(An Orwellian scheme is being devised here)
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:
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.
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
(d) Value of the transactions
The transactions would be linked to a customer by way of:
(II) Social Insurance Number
(III) Date of Birth
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:
Tel: (416) 362-6093 ext. 350
Cell: (647) 274-8495
For media inquiries from Statistics Canada:
Media Relations — Media Hotline
8:30am to 5:00pm Eastern Time, Monday to Friday, excluding holidays.
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.