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Canadians concerned about giving retailers their personal information

Ottawa, July 3, 2008 — More than half of Canadians say they are concerned about giving their personal information to retailers, according to the results of a survey commissioned by the Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada.

One in two Canadians (52 per cent) indicated they have resisted a retailer’s request for personal information, such as telephone number or postal code, by asking why the information is needed. Close to half (45 per cent) have refused to provide this information altogether, and 13 per cent have deliberately provided incorrect information. Respondents who resisted or declined to provide their information indicated a number of concerns, including the safety of putting information online, identity theft and fraud.

“Our personal information is increasingly invaluable in the marketplace, and I am very pleased to hear that consumers are taking charge and questioning requests for their information,” says Privacy Commissioner Jennifer Stoddart. “I recognize that businesses have a need to better know and understand their customers, but if they can’t give you a good reason for why they need your personal information, simply don’t give it out.”

The Office of the Privacy Commissioner undertook the survey to gain a better understanding of Canadians’ views on the demands placed upon them for personal information during retail transactions. The results will help the Office increase the public’s and businesses’ understanding of their rights and responsibilities under the Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act (PIPEDA), the federal private sector law that governs the collection, use and disclosure of personal information in the course of commercial activities.

Under PIPEDA, businesses have an obligation, among other things, to identify the reasons they collect personal information, to limit the amount and type of information gathered to what is necessary, and to use the appropriate safeguards and security measures to protect the personal information in their care.

The Office of the Privacy Commissioner has developed a number of tools and resources to assist businesses in complying with PIPEDA. Last year, the Office launched an interactive e-learning tool for retailers to help them bring their privacy practices and policies in line with the law. The Office also developed A Guide for Businesses and Organizations to the Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act. The survey was conducted by Ipsos-Reid via telephone with 1001 Canadian adults. The full report on the results is available on the Library and Archives Canada website.

The Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada is mandated by Parliament to act as an ombudsman, advocate and guardian of privacy rights of Canada.

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For more information and/or media interview requests, contact:

Heather Ormerod
Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada
Tel: (613) 995-1048

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