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Do Transparency Reports Matter for Public Policy? Evaluating the Effectiveness of Telecommunications Transparency Reports

16 Pages Posted: 7 Jan 2015 Last revised: 14 Jan 2015

Christopher A. Parsons

University of Toronto, Munk School of Global Affairs, Citizen Lab

Date Written: January 13, 2015

Abstract

Telecommunications companies across Canada have begun to release transparency reports to explain what data the companies collect, what data they retain and for how long, and to whom that data is, or has been, disclosed to. This article evaluates the extent to which Canadian telecommunications companies’ transparency reports respond to a set of public policy goals set by civil society advocates, academics, and corporations, namely: of contextualizing information about government surveillance actions, of legitimizing the corporate disclosure of data about government-mandated surveillance actions, and of deflecting or responding to telecommunications subscribers’ concerns about how their data is shared between companies and the government. In effect, have the reports been effective in achieving the aforementioned goals or have they just had the effect of generating press attention?

After discussing the importance of transparency reports generally, and the specificities of the Canadian reports released in 2014, I argue that companies must standardize their reports across the industry and must also publish their lawful intercept handbooks for the reports to be more effective. Ultimately, citizens will only understand the full significance of the data published in telecommunications companies’ transparency when the current data contained in transparency reports is contextualized by the amount of data that each type of request can provide to government agencies and the corporate policies dictating the terms under which such requests are made and complied with.

Keywords: telecommunications, surveillance, transparency, Canada, privacy

Suggested Citation

Parsons, Christopher A., Do Transparency Reports Matter for Public Policy? Evaluating the Effectiveness of Telecommunications Transparency Reports (January 13, 2015). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2546032 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2546032

Christopher A. Parsons (Contact Author)

University of Toronto, Munk School of Global Affairs, Citizen Lab ( email )

Toronto, Ontario
Canada

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