Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Consumer groups fight Bell's targeted ads

  • Print

CONSUMER groups are challenging Bell Canada's tracking of how its wireless customers use the web, what they watch on TV and their phone-call patterns in order to deliver targeted online advertising.

Bell is going beyond its role as a provider of telecom services, according to the Public Interest Advocacy Centre and the Consumers' Association of Canada.

Related Items

"What you're paying for is an uninterrupted telecom service, not for an ad-based service supported by behavioural targeting, which is the Facebook-Google model," lawyer John Lawford of the Public Interest Advocacy Centre said Monday.

The consumer groups have filed a complaint with the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission, describing the practice as an abuse of privacy. They want Bell to be ordered to stop collecting the data.

The CRTC said it was studying the complaint and wouldn't comment further.

The Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada said Monday it has received more than 150 complaints about Bell's data collection.

It is investigating whether collecting this data is compliant with the Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act, the federal law that covers the collection, use and disclosure of information in commercial activities.

Bell said its data-collection program isn't breaking any federal telecom rules or privacy guidelines and noted customers can opt out at any time.

"Because customers would receive random online advertising in any event, they won't actually be seeing more ads, but they will see ads of greater interest to them," Bell spokesman Jason Laszlo said in an email.

Laszlo also said Bell could segment a large group of customers to advertisers who are interested in gaming, for example, but the advertisers wouldn't see any specific details about the customers.

Bell said it expects to expand the program to other customers in the future, which could include its Internet and TV subscribers.

The telecom giant announced last fall it would collect consumers' data to put targeted ads on mobile devices to compete with search engine Google and social-network site Facebook, which offer ads to consumers based on their interests.

But Lawford said he believes the opt-out rate for Bell customers would be low, adding it's usually well under 10 per cent in these kinds of circumstances.

"They catch all of the people who have too many other things to do with their life," he said from Ottawa.

Lawford said Bell will still be collecting data on customers who have opted out of the program, but they won't be sent targeted ads based on their behaviour. Instead, the information will be used for customer profiles and marketing reports that could be sold to third parties.

Bell will end up with a huge database that can be subject to breaches, loss or theft, he added.

It's going to get "messy" if it's hacked or if Bell gives access to domestic surveillance agencies such as the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS) or the U.S.-based National Security Agency, said Lawford, the organization's executive director.

The NSA's surveillance programs have scooped up phone data from millions of American users and U.S. President Barack Obama has said he will place limits on the way the intelligence community accesses phone records.

In the U.S., telecoms Verizon and AT&T also allow customers to opt out of data sharing. But critics say even with personal identities stripped out, the info still can be sold to third parties who would get a profile of customers' habits and interests.

 

-- The Canadian Press

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition January 28, 2014 B3

Fact Check

Fact Check

Have you found an error, or know of something we’ve missed in one of our stories?
Please use the form below and let us know.

* Required
  • Please post the headline of the story or the title of the video with the error.

  • Please post exactly what was wrong with the story.

  • Please indicate your source for the correct information.

  • Yes

    No

  • This will only be used to contact you if we have a question about your submission, it will not be used to identify you or be published.

  • Cancel

Having problems with the form?

Contact Us Directly
  • Print

You can comment on most stories on winnipegfreepress.com. You can also agree or disagree with other comments. All you need to do is be a Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscriber to join the conversation and give your feedback.

You can comment on most stories on winnipegfreepress.com. You can also agree or disagree with other comments. All you need to do is be a Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscriber to join the conversation and give your feedback.

Have Your Say

New to commenting? Check out our Frequently Asked Questions.

Have Your Say

Comments are open to Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscribers only. why?

Have Your Say

Comments are open to Winnipeg Free Press Subscribers only. why?

The Winnipeg Free Press does not necessarily endorse any of the views posted. By submitting your comment, you agree to our Terms and Conditions. These terms were revised effective April 16, 2010.

letters

Make text: Larger | Smaller

LATEST VIDEO

The greening of Elphaba the Wicked Witch in Wicked

View more like this

Photo Store Gallery

  • MIKE APORIUS/WINNIPEG FREE PRESS BUSINESS - cow on farm owned by cattle farmer Lloyd Buchanan near Argyle Wednesday afternoon -see Larry Kusch's story  January 04/2006
  • Two baby tigers were unveiled at the Assiniboine Park Zoo this morning, October 3rd, 2011. (TREVOR HAGAN/WINNIPEG FREE PRESS)

View More Gallery Photos

Poll

Do high-profile endorsements for political candidates influence your voting decisions?

View Results

View Related Story

Ads by Google