Canada must take on the data economy
The wild west for third-party data brokers must come to an end.
JUNE 1 2022 — Today OpenMedia launched Stop the Harvest, a new campaign targeting third-party data brokers that profit off the collection, sale and exploitation of our personal data. The campaign calls on governments and corporations to take immediate steps to limit the tracking and sale of personal info from our mobile devices. App collection and misuse of data has been in the news recently following revelations that CBC Kids and Tim Horton’s apps have been harvesting huge amounts of sensitive user data, as well as concerns about reproductive health app data in the US.
“The quantity and sensitivity of our personal information these apps are tracking is absolutely shocking,” said OpenMedia Campaigns Director Matt Hatfield. “You may think you’re installing a simple rewards app, or your child is using a mandatory educational tool. Yet that simple action provides constant status updates on your real life and online activities to an insidious network of hundreds of data brokers and companies harvesting and selling your personal information around the world. This week’s new revelations show that the situation is completely out of hand. Our law-makers must reign this data market in, and companies should voluntarily pledge not to abuse our data in the meantime. Constant surveillance should NOT be the price you have to pay for using basic Internet services in 2022.”
New revelations about the activities of the data broker economy over the last month include:
- The release of a multi-country investigative report from Human Rights Watch, which showed Canadian apps were amongst the worst in the world for tracking and selling information about the activities of children as young as five years old;
- An Office of the Privacy Commissioner investigation that found that Tim Horton’s mobile app is tracking and reporting user locations constantly, including at their home, workplace, and when they approach Tim Horton’s locations or those of competitors;
- Growing concerns that data reproductive health apps track may be used to identify and prosecute pregnant women in US states that criminalize abortion.
The new OpenMedia campaign calls for immediate action by governments and companies to guarantee their users and citizens freedom from the mass collection and sale of personal data, and is the start of a multi-pronged effort to see user data rights reinforced across the democratic world. We welcome media requests and interview opportunities to speak on the nuances and harms of unrestricted data collection, and the need for the status quo to change.