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Bell to Track Canadian Phone, TV and Internet Habits for Ads

By , Marcus Yam - Source: Tom's Guide US | B 10 comments
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Privacy has never been a bigger issue – the clash of new and old have left more than a few people out in the cold, unsure and unable to work their way through the maze of potential threats. That labyrinth just got a bit trickier for some Canadian citizens. Starting November 16, Bell will start collecting user information, including the kinds of apps they use, the shows they watch, phone call history and internet traffic.

Bell announced the change to its policy on Tuesday, insisting that the data collection would be anonymous and that users didn’t have to comply, but the system is also opt-out – guaranteeing that some will not be notified properly and that they will, inevitably, fail to miss the deadline for the opt-out or fail to even understand what’s going on at all.

MORE: Mobile Security Guide: Everything You Need to Know

The company claims that the data collection will, primarily, be used to serve a new batch of targeted ads for its customers, stressing multiple times that none of this information can be used to identify you. Even so, it’s a dangerous path to walk down, and the idea of companies actively collecting so much information is more than a little disconcerting. Canada’s privacy commissioner seems to agree.

Following Bell’s notification this morning, Scott Hutchinson a spokesman for the commissioner, spoke with CBC Montreal stating that the office will be investigating the company following a number of complaints.

It’s much too early to tell how all this will play out; it’s even conceivable that pressure from the commissioner could cause Bell to fold entirely. That said, in the wake of the NSA monitoring program, and the potential for tremendous abuse is troublesome.

UPDATE: Virgin Mobile Canada, which is operated by Bell, is also following through with the same plan. All customers received the below email informing them of the new policies:

While there are forms that both Bell and Virgin customers can fill out to "opt out" of the ad targeting program, it doesn't appear to stop the consumer from having his or her data tracked and recorded.

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  • 0 Hide
    nukemaster , October 23, 2013 1:13 PM
    Good thing I do not use bell :) 

    Not that I do not think all others will follow this trend in time.

    Still better to get ads about computer hardware and audio than online dating.
  • 0 Hide
    wemakeourfuture , October 23, 2013 1:17 PM
    http://mobilebrowser.bwanet.ca/optout/v2/bell-en.jsp

    That's where you can go to opt-out.

  • 0 Hide
    chicofehr , October 23, 2013 1:19 PM
    The privacy commissioner in Canada has lots of power so I hope he says no to it. The last thing I want is all my personal info being stored for the NSA to hack later. I'm on Telus but if Bell is given the OK to do it then Rogers and Telus will follow suit because there is big money in selling our info to others like Google or the NSA or instance.
  • Display all 10 comments.
  • 0 Hide
    thechief73 , October 23, 2013 1:38 PM
    Sad... just sad. Everyone on this planet is a slave to BIG brother and BIG corp. If you think you have freedoms and rights you are a fool. (Insert whatever higher being you believe in here) and hope he/she/them saves us all. You sneeze they keep records in a file, and then sell it to whomever wants to know you sneezed. This is now on file somewhere also.
  • 0 Hide
    thechief73 , October 23, 2013 1:43 PM
    Sad... just sad. Everyone on this planet is a slave to BIG brother and BIG corp. If you think you have freedoms and rights you are a fool. (Insert whatever higher being you believe in here) and hope he/she/them saves us all. You sneeze they keep records in a file, and then sell it to whomever wants to know you sneezed. This is now on file somewhere also.
  • 0 Hide
    thechief73 , October 23, 2013 1:48 PM
    Sorry about the double post everyone. Apparently refreshing the page re-posts also. How bout those edit buttons Tom?
  • 0 Hide
    stevo777 , October 23, 2013 2:03 PM
    Funny you should do a story on this kind of thing when you are pushing amazon adds in my face for an obscure musical product that I checked out yesterday--something that there is no way that it would just be shown to me at random. You are participating in this sort of behavior that you are writing about.
  • 0 Hide
    invlem , October 23, 2013 4:39 PM
    Considering our privacy laws in Canada haven't completely been obliterated yet like other countries, it will be interesting to see if this new policy survives
  • 0 Hide
    hydac7 , October 24, 2013 1:53 AM
    Collecting search terms , pages visited what the hell is up with this s#it , I want my company to know nothing , what I do online is my business and no one else's
  • 0 Hide
    alquejol , November 17, 2013 8:31 AM
    Is there a way to stop you own IP from tracking you? I use Duckduckgo but I don't think it can block bell tracking, Ghostery neither.
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