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Canada: FINTRAC Collecting More Data on Canadians Than Needed
Source: itworldcanada.com
Source Date: Friday, October 25, 2013
Focus: Citizen Engagement, Internet Governance
Country: Canada
Created: Oct 28, 2013

The Financial Transactions and Reports Analysis Centre of Canada (FINTRAC), the department responsible for monitoring bank accounts across the country for counter terrorist funding and anti-fraud purposes, is collecting more personal information on Canadians than is necessary, according to the Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada (OPC).

The FINTRAC audit tabled in Parliament yesterday followed recommendations from a previous audit of the database conducted by the OPC in 2009. The earlier audit found that FINTRAC needed to do more to ensure that the amount of personal information it collects is kept at an “absolute minimum.”

“While FINTRAC continues to have sound security controls, it has made limited progress in addressing recommendations from our previous audits,” said Privacy Commissioner Jennifer Stoddart in a statement yesterday. “This is particularly disappointing, given that FINTRAC had previously indicated it was committee to finding ways to limit the amount of personal information it was accepting and holding.”

FINTRAC is mandated by law to receive financial transaction reports and voluntary information on money laundering and terrorist financing from persons and entities in various sectors, which are subject to the Proceeds of Crime (money laundering) and Terrorist Financing Act (PCMLTFA).

As of March 2012, FINTRAC’s databases held approximately 165 million reports containing personal information related to financial transactions, such as down payments for house and vehicle purchases, wire transfers received by international students residing in Canada, or funds sent by parents in Canada to children who are studying abroad.

Some of these reports may be submitted to FINTRAC without the knowledge or consent of the individuals concerned, the OPC reported.

The commission is considers it an infringement of individual privacy rights when information of innocent citizens are being collected and stored in a database that is intended to track criminal activity. Keeping such a large amount of personal information in a database also puts the personal data of individuals at risk of a data breach without their knowledge or consent.

(By Nestor E. Arellano)

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