Rights & Money

Do You Know Where Your Personal Data Is?  

Most Canadians don’t know who knows what about them—and worry about how that data may be used

By Jennifer Hughes

Photo: iStock/vchal.


Compared with a global average, we Canadians are much less trusting of media companies and retailers that collect personal data—though we trust health-care providers and banks more than citizens of other countries do.

Asked how much they trust various entities “to use the information they have about you in the right way,” only 16% of Canadians responded “a great deal or a fair amount” when it came to media companies and 17% for social media sites such as Facebook and search engines such as Google. The global averages were 24% and 28%, respectively. The survey was part of an ongoing study undertaken by the World Economic Forum and conducted by Ipsos, a global market research firm. More than 18,800 people in 26 countries were polled.

The survey found that most people don’t trust how organizations use their personal information and would prefer more transparency. Only one in three people (35%) have a broad idea of how much data companies have about them, while only 32% can speculate about what they do with it.

More than half (62%) believe that they should be allowed to deny companies the ability to use their personal information, while 67% agreed that they would be more comfortable with companies possessing their personal data if they knew how it would be used.

Many favoured openness and guarantees that their personal information will be kept confidential or that they will be compensated in some way for its use. More than half of those surveyed (54%) believe that they should be rewarded for letting companies use their data.

In Canada, 75% said they would be more comfortable sharing personal information if they knew what it would be used for, 70% were more comfortable if companies promised not to share with other parties, and 67% were more comfortable if companies offered some kind of compensation.

As to whom we trust, telecommunications companies and retailers got a 28% trust rating from Canadians, versus global averages of 34% and 32%, respectively. But we trust our national government more than our global neighbours—47% versus 39%—or our American cousins (34%), and we rank our health-care providers highly, with 74% saying they trust how their information would be used (versus a global average of 59%), as we do financial services companies (57% versus 47%).