Data Collection Stretches Canada’s Privacy Law

by Istvan Fekete on October 18, 2013

Canadian privacy laws set clear limits, but the majority of companies engage in aggressive private data collection, according to Michael Geist, a privacy rights advocate and University of Ottawa e-commerce law professor.

In a recent blog post, he points to a mobile app signed by a respected company, the Royal Bank of Canada, which updated its mobile app for Android users earlier in October. If you are using this app or any banking app on your smartphone, you already know that it’s very comfortable for viewing account balances, paying bills, and locating nearby branches.

But all good things come with a price: when users tried to install the updated mobile application, they were advised that by having the app on their mobile phone, they are allowing their bank of choice to access a wide range of personal data.

The list is pretty long and scary: “The long list of personal data – far longer than that found in comparable applications from banks such as TD Canada Trust or Bank of Montreal – included permission to use the device’s camera, to read the user’s call history, to access the user’s Internet browsing habits, and to even check out their browser bookmarks. After users took to Twitter and the Google app review section to complain, RBC advised that it would update the app and that users should “stay tuned” about the permission requirements,” Michael Geist writes.

In fact, this is just one example: the Royal Bank of Canada’s app isn’t the first to gather personal information in exchange for allowing users to access services. Geist points to another app, Aeroplan, the loyalty program linked to Air Canada, which sent an email last week to hundreds of customers informing them that it will change its data collection practices.

And the most scary thing of all is that this level of data collection comes from Canada’s best-known companies. This obviously raises concern, and their practices stretch Canadian privacy law to its limits and run the risk of placing user data at risk of security breaches.

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Written by: Istvan Fekete. www.digitcom.ca. Follow TheTelecomBlog.com by: RSS, Twitter, Facebook, or YouTube.

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