Canada Post will conduct a review of its marketing program after the federal privacy watchdog determined it violated privacy law by using the personal information of Canadians unauthorized manner.
The office of Privacy Commissioner Philippe Dufresne said in a report this week that data collected by Canada Post was used to create mailing lists rented to businesses, as part of a program called Smartmail Marketing .
The data includes information about where individuals live and the type of online purchases they make, the report said. However, he adds that Canada Post did not obtain consent from individuals to indirectly collect information contained in envelopes in order to enable its marketing program.
It was therefore established that the postal service had violated article five of the Personal Information Protection Act — a conclusion that Canada Post initially disputed.
Canada Post responded to the commissioner’s allegations in a press release on Friday.
“We are trusted to handle the personal information of Canadians on a daily basis. There is nothing more important to us than maintaining this trust in Canadians. We therefore understand that Canadians may be concerned following the publication of the annual report of the Office of the Privacy Commissioner,” said Canada Post.
Canada Post also said Friday it was committed to Privacy Act and the protections it grants to personal data.
“We will therefore be conducting a review of our data services program to ensure that we are meeting the standards that Canadians expect,” he said.
While the program is under review, Canada Post says it will increase transparency and awareness of its approach to the use of personal information. They will also “streamline and provide greater visibility” to their opt-out programs, it says.
“Despite all of this, we will continue to work closely with the Office of the Privacy Commissioner,” the statement said.
Article 5 of Privacy Act “requires institutions to collect personal information directly from individuals and inform them of the purposes of the collection, unless limited exceptions apply,” the commissioner’s report states.
The term “authorization” is not defined in the Act, but the Commissioner is of the view that individuals must be aware of the practice by which their personal information is used and have taken an action “that can reasonably be inferred to give authorization for this practice,” the report said.
The commissioner recommended in his report that Canada Post stop using and disclosing personal information obtained from its own operational data for postal marketing purposes until it obtains the consent of Canadians.
However, the Postal Service “refused” to take the recommended actions, the report said.
The watchdog’s report says Canada Post disagrees with Dufresne’s conclusion that it violated privacy law, saying it has had to continually find new ways to diversify its sources of income to compensate for the decline in the volume of letters over the years.
The office of Minister Jean-Yves Duclos, Minister of Public Services and Procurement, says it is concerned by the allegations concerning Canada Post.
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“As soon as the minister was made aware of the situation, he called Mr. Ettinger, president and CEO of Canada Post, to reiterate that the protection and preservation of Canadian a*sets [sic] the right to privacy is of the utmost importance. Mr. Ettinger a*sured Minister Duclos that they were fully cooperating with the Office of the Privacy Commissioner,” said a statement from the office to PKBNEWS.
Canada Post is quoted in the commissioner’s report as saying that it does not consider its “engagement in these activities to be in any way contrary to the public good.”
The report says the privacy investigation began when an individual received marketing materials from a local Toronto restaurant, addressed to them, with their name and full apartment address on the envelope.
According to the complainant, Canada Post told him that “the (marketing) program combines information on individuals that Post has in its possession with publicly available information obtained from the telephone directory and sells it to interested companies to market to individuals. writes the commissioner’s report.
The report highlights that Canada Post does not provide this information directly to businesses.
Instead, for a fee, personal data is disclosed to a third-party mail service provider who has a contract with Canada Post and delivers mail on behalf of the businesses.
Ann Cavoukian is executive director of the Global Policy and Security by Design Center and former Privacy Commissioner of Ontario. She says the way Canada Post handles personal information is “absolutely scandalous.”
She claims that all control over individuals’ data was lost once it was pa*sed to a third party.
“That’s the problem. You don’t know what purpose it could be used for,” Cavoukian told PKBNEWS.
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