StatCan’s plan to har­vest pri­vate bank­ing info on hold

The Peterborough Examiner - - Canada & World - ANDY BLATCHFORD

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.

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