Bell identifies the following data for expanded usage:
- Web pages visited from your mobile device or your Internet access at home.â€¨ This may include search terms that have been used.
- App and device feature usage
- TV viewing
- Calling patterns
Bell will also begin to use account data such as which products you use, device types, payment patterns, language preferences, gender, and age.
The scope of Bell’s intended personal data usage is remarkable. Given that many of its customers will have bundled Internet, wireless, and television services, the company will be tracking everything: which websites they visit, what search terms they enter, what television shows they watch, what applications they use, and what phone calls they make. All of that data will be correlated with their location, age, gender, and more.
Bell says it intends to use the data in several ways. First, it will begin to use targeted advertising to its customers by using its detailed consumer profile. The default for the company is that all consumers will be profiled and targeted. If consumers don’t want these targeted ads, Bell will force them to opt-out. Second, Bell says it will aggregate its data to sell to other businesses and marketing companies so that they can use the Bell network usage for their own purposes.
The aggressive Bell personal data grab places the spotlight on the privacy risks associated with massive, vertically integrated companies that can effortlessly track their customers’ location, media habits, search activity, website interests, and application usage. For law enforcement, Bell is effectively offering one of the most detailed profiling services in Canada, which the company can disclose without a court order as part of an investigation under Canadian privacy law. For marketers, it is promising a glimpse at Canadian media and consumer habits that correlate across all platforms and activities.
This level of consumer monitoring, profiling, and targeting merits more than just notification on the Bell site and an opt-out option buried behind a link at the bottom of a webpage. Rather, at a bare minimum, the company should be using an opt-in system in which its customers can choose to be profiled if they wish. Moreover, the company should commit to requiring law enforcement to obtain a warrant before it discloses consumer profiles based on this monitoring activity.