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Verizon, NSA spying and the threat to Canadians' privacy and national security

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The Harper government needs to explain to Canadians how it intends to review and address national security concerns related to Verizon Communications' entry into this country's wireless market. In their bid to woo the New York-based company, the Harper government must not ignore its legal responsibility to review Verizon's impact on national security.

According to the Investment Canada Act, the Industry Minister must order a review if there is any concern that a potential transaction -- or even the launch of a new business -- by a foreign company in Canada could be "injurious" to national security. If concerns are raised the company must take steps to mitigate them.

Verizon has been deeply involved in the world's biggest ever spying scandal, as revealed by former CIA contractor Edward Snowden. Not to fully assess the security and privacy implications of the U.S. company's takeover of Canada's telecommunications would be an extreme betrayal of the Canadian public.

It's important to note that Canadians who boycott Verizon out of fear that their personal information could be delivered to U.S. authorities will not necessarily be able to sleep easy. Ottawa's mandatory access rule gives Verizon the right to use the major Canadian telecom companies' wireless networks, which currently carry some of the country's most secure and private communications.

The Industry Minister's security review should specifically evaluate what the potential impacts are of Verizon receiving mandatory access to the major Canadian players' networks. Another thing Industry Canada security reviewers might want to look at is a U.S. Verizon customer's case for boycotting the New York-based company.

"So what makes Verizon different [from other U.S. technology companies]? What makes them worthy of a boycott over others you might ask? The fact that they have done nothing to challenge it [government spying on their customers], coupled with the fact that they are providing more access than just about everyone else according to more documents leaked recently.

VZ is giving the NSA and who knows how many others direct access into their servers to collect the metadata of EVERY USER ON THE NETWORK on a DAILY BASIS! No individual warrants required. No Oversite in place. They have allowed so much access that they don't even know what the NSA is taking on a daily basis, nor do they have to be notified by anyone that the info was accessed.

Now before everyone starts replying to this about how VZ is not the bad guy and they have to comply with every court order they are given, some of which contain gag orders making it illegal to even talk about it, let me remind all of you that just about every other major tech company issues an annual transparency report outlining how much info was released, and to whom. Companies like Microsoft, T-Mobile, Google, Twitter, and others. Many tech companies like Twitter, Foursquare, AT&T, Intel, Google, Microsoft, LinkedIn, T-Mobile, IBM, HP and countless others have joined the Digital Due Process Coalition to stand up for users privacy rights in congress. Verizon has not. Many of the same companies release an annual statement of Law enforcement guidelines that its company will use when dealing in these matters. Verizon does not. Just about every other company in the cell business has a record of challenging, in a court of law, at least some of the National Security directives they have been handed, Verizon does not. Some will even notify the user that their info has been released unless directly hit with a gag order. Verizon does not. 

According to the 2013 Annual report of companies that standup for users rights and privacy, issued by EFF.org, Verizon ranks among the lowest 3 years running. And the final nail in Verizon's coffin for me is the fact that the Government has to 'reasonably compensate' the companies for the time their employees spent complying to these orders. So essentially VZ is charging money for handing over your info."

It's hard to imagine how a company with this type of track record -- and that is bound to comply with the U.S. Patriot Act and Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act -- could possibly pass Industry Canada's national security test. But that would assume Stephen Harper has a problem with Canadians' private information being funneled to U.S. government agencies.

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