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Updated: Wed, 23 Oct 2013 10:15:14 GMT | By CBC News, cbc.ca

Digital issues critic questions Bell's data collection



Digital issues critic questions Bell's data collection

Canada’s official opposition critic for digital issues is questioning Bell’s controversial plans for data collection.

NDP MP Charmaine Borg told CBC's Daybreak that federal privacy law requires companies to ask for consent before they collect and disclose personal information.

She said Bell isn’t following that rule.

“Instead of asking people if they’re okay with this disclosure to a third party, they’re actually saying 'if you’re not OK with it, come opt out,'” Borg said.

Bell subscribers received a letter last week telling them that beginning Nov. 16, the company will begin collecting detailed information about their consumption habits in order to offer “relevant ads.”

Customers have until Nov. 16 to opt out from having their data sold to other companies. But that won't necessarily stop Bell from collecting the data, which could include web pages visited, apps downloaded and search terms.

Borg said it's unclear if the data being collected is necessary in order to provide good service, another requirement under the Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act (PIPEDA).

'Slap on the wrist'

In the short term, Borg suggested that Bell customers who are worried about the new policy to contact the company and voice their concerns. She said it’s always possible that if enough people complain, the company will bow to public pressure.

Borg is also behind a bill that would allow the federal privacy commissioner more power to enforce the law.

She said right now, companies that don’t follow the law only get a “slap on the wrist.”

But with the changes outlined in bill C-475, Borg said companies will have more incentive to follow the law.

On Tuesday, a spokesperson for Canada's privacy commissioner said the office had received several complaints about Bell's plans, and would be investigating.

Bell has refused requests for an interview, but did release the following statement. 

"The data collected relates to audiences, not to individual customers ... Bell does not disclose information about individual customers. We are committed to protecting the privacy of customers, and this initiative is fully compliant with Canadian regulations on the protection of personal information."

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