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Canadian telco censured for ‘outing’ broke customers on Facebook

Fri 4 Dec 2015

Canadian cable company Senga Services has been forced by the Privacy Commissioner of Canada to remove Facebook postings which ‘shamed’ non-paying customers.

The Fort Simpson-based company faced severe public criticism this week after publishing an extensive list of customers with overdue invoices, together with the amounts they owed, varying between $94.25 to $1,406.80. Senga’s Jennifer Simons caused furore with a series of additional posts defending the initial disclosure, including such comments as “We always got excuses from everybody…Promissory notes and everything, and it never arrives. So we found the most effective way is to publicly post the names” and “Well then it is a lesson to not live outside of your means…maybe their families can step up and help them out, maybe their families had no idea that there are issues. We run a business, not a charity.”

senga-criticismThe initial backlash to the telco’s move was swift. An administrator of the well-read Fort Simpson Bulletin Board page removed the post immediately after he saw it, and later commented “I thought that it was kind of illegal for her to be posting the people in arrears…And there’s better ways to go about it. Especially on social media, where half the people on that list are elders that don’t have access to that.”

Fort Simpson resident Michelle Léger said “If I had been a person on that list, I would have been really embarrassed…It’s publicly shaming people. That’s kind of abusive to your customer base.”

On Thursday Tobi Cohen of the Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada told CBC that the office had successfully requested Senga to remove the offending posts, noting that the Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act “allows organizations to use or disclose people’s personal information only for the purpose for which they gave consent.” Cohen continued “There is also an over-arching clause that personal information may only be collected, used and disclosed for purposes that a reasonable person would consider appropriate under the circumstances.”

Cohen indicated that the OPPC would consider further investigation in the light of any ensuing complaints from the incident.

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