Statistics Canada census taker not responsible for disclosing personal information to banks

An individual alleged that Statistics Canada sold her name and address to financial institutions that then sent her unsolicited mail. The individual travelled frequently for extended periods and maintained a post office box. She was staying at a recreation vehicle park at the time of the 2001 census and the census taker explained to the individual that she would have to use the park address for the purposes of the census, which she did. Within a couple of months, she began to receive unsolicited mail addressed to her at the park. As she had only used that address for the census, it seemed logical to her that Statistics Canada must have sold or otherwise provided the address to the financial institutions.

We examined one solicitation that the individual had received and contacted the bank that had sent it to her. Using the code displayed on the form letter, the bank was able to determine that it had obtained her name and park address from one of the largest list management companies in Canada, which handles more than 500 mailing lists representing some 25 million names. Its officials confirmed that the complainant's information was contained on one of the mailing lists which had been created and updated from information obtained from provincial telephone companies across Canada.

This detail prompted the individual to recall that she had a telephone installed at the park. While her telephone bill was sent to her post office box address, she had to provide the telephone company with the address of the park in order to have the telephone installed and serviced. It became apparent that it was the telephone company and not Statistics Canada that had disclosed the individual's name and address to the list broker, which in turn provided her information to the banks.

During the investigation, the list broker was asked to remove the individual's name from the mailing list, which it did immediately. However, the individual was alerted to the possibility that while her name would not be on an updated list, old lists held by the list broker's customers might still contain her information, and thus she might continue to receive solicitations. The former Commissioner urged her to contact those companies directly in order to remove her name from those lists. He also reminded the complainant that her name could be included in other lists in the future if, for example, she applies for credit cards, completes contest forms or purchases magazine subscriptions.

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