Canadians distrust retailers with personal data

Thu Jul 3, 2008 12:51pm EDT
 
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OTTAWA (Reuters) - Canadians are appropriately distrustful of stores that ask them for personal information, showing an increased awareness of the danger of identity theft, the country's privacy watchdog said on Thursday.

One in two people surveyed by the Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada said they had resisted a retailer's request for information such as a phone number or postal code, saying they demanded to know why it was needed.

"Our personal information is increasingly invaluable in the marketplace, and I am very pleased to hear that consumers are taking charge and questioning requests for their information," said Privacy Commissioner Jennifer Stoddart.

Forty-five percent said they had refused to hand over any information whatsoever and 13 percent deliberately gave false information.

Safety and security concerns were the top reason for protecting personal information, the survey found. Some consumers said they simply worried about how the information might be used while others expressed concerns specifically about identity theft, fraud and computer hackers.

Privacy officials aim to use the poll results to boost awareness among shoppers and retailers of Canada's privacy laws.

A investigation by the privacy commissioner last year into a security breach at TJX Cos Inc, the parent company of Canadian chains HomeSense and Winners, concluded that the company collected too much personal information from consumers and did not protect it adequately.

Millions of credit card and debit card numbers, as well as individual driver's license numbers, were stolen from TJX's computer database in January 2007.

Canada's Conservative government introduced legislation last November to crack down on identity theft, proposing the creation of three new offenses under the Criminal Code with maximum prison sentences of five years.

(Reporting by Louise Egan; Editing by Peter Galloway)