Popular Canadian websites “leaking” personal data to third parties, privacy commish says
Some of the most popular websites in Canada are disclosing personal information to third parties without their users’ consent, according to the country's privacy commissioner.
Jennifer Stoddart’s office looked at 25 websites, including media, shopping, and travel services, and found “significant privacy concerns” with six of them. There were also “questions about the practices” of five more sites.
“The research findings raise concerns for the privacy rights of Canadians. Web leakage can involve the disclosure of personal information without an individual’s consent– or even knowledge,” Stoddart said in a news release today (September 25). “Our research also raises questions about compliance with Canadian privacy law in the online world.”
The commissioner has written to 11 organizations—which she is not naming—asking them for information about their practices and to explain how they will comply with privacy law.
Third parties receiving the “inappropriately” disclosed data included advertising firms, analytics companies, and e-flyer services—most of them large international companies involved with Internet advertising.
Examples of sites “leaking” information included:
• A shopping site based in Canada asked people to register to receive promotions, and then disclosed the username and/or email address to 11 organizations, including advertisers and analytics companies.
• A well-known Canadian media site, where users register to manage subscriptions and post comments, disclosed the username, email address, and postal code to a content delivery and marketing service, an advertising network, and a news content provider.
According to Stoddart, her office’s findings serve as a “wake-up call” to Internet services, which need to make sure they are respect the privacy rights of their users.