Tuesday, January 02, 2007

New Year privacy resolutions

The Privacy Commissioner of Canada suggests that you make a few New Year's resolutions to protect your privacy:

Start the New Year with privacy resolutions

Ottawa, December 27, 2006 – Privacy Commissioner of Canada Jennifer Stoddart is urging Canadians to add good privacy habits to their list of New Year’s resolutions.

"Polls have told us again and again that Canadians value their privacy. The start of the New Year is a great time for everyone to check whether they are doing enough to protect this important right," Ms. Stoddart said. "I hope people will add some good privacy habits to their New Year’s resolutions list."

Ms. Stoddart today released her top 10 resolutions for consumers to protect their privacy in 2007 and beyond. They are:

  1. Guard your information

    Ask questions when a cashier ringing in your purchases wants your name, address or telephone number. Why is the information being requested? How will it be used? If you are concerned about unwanted junk mail or telemarketing calls, decline to provide the information. It’s as simple as saying, "Sorry, I don’t want to share that personal information." Privacy laws give you a choice. You don’t always have to say "Yes."

  2. Check your receipts

    Some retailers still use older equipment that prints receipts with a complete credit card number – creating a risk the number will fall into the wrong hands and be fraudulently used. If the number is complete, use a pen to scratch out the middle four numbers on your copy.

  3. Become a junk mail buster

    If you don't want to be added to marketing lists, check the "no thanks" or opt-out box, or initial a note stating your preference, whenever you give personal information to magazine publishers, retail stores, charities and other organizations.

  4. Take three steps to create more quiet nights at home
    • Take advantage of the Do Not Contact Service (do-not-call, do-not-mail, and do-not-fax) offered at no cost by the Canadian Marketing Association (CMA). You can make the request online at www.the-cma.org.
    • Ask your telephone company to remove you from the lists it sells to external organizations.
    • When telemarketers call, insist they remove your name from their calling lists. They are now required by law to maintain do-not-call lists.
  5. Develop a shredding habit

    Make sure your blue box is not a goldmine for identity thieves. Buy a shredder (many are surprisingly inexpensive). Destroy all documents that include sensitive personal information, such as bank statements, credit card statements, credit card receipts, and pre-approved credit card applications.

  6. Check loyalty program fine-print

    Re-evaluate your membership in "rewards" or "points" programs. Often stores see your participation as consent to share your information without directly asking for permission. This can mean more junk mail and telemarketing calls. Read the program’s privacy policy. If you have concerns, don't join or ask the store not to share your personal information.

  7. Become more privacy-aware on-line

    Educate yourself about protecting your privacy on-line. Install the latest anti-spyware, anti-virus and firewall software on your computer. Shop only on secure sites – check for a lock symbol on the bottom right of the window. There’s plenty of advice on the Internet.

  8. Stop Spam

    Invest in a good spam filter and learn how to use it. Spam affects privacy rights because it involves the inappropriate use of personal information – your e-mail address. Protect your regular e-mail address by using it only with trusted friends and business associates. Get another address for other online uses. If you receive an e-mail from a sender you don’t recognize, or with a subject line that doesn’t make sense, just delete it. Opening spam may send a confirmation that an e-mail address is valid – and lead to more spam. The OPC homepage, www.privcom.gc.ca, includes a link to more information about spam.

  9. Caution on the phone

    Apply a healthy dose of skepticism when an e-mail or phone caller warns that your bank account or credit card has been compromised. Never reply to such e-mails, which may have been sent by ID thieves. Call your bank instead. Fraudsters are also using the telephone to get personal information. The best way to determine whether a call about account problems is legitimate is to say, "I’ll call you right back," and then call either the number on your credit card or account statement.

  10. Protect your SIN

    Ask questions when an organization asks for your Social Insurance Number. An ID thief could use your SIN to apply for a credit card or bank account in your name. Companies can’t insist that you provide a SIN unless it is required for a specific and legitimate purpose, such as tax reporting. Ask why the organization needs your SIN and whether you are required by law to provide it. If you are refused a product or service unless you give your SIN, complain to the Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

#10 is a good idea, but have you ever tried to apply for a loan without providing your SIN? Banks won't even take your application (CIBC, ING have both insisted), and if you do complain to the PrivCom, you're told to take it up with the bank. What's a privacy-conscious guy to do?