A Winnipeg-based expert in privacy law is raising concerns about a Statistics Canada program to collect financial details on some 500,000 Canadians.
The Statistics Canada initiative has seen the agency write to the country’s largest banks asking for detailed records including social insurance numbers, transaction histories, withdrawals from ATMs and bill payments.
The agency has stated the data for what it’s dubbed the “personal information bank” would be made anonymous and used only for statistical purposes.
That isn’t enough for Andrew Buck, a financial services, privacy and business lawyer with Winnipeg’s Pitblado Law.
“The privacy laws might well allow this. But just because we can do something, is it a good idea to do it?” he asked during an interview Tuesday on Gormley.
Buck said Statistics Canada has broad legal authority to obtain information from companies, likely including the data requested from the banks.
However, he said he had concerns around whether any data could be truly made anonymous.
“If you’re dealing with people’s social insurance numbers, if you’re dealing with their transactions, how are you not going to be able to identify these people?”
He said there was also reason to worry any data could be kept safe. While he acknowledged there’s always the possibility of hackers breaching a system, he said human error has been at the root of many high-profile data breaches.
“Nobody’s perfect: hard drives get left behind. files get left in people’s cars, files get left on subways,” he said.
He said banks fearing a backlash from their customers could still try and resist the Statistics Canada request. But, he noted such a move could open non-complying banks up to fines.
“From the bank’s perspective, that might be a cost of doing business in order to satisfy your customers that the information is being safeguarded.”