Chief Statistician Anil Arora defended plans to obtain Canadians’ detailed banking information.

News Views: Ask first

‘Traditional statistical gathering methods are no longer sufficient.’

Federal privacy commissioner Daniel Therrien will investigate Statistics Canada’s request to obtain private banking records on 500,000 Canadians.

His office has consulted with Statscan about its pilot project to collect raw, non-anonymized data from private companies, but will continue discussions in a formal investigation.

This followed numerous complaints to his office about the agency’s effort to gather unprecedented, detailed information on transactions held by Canadian financial institutions, from cash-machine withdrawals to credit-card payments and account balances, even phone records, electricity bills and social insurance numbers.

Chief Statistician Anil Arora defended plans to obtain Canadians’ detailed banking information. He said traditional statistical gathering methods are no longer sufficient, given that three quarters of purchases are now conducted online, to accurately measure Canada’s economy and social changes.

StatsCan would do the work of removing individual names, and claims to have a long history of protecting personal information.

Private companies – including banks, retailers and cell phone companies – are already collecting large volumes of data on Canadians, and some of it is already shared with Statscan, which can compel them to do so.

That may be true, but why not consult Canadians first, tell us what for?

Before, if we didn’t want to take part in a Statscan survey, it was our choice, to keep personal information private. But Canadians have no say here, and that is a concern, as is the level of information being sought. We believe in the value of data, but also that of privacy and consent.

– Maple Ridge-Pitt Meadows News

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