Silence by Alberto Ortiz (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

Silence by Alberto Ortiz (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)


Why Has Bell Remained Silent on Its Subscriber Information Disclosure Practices?

In the aftermath of the Supreme Court of Canada’s Spencer decision, several leading Canadian ISPs have publicly announced that they have changed their practices on the disclosure of subscriber information (including basic subscriber information such as name and address) to law enforcement. For example, Rogers announced that it will now require a warrant or court order prior to disclosing information to law enforcement except in emergency situations. Telus advised that it has adopted a similar practice and TekSavvy indicated that that has long been its approach. SaskTel says that it will release name, address, and phone number.

Unlike its competitors, Bell has remained largely silent in recent weeks. In media reports, the company says little more than that it follows the law.  In fact, the Toronto Star’s Alex Boutilier tweets that the company is now declining to respond to journalist inquiries about the issue. In the past, the company was a clear supporter of disclosing “pre-warrant” information in some circumstances to law enforcement. As detailed in this Canadian Bar Association article:

Under the auspices of the Canadian Coalition Against Internet Child Exploitation (“CCAICE”), certain Canadian ISPs, including Bell Canada, developed in conjunction with certain Canadian law enforcement agencies (“LEAs”), in particular the RCMP’s National Child Exploitation Coordination Centre (“NCECC”), a process to handle law enforcement requests of certain limited customer information. A participating ISP, in response to an agreed upon template letter of request, will disclose to the requesting LEA the last known name and address of the account holder that was using a particular IP address at a specific date and time. These requests are made in non-emergency situations and in the absence of a court order [my emphasis added].

The article explains why this policy of disclosing information linking name, address, and IP address may have passed legal muster before the Spencer decision. Post-Spencer, a change is surely in order.  Bell owes it to its customer to publicly disclose its current policy.


  1. And Shaw as well. They’ve been pretty good at not jumping on the government’s “All your data(base) are belong to us” pushes in the past. I’m surprised they haven’t issued a statement of some sort as well. I’m hoping to hear something consumer-positive from them soon.

    • Chris Brand says:

      I asked Shaw myself. Here’s their response – “Thanks again for bringing this question to us Chris. We take our customers privacy quite serious and we do not openly share information with officials without a legal ruling stating we must. Feel free to review our terms of use provided on our website. We have not released any specific changes based upon this Rogers announcement mentioned below. We may not have had to update anything, as we’ve never willingly shared information about our customers with other parties”

    • Shaw stores Ip assigned logs for at least 2-4 years.

  2. Devil's Advocate says:

    As usual, Bell’s got its hands dirty in too many places and can’t jeopardize its interests.

    • Bell’s 5 year retention policy is efficient in protecting people from criminal activities such as hate speech, misogyny, anti-Semitism and cyberbullying. I believe that the only types of individuals who oppose internet DCHP logs are shady individuals and criminals.

      • Devil's Advocate says:

        “Bell’s 5 year retention policy…”

        1) what is the policy?
        2) how does hanging onto logs PROTECT people when they these logs merely help to GENERATE and BACK UP the charges?
        3) why 5 whole years?

        “…the only types of individuals who oppose internet DCHP logs are shady individuals and criminals.”

        So, in other words, “if you have nothing to hide, you have nothing to worry about”. (Now, where have I heard that disingenuous piece of crap before?)

      • What do DCHP logs have to do with handing over personal info without a warrant??

  3. Obviously there has been some veiled (or not so veiled) threat from involving the PMO and CRTC.

    Bell is now struggling with pursuing the lesser of two evils: do they piss of their customers or piss off the Federal Govt.?

    • Have to agree with Brammer 100%.

      The CRTC can’t pretend it knew nothing and knows nothing.

      So much for “protecting privacy” per the telecom act.

      But then again, Bell and the CRTC create and make up their own interpretations of everything with zero clarity and transparency to exploit the people as much as possible for Bell’s own financial gain and the gov’s exploitation of people for their own needs.

    • Bell customers have been pissed off for years. And are generally only with Bell because there’s no other isp

  4. I’ve put in a request for access to the information they’ve (Bell) collected on me and have distributed.

    Under law they have 30 days to comply. It’s been over a month and after week 2 I received an email from them stating that they need to go beyond that deadline. I still haven’t heard anything and is only making me more suspicious. Sketchy Bell

  5. FYI Bell Canada stores IP assigned logs for at least 5 years. The only people who might have an issue with their retention policies are cyberbullies, misogynists, Holocaust deniers and criminals.

    • Nothing To Fear says:

      You have nothing to fear if you have nothing to hide…

      … like your sexual orientation, whistle-blowing, political dissent, or other deviance from the “acceptable normality”.


    • Provide a reference to the information that Bell stores IP addresses for 5 years.

  6. I read your article I got such a valuable information

  7. I submitted an ATI request, via OpenMedia six weeks ago. They have exhausted their 30-day limit, and utterly failed to respond to a follow-up request at the one-month mark.

    Next step: complaint with our newly minted federal Privacy Commish!


  8. Sorry, to confirm: Bell has failed to respond…sorry about that…


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