society, things should be made easier for law enforcement agencies to get access to personal information about Internet usage


  • Only two in five Canadians (40 per cent) are comfortable with their ISP saving Internet browsing history and providing their browsing history to law enforcement agencies

“This data further reinforces CIRA’s opinion that we need an approach to online privacy that balances the needs of law enforcement with the expectations of Canadians,” said Byron Holland, CEO of CIRA. “The Canadian justice system has a well-developed system that includes judicial oversight as a critical check on police powers and we believe that the same rules should apply to online data.”

The survey results show a different side of online privacy concerns from that revealed by a 2013 survey commissioned by CIRA.

In that survey, the organization found that nearly half (49 per cent) of Canadians believe it is acceptable for the government to monitor email and other online activities of the population under certain circumstances. About 77 per cent of Canadians are willing to accept online surveillance if it prevents “future terrorist attacks.”

The organization noted that much of the discussion today about online surveillance revolves around the collection and sharing of metadata – information about communication, rather than the content of that communication. Metadata linked to an email for example could include: data linked to the sender, data linked to the receiver, the source IP address, the destination IP address, browser type and browser version used to access the email.

This data can be used to piece together a sort of profile of the use which could provide insights into the behaviour and situation of the partners involved, the activities they take part in and the even their preferences.

The 2014 survey found that majority of Canadians (52 per cent) are concerned about how metadata is being collected and used by ISPs.

The pollsters also found that the reasons used for justifying the collection of data had little impact on people’s concern over the violation of their privacy.

For example, 54 per cent of the respondents said they are uncomfortable with ISPs collecting browsing history to improve or develop new services. Fifty three per cent indicated they are uncomfortable with ISPs providing customer browsing history to law enforcement agencies that request the information in connection with ongoing investigations.

Respondents aged 35 to 54 were more likely to uncomfortable (63 per cent) with the collection of browsing history to improve or develop new services, followed by 54 per cent for those aged 18 to 34 and 46 per cent for people aged 55 and above.

Fifty six per cent of those aged 35 to 54 said they were uncomfortable with ISPs providing customer browsing history to law enforcement agencies for investigation purposes, followed by 55 per cent of respondents 18 to 34 and 48 per cent of respondent aged 55 and older.







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Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada

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Nestor Arellano
Nestor Arellano
Toronto-based journalist specializing in technology and business news. Blogs and tweets on the latest tech trends and gadgets.

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