University of Ottawa Law Professor, Michael Geist, has provided more details on Bell’s targeting advertising program and how it lacks privacy for customers, as more documents made public have revealed.
In a nutshell, here’s where Geist says Bell’s ad program—which launched a year and a half ago—is “creating serious privacy concerns”:
- Bell’s Relevant Advertising Program has an opt-out approach, which means all customers are part of the program until they ask to be excluded.
- Bell has more access to your data than your Internet Service Provider. According to documents, “advertisers can create profiles that include age, gender, account location (including postal code), credit score, pricing plan, and average revenue per user.
- Bell tracks and keeps individual Internet usage, which allows advertisers to see user profiles based on interests (which are determined by websites you surf). Website visits are tracked for 30 days in a “probe buffer” by U.S. data mining company Guavus. Also, all websites visited are logged in a “Context Awareness Engine” for 90 days, which can be traced to specific users.
- While currently disabled, Bell has created the option to track search queries via website address requests, to allow advertisers view more detailed user profiles.
While the company does not disclose the information to third parties, its use of the information still triggers Canadian privacy law. The full profile represents an enormous amount of personal information, which is why the company’s opt-out approach leaves millions of Canadians with inadequate privacy protections.
Bell has disclosed 113,000 customers have opted out of their ad program in the first year, a small fraction of the company’s millions of customers.
How to opt-out of the Bell relevant ad program?
1. Visit Bell’s Relevant Advertising page here.
2. Click on one or both of the bottom links to opt out of the Bell Mobility and/or Bell residential services ad program and follow the instructions.
Let us know if you’re able to opt-out of the advertising program, or if you have decided to stay opted-in for targeted ads based on your online habits.