Telecommunications companies such as Bell were urged by the OPC to adopt an “opt-in” consent policy in regards to consumer profiles and behaviorally targeted advertising. However, Bell’s “Relevant Advertising Program” continues to collect data about users’ habits, app usage and more to sell to third party companies, even after receiving a customer’s request to opt out.
The Privacy Commissioner, Daniel Therrien, found that Bell would stop serving the customer “relevant ads” but continued to track them anyway, “in case the customer were to change his or her mind in the future, and opt back into the program.”
“Bell’s ad program involves the use of vast amounts of its customers’ personal information, some of it highly sensitive,” Therrien said. “Bell should not simply assume that, unless they proactively speak up to the contrary, customers are consenting to have their personal information used in this new way.”
Alongside the report published by the OPC, the commission stated “We remain hopeful that Bell will reconsider its position but are prepared to address this unresolved issue in accordance with our authorities under [the Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act (PIPEDA)], which could involve taking the matter to the Federal Court.”
Bell has said it will decrease its customer tracking levels, and will more strictly adhere to the OPC’s opt-in approach. In an email to The Register, the company stated: “We’re dedicated to protecting customer privacy and thank the commission for clarifying the rules. These are rules that must apply not only to Canadian companies but to international companies operating here, like Facebook and Google, to ensure a fair and competitive marketplace.”