Bell’s Customer Tracking Sees CRTC Complaint Filed by Public Interest Groups

Do you recall the uproar from privacy interest groups when Bell announced that it wanted to know everything about you? Well, Canada’s No. 3 wireless player will have to provide some answers to the CRTC, as two public interest groups have complained to the regulator that Bell’s privacy policy actually isn’t sufficient to protect Canadians’ privacy. The CRTC has started its own investigation as well.


In an application filed today, the Public Interest Advocacy Centre (PIAC) and the Consumer’s Association of Canada argue that Bell is “overstepping its role as a neutral provider of telecommunication services”, and that the Bell Relevant Ads program practically opposes Canadians’ reasonable expectations of privacy (via Financial Post).

“The [Privacy Commissioner] has limited enforcement powers and its rules about online behavioural advertising don’t apply to the mobile context,” Mr. White said. “There is a fundamental shift here – from neutral, passive message transmission to use of all sorts of information associated with that message,” he said, referencing the role BCE plays as the communications provider for its customers.

The two public interest groups believe that the Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act is dated in terms of a telecoms context.

In reply, Bell said that they aren’t doing anything new: the company already collects information to improve the customer experience. Oh, and the program doesn’t target individual users, instead it will serve ads across “broad audience segments.”

“We followed every guideline that they have,” Wade Oosterman, president of Bell Mobility and residential services, said in an interview in October. “I believe we’re completely on side with any guideline that they’ve published ever and we’re actually doing something that consumers generally are in favour of and want.”

“We view it as a positive, value-add service for our subscribers,” he said. “And of course for advertisers it’s another step forward in their ability to reach the right people with the right message.”

Right. That’s why they need the GPS location information, visited website information, app usage information, searched items information, TV usage and calling patterns of 7.7 million Canadians. Sounds perfectly fair, doesn’t it?

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