Statistics Canada’s request for banking data provokes privacy investigation


OTTAWA — Canada’s privacy commissioner Daniel Therrien says he is investigating Statistics Canada’s request for private banking information on 500,000 Canadians.

Therrien says numerous people have complained to his office about the agency’s effort to gather detailed information on financial transactions held by Canadian financial institutions.

But Canada’s chief statistician Anil Arora says traditional methods of gathering data aren’t good enough to measure Canada’s economy and changes in society.

The increasing popularity of online shopping, for instance, makes collecting data from traditional merchants about Canadians’ buying habits inadequate.

Arora says the privacy commissioner was consulted as Statistics Canada planned its pilot project on financial data, but he’d asked the privacy commissioner to take a second look.

In his own statement, Arora says this new formal investigation will include an examination of the requests Statistics Canada has made to businesses in multiple industries for data they collect on their customers and business partners.

Statistics Canada can compel businesses to supply a wide range of data. Arora said the agency has always protected Canadians’ privacy.