As the near-weekly revelations of pervasive surveillance activities generates both debate and mounting opposition in the United States and Europe, the Canadian reaction has remained somewhat muted. Following an initial flurry of coverage over the surveillance activities of Canadian intelligence agencies, the issue has largely disappeared despite evidence that Canadian data is regularly collected by foreign intelligence agencies, most notably the U.S. National Security Agency.
Interestingly, the battle over the potential entry of Verizon into Canada may have opened the door to greater public scrutiny of the privacy practices of all telecom carriers. The debate unexpectedly features a privacy and surveillance dimension, with the incumbents and their unions raising fears about the link between Verizon and U.S. surveillance.
Verizon may raise privacy concerns, but my weekly technology law column (Toronto Star version, homepage version) notes it is worth asking whether the Canadian carriers can provide assurances that Canadian phone and Internet activity is any less prone to surveillance. The major Canadian carriers have been very secretive about many of these issues. In fact, a recent University of Toronto report found that none issue transparency reports (Google, Twitter, and Microsoft do), inform users about data requests, state where data is routed and stored, or avoid U.S. routing.