StatCan’s plan to harvest private banking info on hold
OTTAWA — Statistics Canada’s controversial plan to harvest personal financial data without people’s consent is on hold until an investigation of the legality and intrusiveness of the project is finished, the country’s chief statistician said Thursday.
The federal statistical agency recently caught nine financial institutions off guard by informing them they were required to provide banking information from Canadians in 500,000 households across the country. Canadian law lets Statistics Canada compel public and private institutions, including commercial banks, to turn over data they hold.
The ensuing public outrage has put a spotlight on Canada's privacy laws, which critics have called outdated and inadequate in an era where privacy fears are deepening and data is becoming an increasingly valuable commodity.
The concerns have triggered heated political exchanges in the House of Commons, where opposition MPs have accused the government of state surveillance and authoritarianism. Under frequent grilling by the Conservatives, the governing Liberals have insisted the agency will protect Canadians’ privacy while producing important, reliable data.
The uproar has also stirred up serious concerns in the financial institutions that were contacted — and prompted federal privacy commissioner Daniel Therrien to launch an investigation into the matter.