Statistics Canada’s Odd Initiative

There have been several instances of federal agencies losing or mishandling data.
There have been several instances of federal agencies losing or mishandling data.

Statistics Canada is asking banks across the country for financial transaction data and personal information of 500,000 Canadians without their knowledge, Global News has learned.

Documents obtained by Global News show the national statistical agency plans to collect “individual-level financial transactions data” and sensitive information, like social insurance numbers (SIN), from Canadian financial institutions to develop a “new institutional personal information bank.”

“Statistics Canada will be acquiring individual payments and income history information from financial institutions,” reads a document from Statistics Canada, which recognizes the “highly sensitive nature” of the data.

The personal banking and financial transactions being requested include bill payments, cash withdrawals from ATMs, credit card payments, electronic money transfers and even account balances of Canadians across the country.

James Tebrake, director general of macroeconomics at Statistics Canada, told Global News that beginning in January, the agency will ask nine banks for the financial transaction information from a representative sample of 500,000 randomly chosen Canadians or a 1 in 20 chance of being selected.

“Canadians should know we are not accessing all of the payments data for all Canadians. It’s a small sample relative to the total number of households,” he said. “Our access to this data is permitted through both the Privacy Act and the Statistics Act.”

However, Canada’s biggest banks have not yet fully agreed to the project.

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