Media Releases

Online privacy tool Access My Info now empowers Canadians to learn how dating and fitness apps use their data

June 21, 2016

Toron­to, ON – Do you ever won­der if your cell phone provider is log­ging your loca­tion? Or if your online dat­ing app is shar­ing your sex­u­al pref­er­ences with mar­keters? Does your fit­ness track­er know more about you than it needs to? A revamped online tool called Access My Info is launch­ing today and will help Cana­di­ans ask these ques­tions direct­ly of the com­pa­nies they do busi­ness with, with the pow­er of the law behind them.

“Access My Info empow­ers indi­vid­ual Cana­di­ans to eas­i­ly exer­cise their legal right to under­stand what data is out there about them, whether that infor­ma­tion is shared and, if so, with whom,” said Andrew Hilts, Exec­u­tive Direc­tor of Open Effect and researcher at the Cit­i­zen Lab at the Munk School of Glob­al Affairs, Uni­ver­si­ty of Toron­to, the groups that cre­at­ed Access My Info.

He con­tin­ued: “This will help con­sumers make informed choic­es, and help com­pa­nies assess whether their poli­cies and prac­tices are meet­ing the needs of their cus­tomers while also com­ply­ing with the law.”

Under the Per­son­al Infor­ma­tion Pro­tec­tion and Elec­tron­ic Doc­u­ments Act, Cana­di­ans can request com­plete records of the per­son­al infor­ma­tion held about them by the com­pa­nies pro­vid­ing them ser­vices. They can ask a com­pa­ny ques­tions and get answers about their data, and cor­rect mis­lead­ing or false infor­ma­tion. But Hilts says know­ing the right ques­tions to ask is crit­i­cal.

“It’s hard to know what to ask about your data with­out first know­ing what is being col­lect­ed about you,” said Hilts. “With Access My Info, you can spend a few min­utes and cre­ate a cus­tom-made let­ter that asks care­ful ques­tions of your tel­co, your dat­ing app, or your fit­ness track­er about how data is col­lect­ed and used.” The let­ters were writ­ten by pol­i­cy experts work­ing at the Cit­i­zen Lab, where Access My Info is part of the Lab’s Telecom­mu­ni­ca­tions Trans­paren­cy Project. The project inves­ti­gates how telecom­mu­ni­ca­tions data is mon­i­tored, col­lect­ed, and ana­lyzed for com­mer­cial, state secu­ri­ty, and intel­li­gence pur­pos­es.

“Access to infor­ma­tion is a fun­da­men­tal human right. Yet, research has shown most Inter­net users are either igno­rant of, or apa­thet­ic about, the data they give away and what com­pa­nies and gov­ern­ments do with it. When faced with lengthy and con­fus­ing terms of ser­vice, most users sim­ply click ‘I agree’,” said Pro­fes­sor Ronald Deib­ert, Direc­tor of the Cit­i­zen Lab.

“It will not be easy to change this dis­po­si­tion, to cul­ti­vate a curi­ous cit­i­zen­ry and a user base that takes stew­ard­ship over the data they entrust to com­pa­nies and gov­ern­ments,” con­tin­ued Deib­ert. “How­ev­er, tools like Access My Info, in which con­sumers exer­cise their pri­va­cy rights to inquire how com­pa­nies han­dle the data they col­lect on them, will help both bol­ster these rights and let com­pa­nies and gov­ern­ments know we are watch­ing.”

An ear­li­er ver­sion of Access My Info helped thou­sands of Cana­di­ans access their data from telecom­mu­ni­ca­tions com­pa­nies. This new ver­sion allows peo­ple to request data from more gov­ern­ment depart­ments and more com­pa­nies in more indus­tries. Hilts says addi­tion­al com­pa­nies and sec­tors will be added in the near future.

The Access My Info project is fund­ed by the Cana­di­an Inter­net Reg­is­tra­tion Author­i­ty (CIRA) through its Com­mu­ni­ty Invest­ment Pro­gram.

“The online rela­tion­ships between con­sumers and Cana­di­an com­pa­nies are impor­tant, grow­ing and ground­ed in trust,” said David Fowler, CIRA’s direc­tor of mar­ket­ing and com­mu­ni­ca­tions. “CIRA is help­ing to build a bet­ter online Cana­da, and a big part of that is mak­ing peo­ple more dig­i­tal­ly lit­er­ate and bet­ter pro­tect­ed in their online deal­ings.”

He added: “Just as we should do peri­od­ic checks of our own cred­it scores to ensure that our finan­cial house is in order, it’s equal­ly, if not more, impor­tant to know what the com­pa­nies we do busi­ness with are doing with the infor­ma­tion we give them.”

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Media Avail­abil­i­ty 

* CIRA and Open Effect have spokes­peo­ple avail­able to speak to this sto­ry. Please con­tact CIRA’s Ryan Sax­by Hill at or 613–316-2397 or the Munk School of Glob­al Affairs’ Dena Allen at 416–946-0123, 416–795-3902 or to arrange an inter­view.

About Open Effect

Open Effect is a Cana­di­an not-for-prof­it that con­ducts research and advo­ca­cy focused on ensur­ing that people’s per­son­al data is treat­ed secure­ly and account­ably. It builds inter­ac­tive advo­ca­cy tools to empow­er indi­vid­u­als to learn about and exer­cise their rights online.

About The Cit­i­zen Lab
The Cit­i­zen Lab is an inter­dis­ci­pli­nary lab­o­ra­to­ry based at the Munk School of Glob­al Affairs, Uni­ver­si­ty of Toron­to, focus­ing on advanced research and devel­op­ment at the inter­sec­tion of infor­ma­tion and com­mu­ni­ca­tion tech­nolo­gies (ICTs), human rights, and glob­al secu­ri­ty.

About CIRA’s Com­mu­ni­ty Invest­ment Pro­gram 

Through the Com­mu­ni­ty Invest­ment Pro­gram, CIRA funds projects that demon­strate the capac­i­ty to build a bet­ter online Cana­da. The CIRA team man­ages Canada’s coun­try code top-lev­el domain on behalf of all Cana­di­ans. A Mem­ber-based orga­ni­za­tion, CIRA rep­re­sents the inter­ests of Canada’s Inter­net com­mu­ni­ty inter­na­tion­al­ly. To date, the Com­mu­ni­ty Invest­ment Pro­gram has sup­port­ed 78 inno­v­a­tive projects across Cana­da with grants totalling $3.2 mil­lion.