Telecom - Commission Letter addressed to the Distribution list and Interested Persons

Ottawa, 28 October 2020

Our reference: 8665-P8-202005769


Distribution List and Interested Persons

Re: Part 1 application submitted by PIAC regarding COVID-19 exposure notification applications – Scope of issues to be considered by the Commission in the context of this Part 1 application

Dear Sir/Madam,

On 9 September 2020, the Public Interest Advocacy Centre (PIAC) filed a Part 1 Application in relation to what it referred to as COVID-19 contact tracing applications, requesting that the Commission set out rules in advance for Telecommunications Service Providers (TSPs) regarding possible disclosure of subscriber information or other subscriber data related to either IP addresses or mobile telephone numbers.

The principal requests raised in PIAC’s application were for the Commission to:

  1. declare that the confidential customer information rules developed by the Commission in the context of wireline telephony are appropriate for all TSPs and that confidential customer information includes IP addresses and mobile phone numbers as well as any other information generated from the network connection of digital contact tracing technologies;
  2. impose on all TSPs, pursuant to sections 24 and 24.1 of the Telecommunications Act (the Act), a requirement to abide by such rules; and,
  3. prohibit TSPs from disclosing, without explicit consent, any subscriber information requested by any Canadian or foreign government in relation to a contact tracing application, unless such disclosure meets a test to be devised by the Commission, which should only allow for such disclosure where necessary to prevent, mitigate or reduce the spread of serious illness.

Rogers Communications Inc. (Rogers) filed a letter on 11 September 2020 and the Canadian Wireless Telecommunications Association (CWTA) on 17 September 2020, arguing that despite PIAC’s allegations that TSPs are active participants in contact tracing measures, PIAC gave no real evidence to support these assertions. Rogers also noted that the alleged issues on which PIAC has asked the Commission to intervene have already been assessed and reviewed by the Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada and that PIAC failed to demonstrate a change of circumstances warranting the need for a Commission proceeding in this matter. Rogers and the CWTA argued that the Commission should dismiss the application.

On 22 September 2020, PIAC filed a response to the procedural letters from Rogers and CWTA disagreeing with their assertions.

The Commission recognizes that the Part 1 application raises certain important concerns that fall within the scope of the Act. In this regard, one of the policy objectives set out in section 7 of the Act involves contributing to the protection of the privacy of persons.

Specifically, the Commission considers that the application raises certain policy concerns pertaining to TSPs’ role with regard to customers’ privacy that merit further consideration. The Commission notes that PIAC’s application focusses on the deployment of exposure notification applications developed in light of the current COVID-19 pandemic and queries whether the definition of confidential customer information should be extended to include mobile phone numbers and IP addresses. However, the Commission considers that PIAC’s application requests regulatory measures that, if granted, would have implications beyond the specific context within which the application was filed. In addition, the Commission is concerned that a number of other aspects of PIAC’s application appear to go beyond matters directly related to TSPs’ actions, which are not matters subject to the Commission’s regulatory purview under the Act.

In light of the above, the Commission clarifies that, in the present proceeding, it will only consider matters subject to the Act, specifically (1) issues that pertain to the role of TSPs in the handling of confidential customer information; (2) issues relating to what information should qualify as confidential customer information; and (3) any resulting measures that should apply to the TSP’s collection, use and disclosure of that information. The Commission will not entertain issues nor consider interventions related to the merits of exposure notification applications nor of the handling of confidential customer information by parties other than TSPs.  

This application will be open for comments for 30 days from the date of publication, after which PIAC will have 10 days to reply.

Yours sincerely,

Claude Doucet
Secretary General

Distribution List
Mr. John Lawford, Counsel – Public Interest Advocacy Centre (PIAC),
Ted Woodhead, Rogers Communications Inc.,
Eric Smith, CWTA,

Bell Canada and Bell Mobility Inc.,
Bragg Communications Incorporated,
Canadian Communication Systems Alliance (CCSA),
Cogeco Communications Inc.,
Distributel Communications Limited,
Freedom Mobile Inc.,
Ice Wireless Inc.,
Independent Telecommunications Providers Association (ITPA),
Iristel Inc.,
Quebecor Media Inc.,
Rogers Communications Inc.,
Saskatchewan Telecommunications Holding Corporation,
Shaw Communications Inc.,
TBaytel,;; >
Teksavvy Solutions Inc.,
Telus Communications Company,
Xplornet Communications,

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