Doug Ford slammed for offering to sell transit riders' data to corporations
Critics of Ontario Premier Doug Ford are sounding the data privacy alarm today, after plans leaked for a government program that would see the province sell naming rights for GO Transit stations to corporate sponsors.
The idea of something like "Etobi-Coka Cola Station" has itself been met with some raised eyebrows, but NDP leaders are particularly concerned about a specific proposal within the larger plan.
A document outlining the benefits of a potential "station naming rights opportunity" for private corporations was uploaded to Metrolinx's website yesterday to gauge interest in the idea.
"Metrolinx is seeking proposals from interested parties in any category for the Station Naming Rights Opportunity at the following stations," it reads, listing off the Whitby, Pickering, Exhibition, Clarkson and Oakville GO Stations.
Ahem: "...the Ontario government and Metrolinx are getting ready to... sell naming rights for GO Train stations... quiet zones, BATHROOMS" (my emphasis added).— Matt Hunter (@iammatthunter) August 1, 2019
We can do it: "The Doug Ford Memorial Toilet". Start saving.#dougfordmemorialtoilet #onpoli https://t.co/UziXzCc9Dm
Sponsors would be offered a number of things in addition to five to ten years' worth of naming rights in exchange for their cash, according to the document, including branded areas in parking lots and on platforms, the use of retail space at stations and access to the regional transit agency's email, website and social media channels.
A section of the benefits called "data exchange" presents the most troubling potential sale for NDP critics: The sale of customer data "for research collaboration and customer mapping research."
"Ontario families don't want their data — or their children's data —sold off to private corporations," said deputy opposition leader Sara Singh in a press release issued Thursday.
"We'd like the privacy commissioner to step in and offer an opinion, and ultimately, we'd like Doug Ford to take this proposal off the table, before private corporations can track our movements using our presto cards."
I remember when the MSU was first negotiating to put the HSR pass onto presto and students activists raised concerns regarding metrolinx and data sharing with police.— Free Public Transit (@alexwilson96) August 2, 2019
Here we are a couple years later and it's so much worse. https://t.co/DtNfj1Cwuk
Singh has penned a letter to the Privacy Commissioner of Ontario asking for an investigation, but it remains unclear if anything will happen, given that the naming rights proposal is only that at this point — a proposal.
"We are looking to maximize the value of Metrolinx assets, properties, and services to increase non-fare revenue while improving services for our customers," said PC Transportation Minister Caroline Mulroney of the move in a statement on Thursday.
"Customer privacy is of utmost importance. Any agreements will protect customers' privacy."
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