Privacy Statement That Strictly Prohibits Sharing Customer Cannabis Data Ignored – LPC

Privacy expert calls Ontario Cannabis Store’s sale of customer cannabis data \Global News (see link below) found that the Ontario Cannabis Store (OCS) sells customer cannabis data. The data contains the first three characters of customer postal codes. Although the chance of any single person being identifiable is low, many call it an unacceptable breach of its own privacy policy.

“You can have a privacy policy but you have to ensure that it’s followed,” said Ann Cavoukian, Ontario’s former privacy commissioner. She called the sales of data “appalling”. “Clearly, they’re not walking (the talk) if they’re selling information to third parties.”

Canada’s Privacy Commission warned consumers soon after cannabis was legalized to stick to “cash only” cannabis sales. That was after a breach of customer cannabis data in November 2018, also involving the OCS. It is unclear if that incident and the revelation it sells data are related.

According to the OCS’s privacy policy, the government-run agency doesn’t sell customer cannabis data. “We only collect information that is necessary for each transaction,” it reads. “We won’t use or share it for any other purposes, and it will never be sold to third parties.”

And yet, it did. Global News even found OCS’s business website advertising that its Data Program was open for business. The news agency couldn’t find any reference to this website on the main OCS website.

A longer version of OCS’s privacy policy reveals that customer cannabis data will be collected and shared in aggregate, but it doesn’t mention selling.

Privacy Breach May Be Bigger Than Most – LPC

The issue of privacy is especially important for cannabis users. From the beginning, there have been concerns that past cannabis use – even if legal in Canada – could bar travellers to the US or elsewhere. Many also felt that changes to cannabis pardons didn’t go far enough for this very reason. There was always the risk that credit card data along with other customer cannabis data could be intercepted by US officials. People living in Ontario seemed to take the risk seriously. Cannabis sales in Ontario more than doubled when its first 18 retail stores opened in April 2019.

OCS said that the information it sells helps licensed producers to help them “evolve and improve their product offerings”. It refused to answer specific questions Global News asked about its business such as how much it charges for customer cannabis data.

“We do not discuss the details of our commercial relationships or transactions,” OCS spokesperson Amanda Winton told Global in an email.

This editorial content from the LPC News Editor is meant to provide analysis, insight, and perspective on current news articles. To read the source article this commentary is based upon, please click on the link below.

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