Wednesday, July 02, 2008

Most Canadians resist sharing personal details with stores: Poll

When I give presentations on Canadian privacy law, the number one question I get -- without exception -- is whether a retailer can ask for your phone number or postal code at the point of sale. Sometimes I'm asked about asking for ID when making returns. According to (I haven't been able to find the survey itself), the Privacy Commissioner of Canada has commissioned a survey that confirms that Canadians are not comfortable with retailers who ask intrusive questions at the check-out:

Most Canadians resist sharing personal details with stores: Poll

Most Canadians resist sharing personal details with stores: Poll

Don Butler , Canwest News ServicePublished: Wednesday, July 02, 2008

OTTAWA - More than half of Canadians resist requests for personal information from retailers and nearly as many simply refuse to provide it, according to a survey done for the Office of the Privacy Commissioner.

The Ipsos Reid survey, made public recently on a government website, also found that safety or security concerns are a major impetus for the refusal to give retailers personal information such as name, phone number or postal code.

The survey of 1,000 adult Canadians, conducted last December, was commissioned in part to help the privacy commissioner's office evaluate the need for public education to inform Canadians about their privacy rights during retail transactions.

The survey found 52 per cent of respondents resist retailers' requests for personal information by asking why it is needed, and 45 per cent flatly refuse to provide such information.

Thirteen per cent have deliberately given a store incorrect information when asked for a name, phone number or postal code. Eleven per cent have done the same when registering for commercial online sites.

Anne-Marie Hayden, spokeswoman for the privacy commissioner's office, said it was encouraging that many Canadians are balking at requests for personal information from retailers.

"Personal information is increasingly invaluable in the marketplace," she said. "So we're pleased that consumers are taking charge and questioning requests for their personal information."

Under the Personal Information and Electronic Documents Act, Hayden noted, businesses aren't allowed to collect personal information indiscriminately. Rather, they're supposed to limit the information gathered to what is necessary for the purposes identified by the organization.

Retailers need to be open about why they're asking for personal information, she said.

"If they can't give you a good reason why they need your personal information, don't give it out."

The survey found those who have either refused to give personal information or given incorrect information most often say they did so for reasons related to security and safety.

One in five don't trust the safety of providing such information online, while one in 10 have concerns about identity theft, fraud or computer hackers. Another six per cent mention safety or security issues in general.

A further 28 per cent refrain from providing their personal information because they consider it private or none of the retailer's business.

Others say they refuse because retailers don't need the information or they don't want to be contacted by telemarketers or sent junk mail.

One in three Canadians say they think stores use personal information they gather to compile statistics or demographic information on their customers. Three in 10 think stores sell the information to telemarketers or other companies.

The survey has a margin of error of 3.1 percentage points, plus or minus, 19 times out of 20.

In a report last month, Privacy Commissioner Jennifer Stoddart said many companies ignore "elementary security measures" to protect the personal information they gather. This has led to a growing number of "inexcusable" security breaches, she said.

Last year, the privacy commissioner's office launched an online "e-learning tool" to help retailers bring their privacy practices and policies into line with the law.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

The survey:

News release from Privacy Commissioner: