The Canadian Privacy Law Blog: Developments in privacy law and writings of a Canadian privacy lawyer, containing information related to the Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act (aka PIPEDA) and other Canadian and international laws.

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The author of this blog, David T.S. Fraser, is a Canadian privacy lawyer who practices with the firm of McInnes Cooper. He is the author of the Physicians' Privacy Manual. He has a national and international practice advising corporations and individuals on matters related to Canadian privacy laws.

For full contact information and a brief bio, please see David's profile.

Please note that I am only able to provide legal advice to clients. I am not able to provide free legal advice. Any unsolicited information sent to David Fraser cannot be considered to be solicitor-client privileged.

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The views expressed herein are solely the author's and should not be attributed to his employer or clients. Any postings on legal issues are provided as a public service, and do not constitute solicitation or provision of legal advice. The author makes no claims, promises or guarantees about the accuracy, completeness, or adequacy of the information contained herein or linked to. Nothing herein should be used as a substitute for the advice of competent counsel.

This web site is presented for informational purposes only. These materials do not constitute legal advice and do not create a solicitor-client relationship between you and David T.S. Fraser. If you are seeking specific advice related to Canadian privacy law or PIPEDA, contact the author, David T.S. Fraser.

Sunday, June 12, 2005

Keeping your data secret is up to you 

An increasing portion of the mainstream media are picking up on privacy issues, mainly stemming from the string of breaches starting with ChoicePoint and culminating in the most recent CitiFinancial data loss. The Boston Globe is running a column by Michelle Singletary of the Washington Post that calls for legislation but also suggests that consumers become more proactive in protecting their personal information. The columnist shows one example from her own experience:

Keeping your data secret is up to you - The Boston Globe - - Your Money - Business:

"... For instance, I recently contracted to have an alarm system installed in my home. As I was filling out the sales agreement, I noticed a request for my Social Security number. I refused to divulge it. The salesman said it was a requirement. He said I ''had" to give it to him.

I unequivocally refused to divulge my number. A manager of the company called. He explained that it was needed to pull my credit score because we were signing up for a three-year monitoring service. He said it had been their experience that people with low credit scores often break the three-year contract.

Even if that was the case, I was appalled at the lack of security about my data from this company. By my rough estimate, from the time the salesman took my service agreement to his office, my data could have been exposed to at least half a dozen of the company's employees. In several of the recent data breaches, employees were doing the pilfering.

I was prepared to leave my home unprotected for the time being in the name of protecting my personal data.

Ah, but here's where it pays to be persistent about protecting your data.

The manager came up with a way to get my Social Security number without me actually giving it to him or anyone else at the company. In a three-way conference call, he phoned the credit bureau and when the automatic system asked for the customer's Social Security number, I punched it in. All he heard on his end was a beeping sound. In a few seconds he got my credit score without having to know my Social Security number.

So folks, it's up to us. We have to become our own data protectors. You may not win the battle all the time, but if you're fierce enough you can reduce the number of companies that have your information."

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