Predatory Publications By Professor Pyne (Part 4: The Followup)

1. Important Links

CLICK HERE, for Part I, the paper and backstory.
CLICK HERE, for Part II, the Pyne interview.
CLICK HERE, for Part III, TRU responds in case.

CLICK HERE, for the Ad Hoc Investigatory Committee report.

2. Context Of Followup

In 2017, Professor Pyne released a research report on so-called “predatory publishing”. In it, he details how academics publish in journals that are not peer reviewed, and who make little if any effort to verify the findings.

Although the report did not drop specific names, it was not well received by Thompson Rivers University. In a sense this was understandable, as it is not a topic that most people wish to address. Professor Pyne claims that this led to the atmosphere at the school changing, and to his eventual suspension.

Regardless of how touchy the topic may be, this was the wrong way to handle it. Truth should never be censored just because it is inconvenient or embarrassing.

This topic was originally covered early this year. However, since then the Committee investigating the case has ruled that Professor Pyne’s rights were violated.

3. From Ad Hoc Investigative Comm Report

Our investigation has found the following:
1. Based on the evidence presented to the Committee, TRU appears to suffer a broad institutional weakness when it comes to understanding academic freedom beyond its narrow application to support faculty members’ freedom to pursue what they expect to be fruitful avenues of research and publish their results.

2. There were significant breaches of Dr. Pyne’s academic freedom with respect to the Administration’s responses to his intramural and extramural communications criticizing the School of Business and Economics, its programs, and its faculty. These breaches arose from the failure to properly consider Dr. Pyne’s academic freedom, which is encoded in the collective agreement governing his employment at TRU, in managing workplace complaints against Dr. Pyne.

3. The collective agreement between the University and its faculty association contains an article on academic freedom that creates a positive obligation on the parties to consider academic freedom in any case involving speech and other communications from faculty members. The failure to consider Dr. Pyne’s academic freedom in human resources processes has had the effect of denying Dr. Pyne access to procedural fairness, and hence the decision to suspend him was not made on a sound basis.

4. There is no evidence that any person at TRU attempted to interfere with Dr. Pyne as he carried out his study into publishing in predatory journals.

5. Dr. Pyne’s privacy was breached by both TRU and TRUFA on multiple occasions.

Point #3, the school was found to be lacking in having a strong understanding of its academic freedom obligations.

About point #4, that is true, though it doesn’t appear that the school knew what was happening as the research was being done. As no live subjects were used, no ethics approval was needed.

Point #5 concerned leaking of personal information which Professor Pyne believes was done deliberately.

There is a differentiation between open access publishing and so-called predatory publishing that is often over-looked. Open access publishing relies on the same processes as traditional publishing, including rigorous peer review, whereas predatory publishing does not and attempts to co-opt the open access model for financial gain. In an increasingly complex arena for publishing research, universities and academics grapple with assessing faculty members’ published research for tenure and promotion, and for various institutional benefits, including salary increases and research awards. Academic librarians have long provided their expertise in identifying scholarly resources and are now assisting researchers in identifying which constitute legitimate open access publishing and which do not. There is a clear need for universities to ensure the integrity of their academic decisions for tenure and promotion, in particular, by having policies that differentiate between legitimate and predatory publishing.

Dr. Pyne’s research on the rewards of publishing in predatory journals has raised questions about the way his own colleagues and institution are managing the complexity of publishing research at a time when there is a growing number of journals with questionable peer review practices. These questions go to the heart of the credibility of TRU, and one would expect them to be taken seriously by the university’s senior administration. Even if one wishes to critique Dr. Pyne’s published results – as would be expected as part of a robust scholarly discourse – it seems irresponsible for the Administration to ignore the issues his work raises for TRU, which include whether the fundamental academic judgments involved in tenure and promotion decisions are being made on a sound basis.

The only evidence the Committee has seen of any discussion of the issue of predatory journals is related to the TRU Senate discussion of a motion put forward by a faculty senator in April 2017 to refer the matter to the Senate Tenure and Promotion Committee, which is chaired by the Provost. The matter seems to be still with this Committee, which appears not to have made any reports to Senate since then.

It is the Committee’s opinion that the apparent failure of TRU’s Administration to consider seriously the issue of publishing in predatory journals and its potential impacts on TRU’s core academic decisions represents a profound failure of academic governance at the university

Again, read the whole report for a more thorough reply.

An interesting point is raised: even if one has issues with the topic being raised, the way it was handled was completely wrong.

Beyond that, the report on predatory publishing raises very valid concerns. Academics should be concerned about the quality of the screening that is done of their research. Predatory publishes may reward professors with money or more status for work that by all rights should have been rejected. Academia can be a vicious place. In fact, shedding light on this could be viewed as investigative journalism.

Finally, retaliation (no matter how subtle) creates a chilling effect for everyone. What topics are now off limits? Who will be next? Is this really where we want to go with free speech?

4. Comments From Professor Pyne

1/ What exactly did the ruling say?
-TRU and TRUFA violated academic freedom
-Committee tries not to attribute motives to people
-TRU lacks strong policies in academic freedom
-TRU violated privacy laws by leaking confidential information
-TRU should pay wages lost during suspension

2/ Can or will TRU appeal?
-TRU refused to participate in the process, so not likely
-There have been claims of defamation, even though people were not named in the paper

3/ What has changed since this case happened?
-I’ve had my office transferred elsewhere
-People were unhappy with some Facebook postings I made
-The issue still isn’t sitting well with people

4/ Do you think it will make a difference at TRU?
-No, it doesn’t seem to have
Committee has been hand picked by the President
-They say that they have not been provided with all the information, but won’t say what they don’t have

5/ What would you say to people concerned about academic freedom?
-It’s an important cause
-There are a lot of hoops to jump through
-Check out the Society for Academic Freedom

Predatory Publications by TRU Professor Pyne (Part 3: TRU Responds)


(Thompson Rivers University in Kamloops, BC)


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CLICK HERE, for Part I, the paper and backstory.
CLICK HERE, for Part II, the Pyne interview

This is Part III of a story involving economics Professor, Derek Pyne. Pyne published a paper studying the economic impacts of “predatory publishing” in academic journals. This led to international attention.

Predatory Journals In Essence
-Mailbox addresses (suites) given in address
-Journal no one has heard of before
-Very quick turnaround times
-Questionable, if any, peer review
-Questionable “Impact Factors Analysis”
-Real journal will provide abstract, fake will make you buy entire article, paywall

Pyne had been suspended in the fall of 2018. He cited several reasons, including this publication. In the interest of fairness, Thompson Rivers University was contacted for their side of the story.

While Professor Pyne agreed to an in person meeting, TRU answered questions by email. Due to privacy and legal concerns the answers were much more restricted than what Prof Pyne had disclosed. Here is that exchange.

1/ Professor Pyne’s paper on “Predatory Journals” must have been unexpected. What is TRU’s response to it?

It is important to understand that research is an independent activity undertaken by faculty and the university is not in the practice of monitoring the publishing activity of its faculty. Professor Pyne has the freedom to publish his research and talk about his research publicly.

2/ Does TRU believe the paper to be factually accurate, or a distortion of academic publishing?

TRU does not take a position on Professor Pyne’s research other than that it supports individual faculty member’s right to research and publish their research, and for this research to be openly debated among the academic community.

3/ Was his suspension in 2018 related to the paper he produced?

The action taken against Professor Pyne was not related to his specific research, the dissemination of his research, or the exercising of his right to academic freedom. The action was related to matters that TRU is unable to comment on due to both employment and privacy law.

4/ Have there been any changes to academic publishing as a result of this release? Reviews on how grants/tenure are awarded?

As previously indicated, research is an independent activity and subject to academic discourse. On the matter of tenure and promotion, any faculty member hired or promoted at TRU goes through a robust process, which involves a review of research activity and publishing credentials. This is a process led by peers, hence, any faculty member at TRU moving through the promotion and tenure process is doing so with the endorsement of their faculty colleagues provincially, nationally, and internationally. Additional information on promotion and tenure can be found on TRU’s website.

https://www.tru.ca/__shared/assets/Principles_and_Essential_Features_of_Standards_Documents23557.pdf

5/ Has any faculty research been given a “second look” as a result of the paper?

As indicated, TRU does not monitor the independent publishing activity of its faculty. However, there are processes built within the university system where such activity is reviewed. For example, at TRU, divisional peer review committees and a university committee of Senate review publishing credentials during the tenure and promotion process of faculty. In addition, each individual faculty council and department, with input from the university’s Senate, determine the criteria for tenure and promotion, which includes close scrutiny of publications. Faculty, chairs and deans are also involved in the hiring of any new faculty, and a review of publishing credentials would be part of that process.

6/ Professor Pyne told me he doesn’t believe the academic union is acting properly in the matter, and it has since gone to Labour Relations. Any comment on that?

TRU cannot speak on behalf of the union.

Predatory Publications by TRU Professor Pyne (Part 2: Meeting The Man)

(Thompson Rivers University in Kamloops, BC)


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See the previous article on the infamous paper by Thompson Rivers University Economic Professor, Derek Pyne.

For a simplified version of the story, Professor Pyne published a paper in April 2017 titled “Predatory publications”. It was a look into the academic publishing, and how fake journals were popping up. Given university professors’ duty to “publish or perish”, these seemed to be a way out.

This is a topic that has been reluctantly addressed by universities before. However, this paper took more of an economic view of the subject — rewards and benefits from publishing in such journals.

The paper has not been well received by Thompson Rivers University, especially since it seemed to implicate members of the faculty. Relations between Professor Pyne and the school have gone downhill.

In September 2018, almost a year and a half later, Professor Pyne was suspended from TRU. He is now back at work. He claims that the paper was one reason, but not the only, for the suspension.

Currently, a complaint has been filed under Section 13 of the Labour Relations Code, claiming the Union violated Section 12. Here is the actual text from the Labour Relations Code (of BC)

Duty of fair representation
12 (1)
A trade union or council of trade unions must not act in a manner that is arbitrary, discriminatory or in bad faith
(a) in representing any of the employees in an appropriate bargaining unit, or
(b) in the referral of persons to employment whether or not the employees or persons are members of the trade union or a constituent union of the council of trade unions.
.
(2) It is not a violation of subsection (1) for a trade union to enter into an agreement under which
(a) an employer is permitted to hire by name certain trade union members,
(b) a hiring preference is provided to trade union members resident in a particular geographic area, or
(c) an employer is permitted to hire by name persons to be engaged to perform supervisory duties.
.
(3) An employers’ organization must not act in a manner that is arbitrary, discriminatory or in bad faith in representing any of the employers in the group appropriate for collective bargaining.
.
Procedure for fair representation complaint
13 (1) If a written complaint is made to the board that a trade union, council of trade unions or employers’ organization has contravened section 12, the following procedure must be followed:
(a) a panel of the board must determine whether or not it considers that the complaint discloses a case that the contravention has apparently occurred;
(b) if the panel considers that the complaint discloses sufficient evidence that the contravention has apparently occurred, it must
(i) serve a notice of the complaint on the trade union, council of trade unions or employers’ organization against which the complaint is made and invite a reply to the complaint from the trade union, council of trade unions or employers’ organization, and
(ii) dismiss the complaint or refer it to the board for a hearing.
(2) If the board is satisfied that the trade union, council of trade unions or employers’ organization contravened section 12, the board may make an order or direction referred to in section 14 (4) (a), (b) or (d).

Canuck Law meeting Professor Pyne

The actual interview occurred on Thursday, January 24 at the University in Kamloops, BC. Note: Questions were prepared, but the replies shown are summaries of what was said.

1/ What did you think would happen publishing this?
-It was a new angle on the publishing industry
-This hadn’t been done before
-Expected a higher amount of support for academic freedom and inquiry

2/ Any support from colleagues?
-Some privately do offer support
-No one wants to be public about it
-This is considered an attack on academic freedom

3/ What actually triggered the suspension?
-Collective agreement allows for feedback for candidates
-I exercised that right. University called it defamatory and accusatory

4/ Why the 16 month delay in the suspension? (April 2017-Sept 2018)
-It took time for the backlash to happen
-Reporting by the New York Times really hurt
-American media interviews were given
-Comments made in online forums
-Research comments

5/ Why isn’t the TRU faculty union helping?
-164 page complaint was filed
-Academic unions don’t work the same way private sector unions do
-Lack of understanding by the union in matters like this

6/ What do you see Labour Relations doing?
-Little. They have a very low success rate
-Since 2016 (records shown), 0 or 1 cases successful each year
-Most “successes” come from informal negotiation between parties

7/ What would you like Labour Relations to do?
-Order the union to file a grievance

8/ How can universities screen for “predatory journals”? What are the warning signs?
-Mailbox addresses (suites) given in address
-Journal no one has heard of before
-Very quick turnaround times
-Questionable, if any, peer review
-Questionable “Impact Factors Analysis”
-Real journal will provide abstract, fake will make you buy entire article, paywall
-There are 10,800 right now identified, another 955 suspected (all fields)

9/ Has this led to policy changes at TRU?
-Might have tipped people off as to what is happening?

10/ Was it difficult to get data for research?
-Time consuming
-Manually searching profiles
-Research Ethics not needed (since no face-to-face interviews)
-Google Scholar quick source (academic publications)
-Checking academic profiles also an option

11/ Does this hurt academia?
-It can lower the trust people have in experts and authority figures

12/ Broadly speaking, how does peer review work?
-You need an idea of which journals to submit to
-You submit your research
-You may have to redo large sections of your paper
-Editor of publication often orders revise & resubmit
-Editor will find referees with similar publications to review yours
-Referees are usually volunteers, it’s more of an honour
-It can easily take a year or two to get published

Duke Pesta & Common Core Education

(Duke Pesta in his critique of “Common Core” Education in America)


Items in the above list are addressed HERE

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Not much I can add to this, but Heartland Institution was contacted for information. This is a fascinating, yet morbid review of the new Federal standards of education.

Amendment 10
.
– Undelegated Powers Kept by the States and the People
.
The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the states, are reserved to the states respectively, or to the people.

From Lennie Jarrett of Heartland Institute

I answered each question below it. Let me know if you need anything else.

This was in regards to some of the videos I had seen of Duke Pesta addressing education in the US. It was fascinating to watch in a morbid way.

1/ Regarding the introduction of Common Core and uniform standards across the states: do you view it as well intended/well meaning, or some malevolent purpose?

I view it as both. Many people had really good intentions but were very naïve in how Common Core (CCSS) would be implemented and managed by a self-serving bureaucracy. I know others wanted national standards so they could control education easily from a centralized bureaucracy. CCSS gave them the closest thing possible to that.

2/ This may be outside your scope, but if the public has never been consulted in any meaningful way, would there be any grounds to invalidate CC requirements?

Unfortunately, no, they could not be invalidated. This is a lesson for many parents, that there is no true local control of education. It’s been controlled by the states and federal interventions for decades.

3/ Could you explain the rationale for making mathematics more complex than needed? (Arithmetic shouldn’t look like introduction algebra)

The rationale is some believe they are making it easier by trying to teach different methods while claiming it is a higher method of learning. As a student of mathematics myself, the methods they are teaching are absurd. Math must be taught systematically starting at its foundation. Without a foundation, the higher learning becomes difficult at best leaving many students unprepared for future careers in the STEM fields.

4/ Why are people with no teaching experience being allowed to write CC or other cirriculum?

Much of the curriculum is created by those wanting to make money off their products. They use CCSS as a tool to try and build their market share regardless of the product’s effectiveness at teaching.

Secondly, there are examples of curriculum written by non-teachers that are excellent. It’s really a matter of subject matter mastery, not necessarily a matter of teaching experience.

5/ Could you offer any solutions to getting children out of this nonsense?

Universal education choice is the only solution. Parents must be fully enabled to find the education that best fits the needs of their child. The selection of schools by parents will drive the curriculum to be the best for the student instead of the bureaucracy driving the curriculum to what is best for them.

6/ Why would people like Bill Gates be supporting this? It seems designed to collapse a nation.

Gates needs STEM ready employees. He was not getting that from the public schools. He thought he could fix the system. He was wrong. He claims to learn from his mistakes, and while he does make changes into his direction, he has yet to realize it’s the system itself that is preventing any significant reform and success.

7/ Anything else you think concerned parents should know?

Stop thinking your school is great, while everyone else’s school is bad. The entire system is the problem. CCSS is just the latest fad with more coming each time one fails. Demand your right to have the money designated for your child to follow your child to the education opportunity of your choice. Simply put, fund children, not bureaucracy.

Unifor Interview: Denies Crawling Into Bed With Government

(The new release from the Federal Government)

(Not surprising, the endless pandering about the “wage gap”)


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1. Fall 2018 Economic Update

economic.update.2018

The good part starts on page 40 of the Update. It has to do with “Support For Canadian Journalism”

Here is the problem that the Canadian Government identifies:

In recent years, changes in technology and in the way that Canadians consume news have made it difficult for many news outlets to find and maintain financially sustainable business models. At a time when people increasingly get their news online, and share news and other content through social media, many communities have also been left without local news outlets to tell their stories. Concerns have been expressed that, without government intervention, there may be a decline in the quantity and quality of journalism available to Canadians, including a significant loss of local news coverage.

In November 2018, the Prime Minister, together with other world leaders, committed to take action to support a strong and independent news sector in the digital age. The Government recognizes the vital role that local journalism plays in communities all across the country, and is committed to finding ways to help keep people, and communities, connected through local news providers

Yes, that is correct. The Government realizes that in modern times, the old format of news (large offices and staff), has become obsolete, and financially unviable. This is particularly true in the age where anyone with a laptop and a camera can post online and gain a substantial following.

CanuckLaw itself is run on a shoestring budget, with little expenses. So yes, it is easy to sympathise with those who have had a lengthy career in media.

However, this is the new reality. Media itself is reducing the barriers to entry where literally anyone can be a contributor online. Rather than maintaining a monopoly (or near monopoly) on news, major outlets are facing strong competition from a population who can drastically undercut it. Further, these people will have no loyalty to any political party or government. This is good for a free and open media.

However, the Federal Liberals have decided that propping up the media financially is a better idea.

Access to Charitable Tax Incentives for Eligible News Organizations

Budget 2018 announced that the Government would explore new models that would enable private giving and philanthropic support for trusted, professional, non-profit journalism, including local news. To that end, the Government intends to introduce a new category of qualified donee, for non-profit journalism organizations that produce a wide variety of news and information of interest to Canadians. As qualified donees, eligible non-profit journalism organizations would be able to issue official donation receipts, which allows donors to benefit from tax incentives for charitable giving (including the Charitable Donations Tax Credit for individuals and deductions for corporations). As qualified donees, these organizations would also be eligible to receive funding from registered charities.

A New Refundable Tax Credit to Support News Organizations

To further support news journalism in Canada, the Government intends to introduce a new refundable tax credit for qualifying news organizations. This new measure will aim to support Canadian news organizations that produce a wide variety of news and information of interest to Canadians. The refundable credit will support labour costs associated with producing original news content and will generally be available to both non-profit and for-profit news organizations. An independent panel will be established from the news and journalism community to define eligibility for this tax credit, as well as provide advice on other measures. Once established, the effective date of the refundable tax credit will be set for January 1, 2019.

A New Non-Refundable Tax Credit for Subscriptions to Canadian Digital News Media

To support Canadian digital news media organizations in achieving a more financially sustainable business model, the Government intends to introduce a new temporary, non-refundable 15-per-cent tax credit for qualifying subscribers of eligible digital news media. In total, the proposed access to tax incentives for charitable giving, refundable tax credit for labour costs and non-refundable tax credit for subscriptions will cost the federal government an estimated $595 million over the next five years. Additional details on these measures will be provided in Budget 2019

Yes, the government will be spending about $595 million over 5 years, $119 million annually, to prop up dying media outlets.

The story is explained by Candice Malcolm, but in a nutshell, Unifor, the union which represents — among others — 13,000 media workers, is officially committing to opposing the Federal Conservative Party.

This of course raises a huge red flag. A union that will be taking $120 million/year to subsidise failing media outlets is officially opposing the government’s main opposition party.

In fact, this arguably violates the Conflict of Interest Act. A political party using their power to award public funds to an industry, namely media, who can promote their interests.

2. Conflict Of Interest

4 For the purposes of this Act, a public office holder is in a conflict of interest when he or she exercises an official power, duty or function that provides an opportunity to further his or her private interests or those of his or her relatives or friends or to improperly further another person’s private interests.
Marginal note:

General duty
5 Every public office holder shall arrange his or her private affairs in a manner that will prevent the public office holder from being in a conflict of interest.
Marginal note:

Decision-making
6 (1) No public office holder shall make a decision or participate in making a decision related to the exercise of an official power, duty or function if the public office holder knows or reasonably should know that, in the making of the decision, he or she would be in a conflict of interest.

It sounds harsh. However, from the literal wording in the Conflict of Interest Act, the subsides and political allegiance do appear to violate it.

3. Interview With Howard Law Of Unifor

On Friday, November 23, Unifor representative Howard Law did return a phone call for an interview. Here is a summary of that interview.

(a) The subsidies are meant to keep jobs from being lost, and to prop up sections of the media that are becoming unviable with technology changes.
(b) There is no deal of any kind to provide favourable coverage to any political party.
(c) Unifor, the union, promotes progressive causes all the time. They do not oppose any party because of financial considerations like what people suggest here.
(d) The media workers will continue to operate objectively.

While Mr. Law’s comments are reasonable on the surface, there is still no question that this at least appears to be a form of bribery. Governments handing millions of dollars to a friendly media reeks of propaganda and corruption.

But for now we will wait and see what comes of this.

Privacy Commissioner, Banks, Throw StatsCan Under the Bus

(The issue of bank data being seized is raised in Parliament)

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This article was released by Global News on October 26, 2018, and CanuckLaw covered it here on October 28. In short, Statistics Canada wants to seize the banking information of 500,000 Canadians (each year), and do it without the knowledge or consent of Canadians.

(at 1:40 in the video) Statistics Canada representative James Tabreke in a very blunt way claims that this is a ”new way of getting economic data to make government decisions”. He also claims that StatsCan is being open with the public, and that the Canadian Banks were aware of this.

(at 2:32 in the video) Claim that the Privacy Commissioner has okayed the project.

Prime Minister Trudeau, in his typically partisan manner, defended the data seizure. Of course blamed Stephen Harper for eliminating the long form census in 2010. He claimed StatsCan was working closely with the Privacy Commissioner.

Now the lies get exposed:
First, Trudeau is distorting the truth with reference to Harper gutting the long-form census. In the original video, Statistics Canada claimed bank seizure was a move done to replace the long form census. So Harper cancelling the LFC in 2010 was actually irrelevant, as StatsCan was going to pull this stunt anyway.

Second, StatsCan claims that they have been open with what they are doing. Yet, these talks have been going on for a year now without the public’s knowledge.

Third, the C.B.A. (Canadian Bankers Association) has publicly objected, claiming they thought StatsCan was just in an exploratory stage. C.B.A. says they didn’t know StatsCan was going ahead with this, and says they will oppose the measure. Here is their statement:

Statement from the Canadian Bankers Association

Protecting the information privacy of their valued customers is a top priority for banks in Canada. Banks believed this proposed data acquisition project was still in the exploratory stages and were not aware that Statistics Canada was moving to compel disclosure of this information. No customer transaction data or other personal information has been transferred to Statistics Canada under this request. The CBA is working with members to understand the nature of this request and next steps.

Fourth, the Privacy Commissioner, seen here appearing before the Senate Committee on Banking, Trade and Commerce, refutes the claim that he ”okayed the move”. Instead, he stated that he does not have the authority to approve such a thing, and is only able to provide general advice on privacy laws.

Fifth, the Privacy Commissioner claims he was unaware until very recently that Statistics Canada that they wanted to do this to 500,000 Canadians. He says numbers were not discussed. In the hearing he states, ”Proportionality is very important.”

Sixth, the Privacy Commissioner states he was unaware or just how much information would be seized by such a move.

Seventh, the Privacy Commissioner admits that StatsCan was not nearly as transparent as it could have been.

Eighth, and this is a glaring omission: StatsCan doesn’t say how this massive intrusion would actually help. There are just vague references to ”economic information”.

Certainly, that 15 years of credit card data had recently been seized also doesn’t sit well with many Canadians.

Now that formal complaints against this measure have been filed with the Privacy Commissioner, there is no longer the option of just giving general legal information. At this point, an investigation is mandated by law.

The proposal appears to be dead in the water, as public outrage and the threats of legal action are forcing StatsCan to back off. But it will be interesting to see if the Federal Liberals continue to support this Orwellian measure.

Note:
Statistics Canada, Equifax, Transunion, the C.B.A., and the major banks have all been contacted by CanuckLaw for comment. Any responses will be posted here as updates.

Canadian Banker’s Association rep Aaron Boles
Thanks, Alex.

The most important take-away from yesterday is that StatsCan is suspending any movement on its proposed project until the Office of the Privacy Commissioner has completed its report, which we understand will be January at the earliest. We were firm in our appearance before the Senate Committee that all options are on the table in terms of defending the privacy and security of bank customers’ personal information and transaction records. Until the OPC report is tabled and StatsCan responds about what it proposes to do thereafter, there’s little point in speculating on how information on spending habits would be collected, if at all.

Best,

AEB

From RBC
Hi Alex – please refer to the CBA for comment on this.

Best,
AJ

AJ Goodman I Director, External Communications, Personal & Commercial Banking I

From TD Canada
Hi Alex,

We refer your inquiry to the CBA, however can tell you that TD takes the trust our customers place in us extremely seriously and has not agreed to share customer data.

Thanks,

Alison

From Statistics Canada
Hello,

“I can assure you that we will not proceed with this project until we have addressed the privacy concerns expressed by Canadians by working cooperatively with the Privacy Commissioner and with financial institutions.”

Anil Arora, Chief Statistician of Canada (Standing Senate Committee on Banking, Trade and Commerce, November 8, 2018)

Thank you,

Laurence Beaudoin-Corriveau

Manager (Acting), Media Relations, Communications
Statistics Canada, Government of Canada

laurence.beaudoin-corriveau@canada.ca / Tel: 613-951-2599

From Equifax
Hello Alex.

In our database, Equifax Canada has information on ~27M Canadian consumers, which we maintain as a registered Canadian credit bureau in accordance with applicable credit reporting and privacy laws. Statistics Canada has never directed Equifax Canada to provide them with, and subsequently, Equifax Canada has not provided to Statistics Canada all of its data pursuant to its enabling legislation.

In any instance where a regulated body relying on legislative authority requests information from Equifax, our standard process is to conduct a review against our internal data governance and security processes, as well as to consider applicable law prior to disclosure.

We don’t have any information on the rumour you mentioned about credit data from 15 years ago.

Media Relations | Equifax Canada Co.

5700 Yonge St., Suite 1700, Toronto, Ontario, Canada M2M 4K2

Statistics Canada Wants Banks to Hand Over Customer Data

(An Orwellian scheme is being devised here)

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If true, this story is disturbing. Statistics Canada wants to collect the banking data from 500,000 Canadians each year.

Statistics Canada claims it wants: “to start collecting, on a limited basis, financial transactions data from banks, as well as other organizations that may process financial transactions data.

Section 13 of the Statistics Act reads as follows:

Access to records

13 A person having the custody or charge of any documents or records that are maintained in any department or in any municipal office, corporation, business or organization, from which information sought in respect of the objects of this Act can be obtained or that would aid in the completion or correction of that information, shall grant access thereto for those purposes to a person authorized by the Chief Statistician to obtain that information or aid in the completion or correction of that information.
R.S., 1985, c. S-19, s. 13;

So, “anyone” with “any” records of “any” sort MUST disclose them if Statistics Canada believes the information can be used for statistical purposes. That is what the law says.

Furthermore, the Canadian Privacy Act is really no help here. It claims data collection is okay, as long as it relates to its purpose.

Collection, Retention and Disposal of Personal Information
Marginal note:

Collection of personal information

4 No personal information shall be collected by a government institution unless it relates directly to an operating program or activity of the institution.

While this seems — at least on paper — to be legal, one could easily argue that neither the Statistics Act nor the Privacy Act were ever designed for this

The transaction data would include:
(a) Description of the transaction
(b) Date and Time
(c) Location
(d) Value of the transactions

The transactions would be linked to a customer by way of:
(I) Name
(II) Social Insurance Number
(III) Date of Birth
(IV) Gender
(V) Address

Spokesman James Tabreke claims that obtaining all the personal identifiers is necessary in order to “gain a snapshot” of certain types of customers. He says that StatsCan is not interested in anyone in particular, but just using the information to observe trends.

Even if this were true, the idea of banks handing over such information “without the customers’ knowledge or consent” is quite chilling indeed.

The math provided by the Global article is confusing.

First, supposedly, 500,000 people’s data is to be taken. It states the odds of being chosen are 1 in 20. That would only be true if there were 10 million people in Canada. There are 36-37 million at this point. Teenagers and adolescents frequently have bank accounts too. So, where does the 1 in 20 chance come from?

Second, if this were being done for statistical purposes, why would 500,000 people need to be selected? Political polling, for example, uses samples between 500 and 2000. A sample of perhaps 10,000 would obtain results accurate to within 1% error.

Third, an omission here: if there were to be 500,000 Canadians each year, would StatsCan be using the data of the same people, and contrasting their behavioural changes, or would it be 500,000 more Canadians?

For media inquiries of the Canadian Banker’s Association:
Aaron Boles
Tel: (416) 362-6093 ext. 350
Cell: (647) 274-8495
Email:aboles@cba.ca

For media inquiries from Statistics Canada:
Media Relations — Media Hotline
613-951-INFO (951-4636)
8:30am to 5:00pm Eastern Time, Monday to Friday, excluding holidays.
E-mail: statcan.mediahotline-ligneinfomedias.statcan@canada.ca

At the time of writing, messages have been left with both institutions.

Tabreke claims that this method of forcing banks to hand over personal data will improve on, and eventually replace the surveys that have traditionally been mailed out. While the honesty is refreshing, it is downright creepy how calm and straightforward he is.

Of course, it leaves out the obvious question — why not get the stores to report their consumer trends? Not customer information, but sales trends. Why go for this invasive tactic?

Yes, that is indeed what he says. Forget voluntary disclosure. We will rummage through your financial life and take the information for ourselves. This is wrong on many levels.

Going cash only or using crypto-currency seem like appealing options at this point.


Followup to the Story

Aaron Boles did return the call quite shortly after this article was published. He stated that the C.B.A. has and will continue to refuse the demand. Although the C.B.A. and banks ”do” comply with most requests from Statistics Canada, this was just too far. Boles stated quite bluntly that banks need to have the trust of their customers, and this would erode it.

The C.B.A. claims that no data sharing proposed here has so far actually taken place. Here is the statement they released to Global Media:

Statement from the Canadian Bankers Association

Protecting the information privacy of their valued customers is a top priority for banks in Canada. Banks believed this proposed data acquisition project was still in the exploratory stages and were not aware that Statistics Canada was moving to compel disclosure of this information. No customer transaction data or other personal information has been transferred to Statistics Canada under this request. The CBA is working with members to understand the nature of this request and next steps.

Further Followup (October 29)
The Liberal government has announced in Parliament that it is okay with the push by Statistics Canada, and claims it is necessary in order to advance government policy. See this video.