Want to know if Statistics Canada has already taken your financial info? Use our step-by-step guide to file your own Personal Information Request
Statistics Canada has already been collecting the personal information and credit details of thousands of people in Canada from TransUnion, since 20172. Now, the government agency plans to build an enormous information bank with the real-time financial transaction data of 500,000 people. This “individual-level financial transactions data” would include SINs, account balances, cash withdrawals from ATMs, bills paid and credit card payments. And it sounds like our Internet activities might be next.
The problem is, Statistics Canada doesn’t seem to be doing anything illegal. Our current privacy laws simply do not provide enough protection against this kind of information-gathering. This is because the rules that govern how the government protects, uses and shares our personal information are extremely out of date. The Privacy Act, which oversees the government’s use of your data, came into effect in 1983 – years before the Internet, or cell phones. The powers that let Statistics Canada force banks to hand over our confidential information are from the same era.
Enough of you have already raised concerns that Statistics Canada has announced it’s putting this plan on hold3 – but it’s far from over yet. There’s nothing actually stopping this plan from coming back when the attention dies down. We need your help to put an end to this once and for all.
The good news is, we already know what needs to be done. The Standing Committee on Access to Information, Privacy and Ethics (ETHI) has put forward strong recommendations4 for how to update the Privacy Act to ensure our personal information is protected. We also know that obligating Statistics Canada to get consent before collecting sensitive information from service providers will not undermine its abilities to collect robust and accurate data.
All it’s going to take now is a strong push from Canadians to have the bill introduced in Parliament.