Bell Wants to Know Everything About You

by Istvan Fekete on October 23, 2013

Since the PRISM scandal hit the headlines, data collection has yet again become a central question, and privacy advocates are demanding answers. Some, such as Michael Geist, are trying to shed light on how service providers collect user data: last week he highlighted the practices of two of Canada’s most respected companies, RBC and Aeroplan.

“Unfortunately” for Bell, the company has just informed its customers that it has updated its privacy policy, in which the wireless player reveals it is getting into the personal data grab game. The updated policy will take effect in mid-November, and the company now wants to know practically everything about you by collecting data from Internet and mobile phone usage. The new policy allows Bell to collect the following information: Web pages visited from your mobile device or your Internet access at home; including search items, location, app and device feature usage, and TV viewing habits. It even goes as far as collecting calling patterns.

“They’ll literally know what web pages you visit, which search terms you enter, where you happen to be, what apps you use, what television you watch, even your calling patterns,” said Michael Geist, a University of Ottawa law professor and technology law specialist. “They figure that level of detail will offer up the ability to have highly targeted advertising. They’ll know virtually everything about you.”

Well, I don’t know about you, but I find this alarming.

Canada’s privacy commissioner reacted immediately and said that it will be investigating the case. Speaking with CBC, Scott Hutchinson, a spokesman for the privacy commissioner, said that his office has received several complaints.

The full picture of Bell’s updated policy is clear only if we also mention that the company allows customers to opt out.

Bell refused CBC’s interview request, but issued this statement: “What’s new is that we’re giving Bell customers the option to receive internet advertising that’s relevant to them rather than the random online advertising they’re receiving now. The number of ads customers see won’t increase and they can opt out anytime by visiting We’re giving customers advance notice before we start offering relevant advertising on Nov. 16.”

While this sounds good, and may relax some of us, the real issue is that you don’t know exactly what you are opting out of, Geist highlights. Targeted ads? Bell says the data collection serves this purpose. Are you opting out of the broader collection of data? I don’t think so.

In fact, the only way to be sure you have opted out from a broader data collection is by not using the Internet. Some have succeeded, some not. What about you?

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Written by: Istvan Fekete. Follow by: RSS, Twitter, Facebook, or YouTube.

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