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Michael Geist's Blog

Bell Claims Users Want to Be Monitored, Profiled and Tracked

The reports that Bell is updating its privacy policy to allow for the use of a wide range of personal data collected from Internet and mobile phone usage has generated enormous public concern, an investigation from the Privacy Commissioner of Canada, and claims from Bell that its customers want to be tracked, profiled, and monitored. As I noted in a post on Monday, the company will be tracking everything about millions of users: 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.

The Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada told reporters that it will be investigating Bell's practices.  Bell defended its plan, arguing that it is compliant with the law and suggesting that the public is happy with its plan, adding that:

"We view it as a positive, value-add service for our subscribers. And of course for advertisers it’s another step forward in their ability to reach the right people with the right message.”

If the public was truly happy with the plan for expansive monitoring, tracking, and profiling, the company could have easily adopted an opt-in model, allowing customers to choose to be tracked. Instead, its approach forces nearly eight million Canadians to opt-out of the monitoring practices, which the company surely knows will only happen in a tiny fraction of cases due to a lack of awareness and appreciation for the consequences of the profiling. 
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BCCLA Files Lawsuit Over CSEC Surveillance

The British Columbia Civil Liberties Association has filed a lawsuit against the Communications Security Establishment Canada over its surveillance practices, which it argues are unconstitutional. Statement of claim is here, press release here, and media coverage here.
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