Man to file privacy complaint after personal info released
90K received home energy audits from 3rd party contractor using NSP customer information
A Nova Scotia Power customer says he’s filing a privacy complaint against the utility after his personal information was released without his permission.
Earl Acker said his privacy was violated when Nova Scotia Power gave his personal information — including his name, address, account number, and power usage — to Efficiency Nova Scotia who contracted Opower to perform an energy audit.
"It’s like my bank account number, my bank account number is mine and Scotiabank. No one else has access to that account and no one needs to have it," he said.
Acker was among 90,000 Nova Scotians to receive the home energy report comparing their power usage to similar households.
There are federal and provincial laws that prevent the release of a person’s private information without their consent.
Both Efficiency Nova Scotia and NSP fall under federal privacy laws which require customer consent for personal information to be released.
"If you collect somebody's information you are allowed to use it for the purposes that they had agreed but not others," said Wayne MacKay, a law professor at Dalhousie University.
MacKay said even if the information is used with good intentions, such as telling people how they can improve their energy use, it should not be released without consent
Acker said he never agreed to the release of his information but Hugh Fraser of Efficiency Nova Scotia said legal experts have assured them this program is in line with all applicable privacy laws.
"We've been working on this for a couple of years now so the first question we asked was about privacy because it’s obviously top of mind with everybody when you're dealing with people's personal information," he said.
Fraser also said Opower is very "proactive" in protecting customer information.
That's little consolation to Acker, who said he'll be filing a complaint with the federal privacy commissioner.
"There’s something, to me, that’s wrong," he said.
CBC News contacted NSP to ask if it had consent from the 90,000 customers whose personal information it sent to Opower.
Spokesperson Neera Ritcey did not answer the question and declined an interview.
She responded by saying, "Protecting our customers’ privacy is our top priority. We have done our thorough due diligence on it."