POLITICS

Bell to track customers' web history, TV viewing, phone calls, mobile usage

10/22/2013 10:46 EDT | Updated 01/23/2014 06:58 EST
TORONTO - Bell will soon start tracking how its customers use the web and their mobile devices, what they watch on TV, and when they make phone calls.

According to its recently updated privacy policy, Bell will begin collecting customer data on Nov. 16. The company says the data will be used for improving network performance, creating marketing reports and selling targeted ads on mobile devices.

Websites visited, search terms used, TV shows watched, calling patterns and mobile usage will be collected and collated with what products and services customers pay for, where they live, their gender and age range.

Bell says the data it collects will not be linked with a customer's identity. While customers can opt out of having their data used for personalized advertising and marketing reports, it appears they will be tracked regardless.

Bell did not respond to an interview request.

Michael Geist, a law professor at the University of Ottawa and the Canada Research Chair in Internet and e-commerce law, said he's shocked by the extent of the "data grab" that Bell is preparing to undertake.

"What Bell is able to aggregate, being as large as it is, is far more than any individual Internet company, even a company as large as Google," Geist said.

"When you look at the kind of information that they say will now be used ... these are pieces of information that some companies have some of that data, but Bell is in an almost unique position of having it all.

"It's a level of intrusiveness and monitoring that I think is truly unprecedented in Canada. There's nobody that's as large and as all encompassing as Bell and their capabilities from a customer surveillance perspective are similarly impressive."

A spokesman for federal privacy commissioner Jennifer Stoddart said her office received several complaints from consumers about Bell's new privacy policy and an investigation will be launched.

Mobile customers can opt-out of having their data used by Bell at the following link: http://bit.ly/1bSRvvr