Chief statistician for Canada, Anil Arora. The agency Statistics Canada has come under fire for plans to gather personal financial information on 500,000 citizens. (CBC-Power and Politics)

Statistics Canada pauses data collection on citizens finances over privacy concerns

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Statistics Canada is the federal agency responsible for collecting statistics on all aspects of Canadian life.

When it was learned the agency was beginning to collect personal banking information on 500,000 citizens, there was an outcry over invasion of privacy.

The agency’s pilot project has now been put on hold while the plan is investigated by the federal privacy commissioner.

Federal Privacy Commissioner Daniel Therrien has criticised the Stats Can pilot project and has launched an investigation into it. (The Canadian Press)

The data collection project was disclosed by Global News in November by which point the agency had already begun to collect 15 years of personal credit information from TransUnion, a major international credit bureau.  The plan was also to gather personal financial information from nine banks and financial institutions on things like personal account balances and credit card payments.

The plan which was to expand information collection was to begin in January 2019.  The announcement of the delay did not specify if the project would restart following the privacy commision’s investigation, or if it would be modified to ensure indentification of individuals connected to the data would be stripped.  For the present Statistics Canada has also stopped data collection from TransUnion.

Privacy Commissioner Daniel Therrien has criticised Statistics Canada for a lack of transparency about their plans and methods both with his office and with Canadians.

Chief statistician Anil Arora has said his agency won’t stop seeking new ways to gather data as Canadians are becoming more reluctant to answer traditional telephone surveys and amid a growing public distrust of government institutions and experts.

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