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Transparency reporting

Accurate information about the nature and volume of personal information requests by law enforcement to private companies helps inform the ongoing global discussion about the collection and handling of personal information by government organizations and law enforcement. At TELUS, we believe this is an important discussion tied directly to our commitment as a social capitalism company.

It is in that spirit that we completed our sixth annual Transparency Report, which provides insight into our approach for responding to personal information requests as well as the volume and types of requests we receive. We are proud of our record of openly sharing with our customers the details about how we respectfully handle and secure their data.

As part of our ongoing commitment to putting customers first, we have a long-standing policy of protecting privacy in all of our business operations and of being transparent in our data-handling practices. As a national telecommunications company, we routinely receive requests for information about our telecommunications customers from law enforcement agencies and other government organizations.

The data

This year’s transparency reporting mirrors our previous formats, allowing us to provide trends year-over-year. We report this data alongside data since 2014 for comparison purposes.

The vast majority of the requests we received in 2018, and over the past few years, were for information to help find or communicate with someone in an emergency. Calls from a local police detachment or 9-1-1 Public Safety Answering Point (PSAP) operator, asking for help locating someone who is lost or suicidal are typical examples of this type of request. We responded to 57,529 calls from 9-1-1 PSAP operators and 3,406 calls from Law Enforcement Agencies requesting information specific to an emergency event. Apart from emergency circumstances, we must respond and only do respond and provide the personal information requested, where we are required by a lawful authority to do so. Consistent with our Customers First philosophy, TELUS will challenge information requests that go beyond what is lawful, in the interest of protecting customer data and privacy. For example, we will challenge any request or court order that we believe goes beyond what a judge is authorized to order under applicable legislation, such as the Criminal Code. We will only release confidential customer information when we are satisfied it is appropriate to do so. When necessary, we will take an issue to court and we have done so in the past.

In 2018, we challenged or declined to provide information in response to a total of 530 court orders (approximately 11 per cent of the court orders we received), because we thought the order was invalid or over-reaching. The increase from approximately five per cent in 2017, to 10 per cent in 2018 is mainly attributed to a change in legal name of a subsidiary from TELUS Communications Company to TELUS Communications Inc. The continued due care that law enforcement exercises in preparing their requests for records has contributed to minimizing the challenges to court orders that we have submitted. This highlights a positive trend in the protection of customer privacy.

TELUS intends to continue advocating for our customers’ privacy while responding to legal court orders as required. It is a fine balance, and we are pleased to present this transparency disclosure as part of the evolving dialogue on this important matter.

Type of request20182017201620152014
Court Orders4,8714,7854,6783,9933,550
Subpoenas572465517523453
MLAT Orders43112
Court Orders/ Subpoenas54475,1965,1964,5174,005
Customer Name and Address Check30,946
Emergency Calls60,93557,70458,72151,41361,596
Internet Child Exploitation Emergency Assistance Requests144
Legislative Demands1,1529751,2661,2371,247
TOTAL67,53463,93265,18357,16797,938

    MLAT orders

    Description: these requests take the form of an order issued by a Canadian court pursuant to the Mutual Legal Assistance in Criminal Matters Act and any applicable mutual legal assistance treaty (MLAT). Typically, these are requests for aid from a law enforcement agency in another country related to a criminal investigation and require an order from a Canadian court. We do not respond to requests that come directly from foreign agencies but will provide information if ordered to do so by a Canadian court. Applicable law: The Mutual Legal Assistance in Criminal Matters Act, mutual legal assistance treaties with other countries.

    Customer name and address checks

    Description: these are requests for TELUS to provide basic customer information, such as customer name and address on a voluntary basis. These requests were usually made to identify an individual associated with a telephone number, most often so police can ensure they are serving a warrant on or arresting the correct individual.

    In the 2014 decision of R. v. Spencer, the Supreme Court of Canada made it clear that a court order is required for TELUS to provide customer name and address information except in an emergency or where the information is published in a directory. Consequently, TELUS has not complied with any non-emergency requests for voluntary disclosure since this decision.

    Applicable law: Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act (PIPEDA), CRTC rules with respect to customer confidentiality; see also applicable TELUS Service Terms and customer Privacy Commitment.

    Emergency calls

    Description: these are urgent requests for help locating or assisting where an individual’s life or property is at imminent risk. For example, TELUS will provide police or other emergency responders with location information for TELUS wireless device belonging to someone who is lost or in danger.

    More than half of such requests (57,529 in 2018) came from 9-1-1 call centres seeking help locating a caller in distress. The remaining 3,406 requests came from local police or emergency responders.

    In these cases we provide only the information needed to respond to the emergency. Applicable law: PIPEDA and CRTC rules with respect to customer confidentiality.

    Internet child exploitation emergency assistance requests

    Description: in response to police requests, in the past TELUS would disclose the name and address of a customer using an IP address to help the police investigate a real-time case of online child sexual exploitation. Previously, it was understood that such disclosure without a court order was permitted under Canadian law and TELUS’ service terms. However, the Supreme Court of Canada in the Spencer case (referred to above) ruled that such disclosure requires a court order, except in an emergency. Accordingly, TELUS amended practices in this regard.

    Since that court decision, TELUS collaborated with law enforcement agencies to establish a new process to expedite the sharing of this critical information through court orders where children are in danger, while abiding by the spirit and language of the Spencer decision.

    TELUS has always required a court order to provide customer information associated with an IP address in other cases.

    Applicable law: PIPEDA, Criminal Code

    Legislative demands

    Description: this is a request for information by a government body, where TELUS is required by applicable legislation, to provide the information. For example, pursuant to the Income Tax Act, the Canada Revenue Agency may require TELUS to disclose certain customer information.

    Applicable law: any federal or provincial legislation that authorizes a government body to compel information from TELUS.

    This transparency reporting covers business in Canada, including wireless, wireline and Internet.

    Frequently asked questions