Stat­can chief: Agency can’t back down from a push for new data sources

The Daily Courier - - CANADA -

OT­TAWA — Statis­tics Canada won’t back down from a push to find new sources of data to fuel the na­tion’s thirst for in­for­ma­tion, but will only move as quickly as Cana­di­ans are com­fort­able, the coun­try’s chief statis­ti­cian says.

Anil Arora said his agency needs to do a bet­ter job of telling the coun­try why it needs in­for­ma­tion and how it pro­tects data af­ter blow­back from a pro­posal to col­lect bank­ing in­for­ma­tion from 500,000 Cana­di­ans.

Statis­tics Canada has pressed pause on the pilot pro­ject un­til the end of a re­view by the fed­eral pri­vacy watch­dog.

In the mean­time, Arora said the agency will look for other ways to feed grow­ing data needs by tap­ping non-tra­di­tional sources of in­for­ma­tion.

“We are one of the best sta­tis­ti­cal agen­cies in the world not be­cause we hold back,” Arora said in an in­ter­view af­ter his morn­ing ad­dress.

“We (will) move at the pace at which so­ci­ety is ac­cept­ing of the trade-offs that are there, and we need to do a bet­ter job of ex­plain­ing to Cana­di­ans . . . the checks and bal­ances that are in place, the com­plex sys­tems that we built over 100 years to pro­tect their pri­vacy.”

Statis­tics pub­lished by the agency are used to set in­ter­est rates on loans and mort­gages, help lo­cal plan­ners de­cide where to place new schools or hospi­tals, and set the value of fed­eral se­niors ben­e­fits like old age se­cu­rity.

But the data un­der­pin­ning the agency’s find­ings has started to be­come prob­lem­atic and its meth­ods are now em­broiled in a po­lit­i­cal fire fight over pri­vacy con­cerns.

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