Cannabis ordered through B.C.’s new online dispensary on Oct. 17, the day Canada legalized marijuana use. (Sarah Gawdin/The Progress)

Privacy concerns over credit card use for legal online pot purchases

Worries follow privacy breaches at some Canadian cannabis retailers

Canada’s privacy commissioner is planning to issue guidance for buyers and sellers of legal cannabis amid ongoing concern about potential fallout, such as being barred from the United States, if transactions become known by third parties.

The concern has been heightened in provinces where anonymously paying cash in-store is not possible in light of a controversial Statistics Canada initiative to obtain detailed bank records from all Canadians.

“Our office recognizes the sensitive nature of cannabis-related transactions — particularly if information about those transactions is processed in a jurisdiction where cannabis consumption is not legal,” said Tobi Cohen, a spokeswoman for the federal privacy commissioner. “Organizations need to make it plain to individuals that their information may be processed in a foreign country, and that it may be accessible to law enforcement and national security authorities of that jurisdiction.”

British Columbia has already issued its own guidance and privacy-protection tips. For example, it notes that online sellers collect personal information such as name, date of birth, home address, credit card number, purchase history and email address.

“Providing personal information, especially through online formats, creates additional security risks,” the document by B.C.’s privacy commissioner notes. “Cannabis is illegal in most jurisdictions outside of Canada; the personal information of cannabis users is therefore very sensitive.”

READ MORE: B.C. privacy watchdog issues guidelines for legal cannabis sale

Legal online purchases across Canada show up on bank statements in a variety of ways, depending on the retailer.

In Manitoba, for example, an order from the outlet Delta 9 shows up as “D9-2 -8675309 Winnipeg MB,” while purchases in British Columbia appear as “BCS Online Vancouver.” Those in Nova Scotia are recorded as coming from the provincial liquor corporation — “NSLC #2098/e-commerce Halifax.” Similarly, in Newfoundland and Labrador, orders register as NLC #700 St. John’s N.L.

In Ontario, where the only way to buy marijuana legally is online through the Ontario Cannabis Store using a credit card, transactions show up as “OCS/SOC.”

Jesse, 39, of Toronto, who’s in marketing and who asked his last name not be used, said he has mixed feelings about “OCS/SOC” appearing on his credit-card statement.

“I’m not crazy about being potentially profiled at the U.S. border because of a purchase that’s thrown up in my credit history,” Jesse said. “At the same time, I’m not losing sleep over it because there’s no precedent (for that) yet.”

In the pre-legal era, online outlets usually masked credit-card purchases, perhaps by using a generic notation such as “Organics,” and some still do so now. However, a spokeswoman for the Ontario Cannabis Store said such an approach doesn’t fly.

“As a legal business operating in Ontario, it is required that we operate with transparency,” Amanda Winton said. “This includes using our registered business name for payment services.”

READ MORE: Canada Post admits cannabis privacy breach involving 4,500 Ontario customers

Ontario’s privacy commissioner, Brian Beamish, said his office recommends redacting sensitive information in a case where, for example, a landlord might ask a prospective tenant for a credit card statement. Beamish also said a generic name used to record cannabis transactions could become widely known.

“The key issue here is the protection of bank information, whether it’s related to legal cannabis transactions or any other personal banking decision,” Beamish said.

Troy Patterson, who works with a licensed cannabis producer in Kincardine, Ont., said pot is legal and he wasn’t particularly worried about purchases showing up on credit card or similar statements.

“Now, if that info were to be weaponized against people, say for insurance or other purposes, that would be a huge issue,” Patterson said.

Colin Perkel, The Canadian Press


Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Just Posted

Upgrades at Crofton ferry terminal expected in 2022

Public consultations expected to begin in 2019

Chemainus Theatre promises next year will be a record-breaker

Mama Mia one of three blockbuster shows theatre brass expect to draw big audiences

Ladysmith Interact club students inspired and inspiring

Ladysmith Secondary School group making a difference in their community

Driver unharmed in high-speed rollover crash on Trans-Canada Highway

Jeep and minivan involved in collision near Nanaimo River Road

IIO doesn’t recommend charges after motorcyclist death in Mill Bay

An off-duty VicPD officer was involved in the crash

REPLAY: B.C’s best video this week

In case you missed it, here’s a look at the replay-worth highlights from this week across the province

Canucks score 3 power-play goals in 4-2 win over Oilers

Vancouver sniper Boeser has 6 goals in last 5 games

Microscopic parasite found in Prince Rupert water affecting thousands

More than 12,000 residents affected by the boil water advisory issued Dec. 14

Trudeau lashes out at Conservatives over migration “misinformation”

Warning against the “dangers of populism,” Trudeau says using immigration as a wedge political issue puts Canada’s future at risk.

B.C. hockey coach creates ‘gear library’ to remove cost barrier of sport

Todd Hickling gathered donations and used gear to remove the cost barrier for kids to play hockey.

Canada’s ambassador meets with second detainee in China

Global Affairs says John McCallum, Canada’s ambassador to China, met with Spavor Sunday

‘They’re coming:’ Flying cars may appear in urban skies by 2023

Air taxis will number 15,000 and become a global market worth $32 billion by 2035

B.C. VIEWS: Andrew Wilkinson on taxes, ICBC and union changes

Opposition leader sees unpredictable year ahead in 2019

5 tips for self-care, mental wellness this holiday season

Ministry of Mental Health and Addictions urging British Columbians to prioritize self care through festive season

Most Read