The Great Canadian Personal Data Grab Continues: Bell Expands Its Consumer Monitoring and Profiling
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Monday October 21, 2013
Last week, I wrote about the Great
Canadian personal data grab, focusing on the expansive data
collection habits of RBC (with its Android app) and Aeroplan (with
its collection of all credit card transaction data). Now comes news
that Bell is getting into the personal data grab game with an
Bell "privacy" policy expands the uses of the information the
company collects by focusing on ways to use data on network
usage. The current
policy makes no reference to network usage data, but the
company now wants to use a wide range of personal data collected
from Internet and mobile phone usage.
Bell identifies the following data for expanded usage:
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.
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.
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Monday October 21, 2013