The CMHC said privacy wasn’t an issue as it did a mammoth data scoop that compiled personal financial records on nearly nine million mortgage holders, according to Access To Information files.
Blacklock’s Reporter said data obtained without borrowers’ informed consent included personal income, municipal addresses, credit scores and household debts even for homeowners who were not CMHC customers.
“No we shouldn’t need a privacy impact assessment,” Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation managers wrote in a 2018 staff email.
“This information is for statistical or analytical purposes and therefore non-administrative. That’s where the privacy protocol comes in.”
CMHC withheld 611 heavily-censored pages of records from Blacklock’s for three years.
Data and e-mails were only released following a complaint to the Information Commissioner.
The data mining, the largest yet by a federal agency, occurred without any parliamentary oversight. Records indicate the Office of the Privacy Commissioner was never consulted.
Documents show CMHC in 2018 signed an agreement to have the superintendent of Financial Institutions surrender private financial records on mortgage holders, including borrowers with non-CMHC insured home loans. The superintendent collected the data as a routine regulatory matter.
The superintendent in a 28-page Privacy Protocol said it would only surrender records if CMHC obtained borrowers’ consent. None was sought, according to files. CMHC instead asked banks to agree to share their customers’ information.
“CMHC will be collecting personal information (client ID, income and credit bureau scores) for non-administrative use that is under the Office of the Superintendent of Financial Institution’s control,” read a 2018 staff e-mail.
Managers warned “in the event of a breach” where millions of records were lost or leaked, CMHC “will without delay inform the Superintendent of Financial Institutions.”
Files show CMHC compiled a database on 8,951,718 mortgage holders, including individual credit scores on 6,750,816 Canadians. Data was collected “to gain better insights into the evolving mortgage landscape,” the agency wrote in a March 29, 2018 notice to banks.
“Data will be shared with the Department of Finance and Bank of Canada on a confidential basis,” said the notice.
CMHC also used information from the nine million individual accounts to provide data to builders, economists and lenders through a so-called “Housing Data Exchange.”
The agency did not explain if data were sold, but said all personal information was removed before the information was compiled for the Data Exchange.
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