Canadians feel they lack control over their personal information, poll suggests

Canadians feel they lack control over their personal information, poll suggests

OTTAWA—A majority of Canadians feel they have “little to no control” over how businesses and governments collect and use information about them, polling data from Canada’s privacy watchdog suggests.

Roughly two-thirds of Canadians feel they know their rights when it comes to privacy, according to the polling data, and 56 per cent feel they know how to protect their privacy.

But almost the same percentage of respondents expressed feeling powerless when it comes to how private businesses actually use their personal information.

“The majority of Canadians feel they have little to no control over how their personal information is being used by either companies (67 per cent) or by government (61 per cent),” says the polling report, which was released earlier this summer. “Approximately three in 10 believe they have no control at all.”

The results come after a steady stream of news reports about privacy breaches and the misuse of personal information by businesses, including revelations Tuesday of a massive hack of credit card company Capital One.

A single hacker is accused of accessing the personal information of more than 100 million Capital One credit applications, 6 million made by Canadians.

Paige A. Thompson was charged Tuesday with one count of computer fraud and abuse after the FBI raided her Seattle residence Monday. Capital One, which provides Mastercard credit cards for Costco in Canada, said 1 million Canadian social insurance numbers were compromised by the hack.

Last month, Quebec-based Desjardins Group revealed that private information about 2.7 million people and 173,000 businesses was compromised in a December 2018 data breach — allegedly the work of a single employee, who has been fired.

The poll, commissioned by the federal privacy commissioner’s office, suggested the increasing number of news stories about data breaches and hacks are having an effect on Canadians.

“More than eight in 10 (84 per cent) Canadians said that news reports about privacy breaches have affected how willing they are to share personal information,” the report read, noting the results are “virtually unchanged” from 2016.

“The majority of Canadians have refused to provide an organization or business with their personal information (76 per cent) and have not traded their personal information for discounts or incentives on a good or service (70 per cent).”

A spokesperson for Privacy Commissioner Daniel Therrien said a strong majority of Canadians (87 per cent) was particularly concerned about social media platforms gathering personal information to build detailed profiles of individuals.

“Nine in ten Canadians said they were also concerned about how online information may be used to make decisions about them, such as for a job, an insurance claim or health coverage,” wrote Vito Pilieci in a statement to the Star.

“As for who should be responsible for privacy protection, two-thirds believe that responsibility lies with government.”

The telephone survey was conducted by Phoenix SPI with 1,516 Canadians aged 16 and older between Feb. 6 and Feb. 20, 2019. The overall results are considered accurate within 2.5 percentage points, 19 times out of 20.

With files from the Associated Press.

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Alex Boutilier is an Ottawa-based reporter covering national politics. Follow him on Twitter: @alexboutilier

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