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.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

There were 410 COVID-19 cases recorded in Alberta Wednesday. (File photo)
Alberta records 410 new COVID-19 cases Wednesday

Central zone dropped to 160 active cases

Shaun Isaac, owner of Woodchucker Firewood in Trochu, is awaiting a new shipment during a firewood shortage in the province. All of the wood he has left is being saved for long-time customers who need it to heat their homes. (Contributed photo).
Firewood shortage in central Alberta caused by rising demand, gaps in supply

‘I’ve said “No” to more people than ever’: firewood seller

Sharon Hickin, general manager of the Days Inn Sylvan Lake and the new Lake House Diner, poses for a photo outside the new restaurant. Photo by Megan Roth/Sylvan Lake News
Pandemic puts extra hurdles in place for new Sylvan Lake businesses

Over the past seven months numerous new businesses have opened in Sylvan Lake, despite the pandemic

Sylvan Lake Wranglers. File Photo
Sylvan Lake Wranglers ready for shorten hockey season

The HJHL will have a 20 game season, playing four games in a cohort and then going dark for 14 days

Royal Alexandra Hospital front-line workers walk a picket line after walking off the job in a wildcat strike in Edmonton, on Monday, October 26, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson
Alberta labour board orders health-care staff who walked off the job to go back to work

Finance Minister Travis Toews said in a news release that he was pleased with the labour board’s decision

Husky Energy logo is shown at the company’s annual meeting in Calgary on May 5, 2017. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
Husky pipeline spills 900,000 litres of produced water in northwestern Alberta

The energy regulator says environmental contractors are at the site

A raccoon paid a visit to a Toronto Tim Hortons on Oct. 22, 2020. (shecallsmedrew/Twitter)
Who are you calling a trash panda? Raccoon takes a shift at Toronto Tim Hortons

Tim Hortons said animal control was called as soon they saw the surprise visitor

file photo
Maskwacis RCMP investigate pedestrian fatality

Collision on Highway 2A causing fatality still under investigation.

Rachel Notley, leader of Alberta’s official Opposition, speaks in Edmonton on Wednesday, Oct. 16, 2019. Notley says the government needs to sharply ramp up the number of contact tracers if it wants to get a handle on the rising number of COVID-19 cases. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson
Alberta Opposition calls for more COVID-19 contact tracers as case numbers rise

Alberta has about 800 tracers, and chief medical health officer Dr. Hinshaw says more are being recruited

Royal Alexandra Hospital front-line workers walk a picket line after walking off the job in a wildcat strike in Edmonton, on Monday, October 26, 2020. Hospital and health-care workers who staged a one-day illegal walkout returned to work Tuesday while politicians swapped recriminations and accusations in the house over the dispute. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson
Alberta health staff return to work, surgeries resume after one-day walkout

AHS estimated 157 non-emergency surgeries, most of them in Edmonton, had to be postponed as a result of the walkout

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau makes his way to provide an update on the COVID pandemic in Ottawa on Tuesday, Oct. 27, 2020. Canada has reached a grim milestone in the COVID-19 pandemic, surpassing 10,000 novel coronavirus deaths. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Alberta COVID deaths pushes Canada past milestone of 10,000 deaths

Canada crossed the threshold of 5,000 deaths on May 12, a little over two months after the first was reported

Cases in Ponoka (East Ponoka County) as of Oct. 27. (alberta.ca)
Diagnosed cases of COVID-19 at three Ponoka businesses

Town ‘strongly encouraging’ residents to wear non-medical masks in public

Most Read