A fam­ily trait, brought for­ward

The Prince George Citizen - - Money - MARK RYAN

Much of my Ryan an­ces­tral in­for­ma­tion is only avail­able via the sto­ry­telling of an­cient (liv­ing) New­found­lan­ders. Most of the writ­ten records were lost to fires, so if some of the tales are a lit­tle tallish, chalk it up to Newfy cre­ativ­ity.

Cases in point: As the story goes, one an­ces­tor came over from Ire­land as cap­tain of a ship trans­port­ing in­den­tured Ir­ish im­mi­grants, some­times re­ferred to as white slaves. Al­though their servi­tude seems to have had le­gal lim­its not avail­able to African slaves, on ar­rival they were chat­tel in most mean­ing­ful re­spects. Many cap­tains took one of the more de­sir­able fe­males as a mis­tress, and re­port­edly my an­ces­tor was not above this. But it turns out he fell in love with her, and they set­tled in Cape Bret­ton to raise a fam­ily.

Around the time Canada be­came a na­tion, it is said that a cousin slipped away into the U.S., and even­tu­ally joined up with the no­to­ri­ous (Jesse) James gang. “Wild Bill” Ryan pur­port­edly had some of my DNA in his veins as he rode along­side James into Mus­cle Shoals, Ala., and re­lieved a lo­cal pay­mas­ter of about $5,000 in gold, sil­ver and bank notes (about $85,000 value in 2018). In re­sponse, the United States At­tor­ney for the North­ern Dis­trict of Alabama pasted wanted posters of them through­out the re­gion.

Be­fore James could be brought to trial, he was killed by an as­so­ciate Bob Ford. Mean­while, my sup­posed cousin Billy Ryan was caught in Ten­nessee and sent to prison for 25 years on con­vic­tion of an ear­lier heist.

Fast for­ward 125 years. I am mild-man­neredly sit­ting in my bank of­fice in Prince Ru­pert, hum­ming the Care Bears theme song when I get a rather ob­nox­ious phone call from an overly au­thor­i­ta­tive voice at Rev­enue Canada (now CRA). He de­manded that I re­lease a client’s file in­for­ma­tion to him be­cause he rep­re­sented the all-pow­er­ful fed­eral gov­ern­ment, or words to that ef­fect.

I called our lawyer, who con­firmed that we ab­so­lutely do not an­swer to the CRA or any other body re­quest­ing in­for­ma­tion. We an­swer to the law and most par­tic­u­larly to our clients. We would not re­lease the in­for­ma­tion un­less ei­ther per­mit­ted to do so in writ­ing by our client or forced to do so by a court sub­poena. Feel­ing like Wild Bill armed with a men­ac­ingly sharp pen­cil and a le­gal opin­ion, I called back the would-be in­tim­ida­tor at CRA, and re­layed the mes­sage tri­umphantly. He huffed and puffed, but in the end, couldn’t so much as flut­ter a piece of pa­per with all his hot air. And in the end we did not re­lease one sin­gle digit from the file to them.

A story in the news over the past few days sug­gests that Statis­tics Canada will soon be forc­ing Cana­dian banks to re­lease in­for­ma­tion to them about our clients (see story above). The op­po­si­tion par­ties are fight­ing the idea in Par­lia­ment on the prin­ci­ple of pri­vacy, while the feds seem de­ter­mined to back their sta­tis­ti­cal file dig­gers.

In re­sponse, the Cana­dian Bank­ing As­so­ci­a­tion pushed back along with the op­po­si­tion par­ties, and even­tu­ally the pri­vacy com­mis­sioner got in­volved. The CBA re­cently re­leased a state­ment which in­cludes the fol­low­ing:

“The CBA and its mem­bers are en­cour­aged that the Of­fice of the Pri­vacy Com­mis­sioner has launched an in­ves­ti­ga­tion into Statis­tics Canada’s data re­quest… The bank­ing sec­tor con­tin­ues to em­pha­size the cen­tral im­por­tance of pro­tect­ing the pri­vacy and se­cu­rity of cus­tomer fi­nan­cial data and per­sonal in­for­ma­tion.”

And RBC took it a step fur­ther with the fol­low­ing tweet:

“RBC pro­tects the pri­vacy of our clients’ info, which we’ll only use for the pur­poses listed in our client agree­ments. Be­fore us­ing info for a pur­pose not listed, we first ob­tain con­sent. No cus­tomer trans­ac­tion data or other per­sonal info has been trans­ferred to Stats Canada.”

In the old days, bad guys like Wild Bill used a gun to rob the bank. To­day the thieves use a com­puter (or their po­si­tion) to try to rob the data bank. The se­cu­rity guard with a gun has been largely re­placed by care­fully man­aged sys­tems to pro­tect our clients from data breaches.

Even in my rel­a­tively brief time in the in­dus­try, I have seen the guns held on site fade in to mem­ory, while the pro­tec­tion of pri­vate in­for­ma­tion has risen to the level of sa­cred trust. Mean­while, in the evo­lu­tion of things, sev­eral non-banks have made head­way in to the money-mov­ing busi­ness on the trans­ac­tional level, and a few of them – Google, Ap­ple, Ama­zon, – are si­mul­ta­ne­ously get­ting rich by know­ing the most in­ti­mate de­tails about your pur­chase habits.

Think about that for a minute. This morn­ing, Ama­zon sent me an email with a re­mark­ably ac­cu­rate guess as to which book I might want to buy from them next. This is both con­ve­nient and freaky at once. As fi­nance and big data con­verge, cus­tomers will need to pay very close at­ten­tion to th­ese new play­ers’ abil­i­ties to pro­tect their per­sonal in­for­ma­tion from the bad guys – and on their like­li­hood to use what they know about you eth­i­cally in the face of their be­ing both a re­tailer, and an owner-man­ager of your per­sonal data.

Mark Ryan is an in­vest­ment ad­vi­sor with RBC Do­min­ion Se­cu­ri­ties Inc. (Mem­ber–Cana­dian In­vestor Pro­tec­tion Fund), and th­ese are Ryan’s views, and not those of RBC Do­min­ion Se­cu­ri­ties. This ar­ti­cle is for in­for­ma­tion pur­poses only. Please con­sult with a pro­fes­sional ad­vi­sor be­fore tak­ing any ac­tion based on in­for­ma­tion in this ar­ti­cle. See Ryan’s web­site at: http://dir. rbcin­vest­ments.com/mark.ryan.

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