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

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.

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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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