Bell’s Targeted Ad Tracking Program Violates Canadian Law: Privacy Commissioner [u]

In October 2013 Bell announced that it will ride an emerging trend of behaviourally targeted advertising called “Relevant Advertising Program”. The worrying issue is that Bell creates highly detailed profiles for every single customer it has — including tracking their Internet browsing habits, app usage, TV viewing and calling patterns, combined with demographic and account data already collected —ultimately enabling third-parties to deliver highly targeted ads for a certain fee.


The move sparked hundreds of complaints back then, so the Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada took the matter on board. A year and half later, the Privacy Commissioner of Canada has released his decision on the program and the ruling doesn’t favour Bell: they have found the relevant advertising program violates Canadian law, Michael Geist explains.

Since its launch, Bell’s program has sparked an unprecedented 170 privacy complaints under the Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act (PIPEDA).

What raised concerns — among others — was the following: first, the Bell survey backing its claims that opt-out consent is appropriate was a tweaked in favour of the company, as the questions were unduly complex or leading.

Secondly, Bell refused to implement a key recommendation to obtain the express consent of customers, the OPC press release highlights.

While the company has agreed to make a number of changes to address privacy concerns raised during the investigation, it has so far refused to implement a key recommendation to obtain express consent from customers [emphasis added].

While the OPC greeted Bell’s move to implement some of the recommendations it had devised to protect customer privacy, it expressed its willingness to take the matter to court if Bell continues to refuse to address the “critical issue of consent”.

Update: Bell spokesman Jason Laszlo has been informing the media “Bell will abide by the privacy commission’s decision including the opt-in approach. We’re dedicated to protecting customer privacy and thank the commission for clarifying the rules.” (via

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