New Guide Helps Organizations Provide Clear Information to Consumers about How Personal Information is Collected, Used and Shared

    January 24, 2019

    The Canadian Marketing Association (CMA) today released the CMA Guide to Transparency for Consumers to help organizations provide clear, user-friendly information about how consumers' personal information is collected, used and shared.

    "Good privacy policy is good business," stated John Wiltshire, the CMA's president and CEO. "Organizations that adopt practices contained in the CMA Guide to Transparency for Consumers will instill more trust and loyalty in current and future customers because their customers will be better informed and have more choice and control."

    The CMA Guide to Transparency for Consumers will help companies comply with new Guidelines on Meaningful Consent, issued by the Office of the Privacy Commissioner, which came into effect on January 1, 2019. It is the latest in a series of tools created by the CMA to help Canadian marketers maintain high standards of professional conduct.

    The Guide contains the CMA's new Transparency Framework, which was developed by the CMA's Privacy and Data Committee – including some of Canada's leading Chief Privacy Officers. The Transparency Framework is built on three pillars:

    1. Information is layered so that consumers can choose the level of detail that suits them, and they receive information in smaller amounts, as it is needed. To achieve this, the Guide outlines a range of approaches.
    2. Information is tailored to the medium and the audience, such as a simple, succinct "privacy label" that can easily be read on a small screen, making it user-friendly and user-appropriate.
    3. The approach reflects the shared roles of individuals, organizations and regulators.

    The CMA's 400+ members, including some of the largest organizations in Canada, can select from the approaches outlined in the CMA Guide to Transparency for Consumers to tailor their consumer information on privacy practices to suit their sector, business model, consumers' preferences and products.

    The CMA Guide to Transparency for Consumers reflects consumers' perspectives on transparency, gleaned from two research studies commissioned by the CMA and released in 2018:

    - Data Privacy – What the Canadian consumer really thinks, conducted by Foresight Factory in 10 countries (Argentina, Australia, Canada, France, Germany, Netherlands, Singapore, Spain, UK and US) on behalf of the Global Alliance of Data-Driven Marketing Associations, found that 75% of Canadians are willing to share personal data in order to receive benefits, as long as the data is properly protected. Higher rated benefits include free products and services, greater value for money, improved service and tailored offers.
    - Attitudes towards Data Privacy and Transparency, conducted by Environics Research, provides detailed information about the kind of information that consumers want to have about how their personal information is being processed.

    Until now, most organizations provide a privacy notice to inform consumers about what information is being collected, for what purposes, and with whom it is being shared. Many privacy notices are long and complex and use legal terminology.

    "Most consumers do not take the time to review and absorb lengthy, complex privacy policies," added Wiltshire. "Our focus is on having organizations provide clear, consistent and succinct information, so that consumers can make more informed decisions about the use and storage of their personal data."

    Advances in technology have created some challenges around obtaining meaningful consent, including the wide use of devices with small screens, the length and complexity of today's privacy policies, and the speed with which consumers interact with content and technology. However, technology has also solved many problems and has led to conveniences that consumers have embraced. Emerging technologies (e.g. better encryption, blockchain) are significantly improving our capacity to protect personal information.

    The CMA Guide to Transparency for Consumers is being released in the run-up to Data Privacy Day, which is held each year on January 28. It was established in 2007 to raise awareness about best practices in privacy and data protection. Data Privacy Day is currently observed in Canada, the U.S., India and close to 50 European countries.

    Canadian Marketing Association