Privacy Commissioner on Secondary Marketing

The Office of the Federal Privacy Commissioner yesterday issued a noteworthy decision involving the ability of consumers to opt-out of secondary marketing that is included in monthly banking statements.  Banks routinely pack the monthly statements with an assortment of marketing materials.  When a customer asked to have the marketing materials removed, the bank refused, arguing that such marketing is a widespread practice.

The Privacy Commissioner ruled against the bank, concluding that this constituted a "use" of personal information and that the law prohibits conditioning the provision of a service on the disclosure of information not strictly necessary to provide that service.  Moreover, the Commissioner canvassed other banks and found that at least two others did allow their customers to opt-out of such marketing.  Now if only the Commissioner would reveal which banks respected their customers’ privacy and which decided to fight its customer in order to continue to market to them against their wishes.

It is also worth mentioning that the finding is noteworthy for another reason.  Much like my spam finding, which amazingly took five months to report, the federal privacy commissioner has again taken many months to disclose to the public what those "in the know" knew months ago as this finding was reported within the Canadian privacy community several months ago. 

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