October 23, 2013 | Chris Powell | Comments
“It won’t mean more ads, but it will mean better ads,” spokesperson Albert Lee told Marketing in an e-mail statement.
Bell informed customers in a letter last week that the changes would be implemented Nov. 16.
According to Bell, data being collected includes web pages visited from mobile device or internet access (including search terms); app and device feature usage; TV viewing and calling patterns; as well as information about customer use of Bell products and services (including device type, postal code, payment patterns, language preferences and demographic information).
Lee told Marketing that the information being collected is based on aggregates rather than individual customers. “It allows Bell to deliver the right kind of online advertising to Bell customers on their behalf,” he said, adding that Bell never discloses individual customer information to marketing companies.
“We’re committed to protecting customer privacy, and this initiative is fully compliant with Canadian privacy regulations,” he said, adding that Bell is giving customers the opportunity to opt out at Bell.ca/relevantads.
“People typically prefer to see ads that are as relevant to them as possible,” states Bell on that site. “To make some of the ads you see more relevant, account and network usage information will be accessed from time to time.”
The initiative brings the thorny issue of consumer privacy in the digital era to the forefront once again. While experts such as University of Ottawa professor Michael Geist caution that such data collection will enable Bell to know everything about its customers, Bell counters that it will help it refine the advertising that its customers will receive anyway.
As an example, Lee cited a potential report showing 10,000 Bell Mobile customers downloaded a particular gaming app in a month, with 80% of them between the ages of 18-25. “No individual user is identified – advertisers would customize marketing for the broad group and we would deliver it,” he said. “No customer data goes to the advertiser or any outside party.”
When contacted by Marketing, the office of the Privacy Commissioner provided the following statement and links to resources:
As I’m sure you’re aware, our Office has received several complaints today with respect to the statement Bell has issued about customer profiling, online behavioural marketing and personal information. We will be investigating.
As per your request, I’m afraid we can’t provide much help given that we conduct our investigations in confidence, and therefore, we can’t offer any specific comment about this issue at this point. Once the investigation is completed, we may choose to publish our findings if they meet the public interest criterion provided in PIPEDA. For now, you may be interested in looking at some of the guidance documents we have developed.
In particular, you might wish to look at our guidance on online behavioural advertising. It can be found here.
We have developed a fact sheet on the use of opt-in and opt-out consent.
As well, the final report on our consultations on online tracking, profiling and targeting may be of interest.