Less than a week after voicing concerns over Bell’s ad tracking program and how it violated Canadian law, the Privacy Commissioner of Canada has provided an update, which notes BCE has agreed to end their ‘Relevant Ads Program’.
Bell has told the Privacy Commissioner it will be ending its program and deleting all existing customer profiles related to the ad tracking program. The company also stated future programs similar in nature would launch with opt-in consent.
The Privacy Commissioner seems to be pleased and noted “we consider this matter to be resolved”:
We appreciate Bell’s cooperation throughout the course of our investigation and we respect Bell’s decision to terminate the program.
As we stated in our investigation report, our Office accepted that Bell’s objective of maximizing advertising revenue while improving the online experience of customers was a legitimate business objective. We also accepted that Bell’s targeted advertising initiative could be effective in achieving those objectives.
Our recommendation to Bell was that it use opt-in consent in its targeted advertising program. We felt that the privacy implications of the initiative were significant enough to require opt-in consent from customers.
Shortly after the OPC report was published, Bell quickly announced it would “abide by the privacy commission’s decision,” while also stating “We’re dedicated to protecting customer privacy and thank the commission for clarifying the rules.”
Bell started notifying its customers of their ads program back in October 2013. The controversial automatic opt-in program mined customer account information such as device type, postal code and language preference, while network information tracked included “app usage, location, web pages visited, TV viewing, calling patterns and other information associated with your network usage.” Users were allowed to opt-out.
According to the company at the time, they believed benefits of the program for customers would be “to receive Internet advertising that’s relevant to them rather than the random online advertising they’re receiving now.”