80 per cent of Canadians will choose a business on its privacy reputation: Survey

Businesses and governments in doubt about customer attitudes are towards data privacy have a new measurement tool: According to a new survey nine in 10 Canadians are concerned about privacy — including 34 per cent who say they are  extremely concerned.

That’s according to a new poll released today by the federal privacy commissioner to mark Data Privacy Day. The number who said they are extremely concerned is up almost 10 per cent from the survey done in in 2012.

Here’s two survey results to keep in mind:

  • Almost eight in 10 people surveyed (78 per cent) have become less willing to share their personal information with organizations in the wake of media stories about sensitive information being lost, stolen or made public;
  • Eight in 10 (81 per cent) are more likely to choose to do business with a company specifically because it has a good reputation for privacy practices.

“Canadians are telling us they are concerned about many privacy issues, for example, data breaches, identity theft, digital privacy and warrantless access to personal data held by telecommunications companies,” Privacy Commissioner Daniel Therrien said in a release.

“Canadians deeply value privacy, but fear they are losing the control they have over their personal information. It’s imperative we find ways to enhance that sense of control so that people feel their privacy rights are being respected.”

The survey of 1,5000 Canadians comes as the CBC reports that Canada’s electronic spy agency, Communications Security Establishment (CSE), sifts through over 100 file uploading sites looking for evidence of activities that may threaten this country. Individuals aren’t initially targeted in this sweep — in fact, as the article points out CSE isn’t allowed to target the communications of Canadians — but its system is used to find suspicious file transfers and metadata from them can be narrowed down. The agency has to mask the identity of Canadians before data is shared with other intelligence and law enforcement agencies.

The privacy commission’s survey also found

  • A significant majority (78 per cent) expressed concern about how personal information about them online might be used in the context of government surveillance;
  • More than half of Canadians (57 per cent) said they were “not comfortable” with government departments and agencies requesting personal information from telecommunications companies without a warrant;
  • Canadians expressed particular concern about what might happen to the personal information stored on a mobile device if it was lost or stolen, with nearly half (49 per cent) saying they were extremely concerned;
  • Nearly 30 per cent of respondents said they had been negatively affected by a breach.  Most felt it is at least somewhat likely that their privacy may be breached by someone using their credit or debit card (78 per cent), stealing their identity (78 per cent), or accessing personal information stored on their computer or mobile device (74 per cent);

Roughly half of Canadians said they don’t have a good understanding of what businesses and government will do with their personal information.

“There are lessons to draw from those findings,” Therrien said in the release.  “Businesses should be more upfront and clear about their privacy practices – and not bury that information in long, legalistic privacy policies.  And government departments and agencies need to respond to Canadians’ expectation that they be transparent about how they collect and use personal information.”


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Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada

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Howard Solomon
Howard Solomon
Currently a freelance writer, I'm the former editor of ITWorldCanada.com and Computing Canada. An IT journalist since 1997, I've written for several of ITWC's sister publications including ITBusiness.ca and Computer Dealer News. Before that I was a staff reporter at the Calgary Herald and the Brampton (Ont.) Daily Times. I can be reached at hsolomon [@] soloreporter.com

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