Following hearings into Statistics Canada’s plan to acquire Canadians’ personal banking data, the Senate Committee on Banking Trade and Commerce recommends that the data be anonymized before being turned over to the federal agency.
Last month, the committee heard evidence from StatsCan, the federal Privacy Commissioner and banking and consumer groups and privacy experts regarding the agency’s plans to require banks to turn over financial information on their customers.
The committee’s recommendations are summarized in a report published Tuesday.
It calls on the federal government to require: personal identifiers be removed before financial data is transferred to StatsCan; Canada’s privacy legislation be brought up to international standards; and a review of the Statistics Act to address possible privacy concerns.
The committee “has serious concerns with respect to Statistics Canada’s proposed pilot project, not only because of the magnitude and personal nature of the data being demanded, but also with respect to the lack of transparency used throughout in the process,” the report says. It notes that the agency’s requests to the banks may trigger conflicting legal obligations.
“Statistics Canada needs to work harder to find the means to modernize its data collection methods in order to achieve its goal of producing quality and timely data without compromising the privacy of Canadians. It should also be more transparent and direct in its communications with the Privacy Commissioner, government and Canadians,” the report says.
The committee intends to re-examine the issue once an investigation by the Privacy Commissioner is complete.
“Canadians are rightly concerned about what information Statistics Canada is collecting and how it will be used. In an era of heightened cybersecurity risks it is incumbent on the government to not just say what it is doing, but also to justify it. The secretive manner in which this agency has gone about its work does not inspire confidence. Canadians need to know their information is being collected in an open, transparent and secure manner,” says senator Carolyn Stewart Olsen, deputy chair of the committee, in a statement.