Canadians concerned corporate cost cutting could affect their privacy: poll



    OTTAWA, April 27 /CNW Telbec/ - Canadians are worried their privacy
rights could suffer because of corporate cost-cutting during the economic
downturn, a new poll for the Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada has
found.
    The poll shows 87 per cent of Canadians are concerned that businesses may
choose to spend less to protect customers' personal information during a time
of economic uncertainty.
    "Canadian privacy laws require businesses to properly secure the personal
information in their care - even during tough economic times," says Privacy
Commissioner of Canada Jennifer Stoddart. "We are encouraged by the fact that
many businesses have expressed to us their commitment to privacy, which they
view as a competitive advantage."
    "The risks to personal information may be higher than ever during an
economic downturn because criminals will undoubtedly be looking for ways to
exploit vulnerabilities," she says, noting that the Government of Canada
recently warned businesses and consumers to be on the lookout for increased
fraudulent activity.
    According to police, organized crime groups now see the fraudulent use of
personal information, such as names, birthdates and credit card information,
as an important money-maker. Around the world, cyber crime has become a
multi-billion-dollar business.
    The Commissioner also cautioned that corporate belt tightening may be
counterproductive when it comes to privacy and security measures. "Studies
have shown that it's far less expensive to get security right in the first
place than to mop up after a data breach caused by inadequate security," she
says.
    While the poll found that Canadians have some concerns about how
businesses are protecting their personal information, it also found that many
people are failing to take some basic steps to protect themselves against
identity theft and other types of fraud involving personal information.
    Half of Canadians (50 per cent) carry sensitive documents such as Social
Insurance Number cards and birth certificates in their wallets or purses. Only
18 per cent had ever ordered a copy of their credit report to verify its
accuracy. And less than a third of Canadians (30 per cent) use passwords to
protect information on portable digital devices.
    On a more positive note, most people (92 per cent) say they check their
bank and credit card statements for accuracy and 85 per cent shred or destroy
documents that contain personal information.
    The Office of the Privacy Commissioner has been urging the federal
government to develop a comprehensive strategy to combat identity theft.
Passing identity theft legislation introduced prior to the last federal
election would be a first important step, and the Commissioner has also called
for a number of other measures, including anti-spam legislation.
    The EKOS survey examined Canadians' opinions on a broad range of privacy
issues, including technology, national security and data breaches. More
detailed information about the poll results and how businesses can secure
personal information is available on the Privacy Commissioner's website,
www.priv.gc.ca.

    The Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada is mandated by
Parliament to act as an ombudsman, advocate and guardian of privacy and the
protection of personal information rights of Canadians.




For further information:

For further information: and/or media interview requests, contact:
Anne-Marie Hayden, Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada, (613)
995-0103, ahayden@privcom.gc.ca


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