Home > Bell, cdnpoli, Copryight, CSEC, Digital Policy, Digital Revolution, net neutrality, Privacy > Canadian Telecom Wants to Track Your Every Move Online

Canadian Telecom Wants to Track Your Every Move Online

Over the past several months, I’ve been extremely clear that ISP’s and telecom providers have vested financial interests in collecting your online data, and that a message needs to be sent to all telecom providers to respect Canadians private and personal information.  Quite a number of people within the telecom policy front believe that telecom providers shouldn’t go to bat in protecting Canadian’s personal information from unreasonable requests, and the reason why is becoming very clear.  The responses I got regarding sending a message to telecom providers on users privacy got a very cold response from those who were supposed to be on the consumer side.

Over the past couple of days Bell Canada has just blown the door wide open on it’s customers data.  Bell wants to track everything on you from your TV viewing habits, to usage of mobile apps, to your browser history, to your GPS locations, to your search preferences.  ISPs and telecom providers are prime gatekeepers for this information. There has been tremendous pressure on these gatekeepers since the 2009 net neutrality hearings at the CRTC to ensure that these gatekeepers would not collect such data with the use of net throttling equipment which has the ability to track and collect this data.  Users are automatically opted in to this current use of mass data collection, and will have to manually opt out.  You can opt out here.

The tone deafness of the telecom world around consumer related issues is extremely clear from this latest assault on users privacy.   The tone deafness on consumer issues from all telecom players, not just the big ones is in my view largely responsible for our current anti-competitive state in Canadian telecom.  Bells latest tone deaf move comes at a time when most Canadians are becoming extremely skeptical on the role the telecom industry has played in the NSA scandal.  We still don’t know the role of Canadian telecom, nor what information has already been collected on Canadians and used without proper oversight.  The BC Civil Liberties Association along with Openmedia (about time they got into the privacy fight) have launched a lawsuit on the government to determine exactly what’s been collected and the role Canadian telecom has played.  Furthermore the Canadian Privacy Commissioner has written to the head of the Communications Security Establishment Canada responsible for intelligence gathering, and both agree that more oversight is needed on Canadians personal information.

The ugly reality is, that collecting of personal information by media companies at the gatekeeper level is an expected move. Coming from the content industry myself, determining and collecting information on listeners, viewers and users gives the content producers the ability to track return on investment and target advertising, and tweak productions to audiences.  This is part of the natural evolution of digital media as we move forward to Web 3.0.  The problem is we’re right in the heat of determining how this information collected is used, and we don’t have the proper oversight needed to ensure our information is not only safe, but used lawfully.  The FCC I believe is in the process in the US of probing specifically on where users information is being sent, and sold off too.  The fact that Bell has chosen to throw this out on it’s customers right now, is representative of the telecom industry on a whole not following consumer conversations and hitting for the old mighty buck.

Privacy issues aside, and looking at this from a content prospective the big Canadian telecom companies are also content distributors.  By collecting this data at the gate, gives these content distributors an unfair advantage over others within the Canadian content distribution channels, and may lead to anti-competitive behaviors since no one other than the gatekeepers would be able to access this data at a reasonable price.  This could potentially be devastating to indie content producers which make up the large majority of content creators in Canada.  Current rating systems on content distribution are made public to all in industry.  This dramatically changes things.

Moreover, If content producers have this ability to track return on investment to tailor advertising, than essentially the current ideology behind online copyright infringement as a bad thing becomes obsolete.  Something tells me though, we are far from changing that reality, and that this current system Bell has put into place along with every ISP that is now required to track content due to notice to notice provisions within the copyright act, may in fact be used and abused by copyright extremists rather than for legitimate ROI advancement in digital media.

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