Senate committee to probe Statistics Canada’s request for Canadians’ banking data
November 6, 2018
A recent Global News report revealed that Statistics Canada is seeking full details of every banking transaction made by 500,000 Canadians over a designated period, without their consent. Statistics Canada told Global that responses to its surveys are low; the agency said the data will be used to track household spending and consumer trends, and that the data collected will be made anonymous.
Former Chief Statistician Wayne Smith told media he believes the agency may have overreached.
The committee intends to invite the minister responsible for Statistics Canada, Navdeep Bains, Privacy Commissioner Daniel Therrien, Statistics Canada Chief Statistician Anil Arora, and representatives from the Canadian Bankers Association, among others, to answer the committee’s questions.
The revelation of Statistics Canada’s request comes as the committee completed its cyber security study, cyber.assault: it should keep you up at night. The report delves into issues pertaining to the protection of personal information. It also made recommendations to give greater powers to the Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada to ensure that businesses comply with relevant privacy legislation, and that federal departments and agencies be required to report data breaches to the Privacy Commissioner.
The committee’s first hearing on this matter is expected to take place on November 8, 2018.
According to the Global News story, Statistics Canada is asking for banks to provide 500,000 Canadians’ financial transaction data, with a new sample of Canadians to be chosen every year.
In that story, the Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada revealed it had already been in contact with Statistics Canada after businesses expressed concerns over its request for customer data. In a statement released on October 31, Statistics Canada said it has invited the Privacy Commissioner to provide “additional suggestions” to protect Canadians’ personal information.
Section 13 of the Statistics Act says the person in charge of records “in any department … corporation, business or organization” must provide access to that information to a person authorized by the Chief Statistician.
“It makes me uncomfortable to think that banks may be forced to turn over every single financial transaction a person makes. While I don’t question the good intentions of the dedicated professionals at Statistics Canada, I would like to have more than just assurances that the intimate, personal details of Canadians’ lives will be protected.”
“Our latest report on cyber security shows just how vulnerable we can be to data theft. I want to know more about the rationale for Statistics Canada’s request and what security measures will be put in place to protect Canadians’ data and privacy.”