Stats Canada’s creepy data grab should scare you

If I asked you nicely, would you had over to me all of your personal data, including your name and address, social insurance number and every single spending item, bill payment and bank deposit?

Probably not.

And chances are that most Canadians, regardless of their political leanings, would want that kind of information being handed over to a government department.

Especially not without their knowledge or consent.

Yet that is what Statistics Canada is trying to do.

They want Canada’s 9 biggest banks and credit unions to hand over everything they have on as many as 500,000 Canadians, and they don’t want the banks telling their customers.

Here is how Global News described the project.

The personal banking and financial transactions being requested include bill payments, cash withdrawals from ATMs, credit card payments, electronic money transfers and even account balances of Canadians across the country.

James Tebrake, director general of macroeconomics at Statistics Canada, told Global News that beginning in January, the agency will ask nine banks for the financial transaction information from a representative sample of 500,000 randomly chosen Canadians or a 1 in 20 chance of being selected.

Here’s the crazy thing, StatsCan claims that this is all allowed under their reading of the federal privacy act and the statistics act.

Also worrying, apparently the minister in charge, Navdeep Bains has not been fully briefed on this project that is set to start in January. He hasn’t signed off but he also hasn’t raised any red flags about the proposal.

Now why would StatsCan want all this info on you?

They want to be able to monitor spending, consumer trends and more.

While StatsCan says that at a certain point they will remove personal data to make it anonymous, it won’t be collected and stored that way at first.

That means if you are selected, without your knowledge or consent, then your name, address, SIN and all your banking data will be collected and stored on a government computer.

So much for privacy.

This database of highly sensitive personal information will eventually grow to millions of Canadians as StatsCan requests information on an additional 500,000 Canadians each year.

Canada’s banks have yet to agree with this request and they don’t seem impressed.

“Banks believed this proposed data acquisition project was still in the exploratory stages and were not aware that Statistics Canada was moving to compel disclosure of this information,” Canadian Bankers Association spokesman Aaron Boles told Global in a statement.

So far no information has been shared but if StatCan asks for it, the law says they have to hand it over.

This needs to be reviewed, this needs scrutiny.

When these laws were written I doubt anyone involved envisioned that so much data, easily stored and transferred via computer, would be the target of a government request.

I would say the federal government should step in and hit pause on this until elected officials can study this project and ensure the privacy of Canadians is protected.

But I won’t hold my breath.

Justin Trudeau and the Liberals ran a campaign ahead of the last election, and during the campaign, to make Statistics Canada more independent. Trudeau railed against the Conservatives changing the rules on the long form census and taking away the threat of jail time.

Can you imagine him stepping in now and telling the statistics agency to slow down or even change?


But it should happen.

Watch David Akin’s report on the project below.