The Royal Bank of Canada updated its mobile application for Android users earlier this month. Like many banking apps, the RBC version allows users to view account balances, pay bills, and find bank branches from their smartphone. Yet when users tried to install the app, they were advised that the bank would gain access to a wide range of personal data.
The long list of personal data – far longer than that found in comparable applications from banks such as TD Canada Trust or Bank of Montreal – included permission to use the device’s camera, to read the user’s call history, to access the user’s Internet browsing habits, and to even check out their browser bookmarks. After users took to Twitter and the Google app review section to complain, RBC advised that it would update the app and that users should “stay tuned” about the permission requirements.
My weekly technology law column (Toronto Star version, homepage version) notes that RBC is not alone in requiring users to disclose more personal information in order to access services. Aeroplan, the loyalty program linked to Air Canada, sent an email last week to hundreds of thousands of Canadians notifying them that it too was changing its data collection practices.