Friday, January 20, 2006

Online Brokers

Well, what can I say? There have been some press releases circulating about the practice of online brokers, who manage to obtain the personal information and cell phone records of users. These are then sold onto anybody who requests this (see also
this press release).

The US Federal Communications Commission is currently investigating this practice. Perhaps, what is surprising to me (if it is correct) is the lack of powers on the part of the Privacy Commissioner in Canada to investigate this. The main reason is that the current Canadian legislation PIPEDA does not intend to apply outside of Canada. While it is acknowledged that there may be potential enforcement problems, it raises serious issues about the current PIPEDA.

As for the European side, Art. 5 of the Directive on Privacy and Electronic Communications 2002/58/EC provides for the confidentiality of communications and with the exceptions from the processing of such data, the consent of the user is required (see Art. 5(1)).

For anyone interested in examining the subject of online brokers, see the Canadian Internet Policy and Public Interest Clinic as a starting point. They are due to issue a report in the Spring on the Canadian data-brokerage industry.

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