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Majority of Canadians believe organizations are accountable for protecting their personal information online

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By Giles Sutherland, VP Business Development, Digital ID, Interac

When Canadians access online services, the personal information stored in their accounts both enables more seamless service delivery and becomes an asset forbusinesses that must be safeguarded. Not only is this part and parcel of doing good business, but it is also the expectation among consumers. Canadians are holdingorganizations accountable for the use and storage of data, which means that entities of all sizes have an imperative to provide clear guidelines on how personal information will be used and to enable increased control for users when it comes to managing their privacy online. This idea of Canadians’control over personal information was backed up in a recent survey from Interac Corp., which revealed only six per cent of Canadians feel their personal information is being used for its intended purpose, while most feel it’s being used with nefarious intentions such as: to track their location (58 per cent), to manipulate their beliefs (32 per cent) and to steal their identity (31 per cent).

According to the research, Canadians are concerned with the lack of control they currently have over their personal information. Nearly eight in 10 (76 per cent) Canadians are worried about protecting their online privacy. Additionally, seven in 10 (74 per cent) want more control over their online information.

Who do Canadians think is responsible for a data breach?

The research found that over half of Canadians (53 per cent) believe organizations are primarily responsible for protecting their personal information. What’s more, nearly seven in 10 (69 per cent) would hold organizations accountable in the event of a data breach.

Where one’s data ends up is top of mind – seven in ten Canadians (69 per cent) worry about how their personal information is being sold or transferred without their consent. This highlights the degree to which Canadians want more control over how organizations use this information. 

Are Canadians protecting their own personal data?

The Interac research indicates that the majority ofCanadians (78 per cent) are engaging in some good behaviors to safeguard their personal information, but bad habits persist. Nearly half of Canadians (49 per cent) have not changed their email password in the past year, while more than half (55 per cent) have used the same passwords across multiple websites. While it’s a process that can be overlooked, the sign-in page – often the first step in the user journey – is a critical moment to protect online personal information. However, not all sign-in methods are created equal. The method of sign-in and the credentials used play a critical role in the defence of online personal information.

How can businesses support customers in protecting their data?

The act of verifying customer’s identities to access online services or activities is a critical moment for organizations to build trust by giving customers more control over their personal information. Recent research found that only one per cent of Canadians found login credentials for social media accounts as the most secure way to sign in toonline services, but that almost half of Canadians (49 per cent) would be supportive of using their financial institution login details.

There is a need for authentication options that protect personal information, including sign-in and verification solutions that leverage existing trusted credentials. One such solution offered is the Interac sign in service, whereby users leverage their existing online banking credentials to access participating government and private sector services, rather than creating a new username and password.

Business should also consider including prompts at the beginning of the customer sign-in journey that encourages the creation of strong passwords. This is especially critical where stronger forms of authentication have not yet been enabled. The passwords created should avoid common words or numerical strings. Having secure passwords and passphrases is possible by ensuring they are complex, not easily guessable, and changed regularly.

Interac encourages Canadian businesses to learn more about data privacy. This is core to the Interac philosophy and approach to authenticating payments. When Canadians verify themselves with Interac, they benefit from security, convenience and control built from decadesof experience in delivering privacy-enhancing authentication for governments and businesses across Canada.

For more information how to protect personal data, Interac encourages Canadians to visit our website at Interac.ca or the Office of the Privacy Commissioner.

Research Methodology

Hill+Knowlton Strategies used the Leger Opinion online panel to survey 1,500 Canadians over the period of January 3rd to 6th, 2023. Sampling was done within age, gender, and region quotas. The length of survey was 10 minutes. Data was weighted on age, gender, and region according to 2016 census figures. An associated margin of error for a randomly selected sample of n=1,500 would be ±2.5%, 19 times out of 20. 

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