Small ISPs top large providers on transparency: Report

There is still a lot of room for improvement on how well local Internet service providers inform their customers on how they are protecting private information but on the whole, smaller ISPs are doing a better job of this than their larger counterparts, according to a recent report released by the University of Toronto.
The report written by interactive Internet maps project of U of T and the New Transparency Projects funded by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada, credits smaller ISPs for being more transparent about their privacy protection policies and form “more visibly keeping domestic Canadian Internet traffic within Canada.”

The report, titled Keeping Internet Users in the Know or in the Dark, covered 20 ISPs. It also includes a star ranking table that rate ISPs on 10 transparency criteria which includes:

  • Commitment to the Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act (PIPEDA)
  • Commitment to inform users about data requests
  • Transparency about data request and transfers
  • Transparency about conditions for data transfers
  • Inclusive definition of “personal information
  • Stating data retention periods
  • Stating where data is stored
  • Stating where data is routed
  • Avoiding U.S. routing of Canadian data
  • Open advocacy for user privacy rights

“We’ve just seen that in 99 per cent of Canadian Border Services Agency’s request for subscriber information telecom companies have turned this sensitive data over without a warrant,” said Professor Andrew Clement of the Faculty of Information of the U of T. “Internet providers must be held accountable to the Canadian public on for how they handle our personal information.”

Clement spearheaded the project with and Dr, Jonathan Obar.

Overall, Chatam, Ont.-based residential and business telecommunications firm TekSavvy Solutions Inc. topped the charts with 3 1/2 stars (one for commitment to PIPEDA, one for avoiding routing data to the U.S., ½ star for informing users about data request, ½ star for being transparent about conditions for data transfers and ½ star for advocacy of user privacy rights).

TekSavvy was followed by Primus (three stars). Most of the smaller ISPs received 2 ½ stars.

Bell received 1 ½ star, Rogers got one star and Telus received two stars.

The view the table click here

“Canadian can use this chart to see how their provider compares with others,” a statement from the report authors said. “The ISP star ratings can also be seen in relation to one’s personal Internet traffic using the Explore feature of the IXmaps.cap Internet mapping site.

“It’s clear from these detailed findings that smaller providers are more transparent about the measures they take to protect customer privacy,” said Steve Anderson , executive director of “Nevertheless, all Internet providers have plenty of room for improvement.”

The report makes the following recommendations:

  • ISPs should make public detailed information about their commitment to being transparent about when, why, and how they transfer private customer information to the state and other third parties
  • The federal Privacy Commissioner and Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission should more closely oversee ISPs to ensure their data privacy transparency, and in particular that they only hand off Internet traffic to carriers with comparable privacy protections as those in Canadian privacy law
  • Legislators should reform privacy laws to include robust transparency norms

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

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