Stop collecting health numbers, SaskTel told

Saskatchewan's privacy commissioner says SaskTel should stop collecting health card numbers from its customers.

Gary Dickson also wants the Crown-owned phone company to stop gathering social insurance numbers and other unique identifiers whenever possible.

The recommendations were part of a 58-page report Dickson released Tuesday.

It was sparked by a customer who, six years ago, wanted to check his phone bill, but didn't want to give his Social Insurance number or health card number to the phone company.

Later, in a discussion with a SaskTel supervisor, the customer learned the company already had that information on file.

He asked SaskTel to delete that data, which the company eventually did.

Although the customer's concern was dealt with, Dickson decided the issue was serious enough to warrant a broader look at SaskTel's personal information collecting policies.

He found that SaskTel wasn't fully complying with the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act.

SaskTel has responded to Dickson's concerns and says it will improve its rules on customer privacy, but it continues to insist it needs two pieces of identification to establish a customer's credit-worthiness. And that can include such things as SIN numbers or driver's licence numbers.

The company also says if customers don't want to provide the identification, they can pre-pay their bills.

Dickson said SaskTel's response to his recommendations is a mixed bag.

"SaskTel is doing some very positive things. However, I find that SaskTel’s efforts are falling short in terms of [privacy law] compliance," he said in the report.

"This is due in part to its apparent desire to collect as much personal information on its customers and associated third parties as possible contrary to the 'data minimization principle'.

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