09/16/2014 05:41 EDT | Updated 06/16/2017 00:54 EDT

Canadian Telecoms Gave Environment Canada Hundreds Of Subscribers' Information

OTTAWA - Newly disclosed records show Environment Canada obtained information from telecommunications companies about hundreds of subscribers in the last five years.

Employment and Social Development Canada, the Competition Bureau, Justice Canada, the military police and the Transportation Safety Board also say they request subscriber details in the course of their work.

A legislative move by the federal government to make it easier for authorities to find out more about Internet users has heightened concerns about online privacy.

Numbers tabled in Parliament indicate Environment Canada obtained information on 750 subscribers from Jan. 1, 2010, through May 22 of this year.

Environment says the requests — aimed at helping enforcement officers investigate environmental and wildlife crime — were often for the name of a subscriber associated with a particular telephone number.

The Competition Bureau obtained information on 124 subscribers during the same period, while the Justice Department's international assistance group — which helps foreign states — made approximately 270 requests.

The figures were tabled in response to a written question from Liberal MP Irwin Cotler.

Several agencies said while they request such data from telecommunications companies, they do not track the numbers systematically.

Statistics tabled in March in response to a question from New Democrat MP Charmaine Borg show telecoms responded to more than 18,000 requests for data in 2012-13 from the Canada Border Services Agency, the vast majority involving basic subscriber information.

Some companies have begun publishing so-called transparency reports that detail the number of requests they receive from government agencies for customer information.

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