Use of telephone and cellphone numbers

How does Statistics Canada use telephone data?

Statistics Canada acquires and uses telephone numbers under the authority of the Statistics Act to ensure that all Canadian households, including those that use cellphones exclusively, are contacted and represented so that our surveys produce an accurate picture that reflects all the people of Canada.

Information collected by Statistics Canada supports a number of statistical programs that benefit all Canadians as well as our country's businesses. These important programs include the Labour Force Survey, which produces the monthly unemployment rate. The data from other statistical programs, such as the Census of Population as well as health and social surveys, provide information that affects the funding of essential services that all Canadians depend on, such as public transit, hospitals and schools.

How does Statistics Canada acquire cellphone numbers?

The Statistics Act provides the authority for Statistics Canada to collect dwelling and telephone number data. Telephone numbers, including those for cellphones, are also provided to Statistics Canada by survey respondents, other government departments and telephone providers on the condition that they are only used for statistical or research purposes.

Why does Statistics Canada obtain cellphone numbers?

The rapid growth of cellphone use has increased the likelihood that an interviewer will contact Canadians on their cellphones.

Statistics Canada needs to represent all dwellings in its samples, not just the ones with landlines, in order to produce high-quality data from its surveys. An increasing number of households have replaced landline telephone service with a wireless service exclusively. The Survey of Household Spending, 2019, determined that nearly half of Canadian households (45.1%) had only a cellphone and no landline.

Statistics Canada strives for a contact-free approach to its surveys, including the Census of the Population, to protect the health and safety of respondents and staff. For the Census, Statistics Canada uses phone numbers to reduce the need for personal contact, which protects the health and safety of Canadians. Statistics Canada is striving for a contact-free approach to conducting the 2021 Census and all other household surveys – including the monthly Labour Force Survey. This is best accomplished through increased use of telephone follow-ups with Canadians, before census employees are sent door to door. Updated lists of addresses and associated phone numbers are essential for comprehensive census collection.

The success of our surveys will depend on partnerships with telecommunications service providers as well as the ongoing cooperation of Canadians.

Can Statistics Canada obtain my unlisted cellphone number?

An unlisted cellphone phone number can be made available to Statistics Canada by survey respondents, other government departments and telephone providers on the condition that they are only used for statistical or research purposes.

Can I ask Statistics Canada not to call my cellphone number?

Statistics Canada fully understands that some Canadians may be concerned if they are contacted on their cellphone by parties other than immediate friends or family members. All telephone and cellphone numbers acquired under the authority of the Statistics Act are treated as confidential, which means they are not shared with anyone else.

Information collected under the Act is used only to support mandated statistical programs of Statistics Canada. It is not used for any other purpose and is not distributed to other parties, including those within the Government of Canada.

Individuals whose numbers are registered with the National Do Not Call List will continue to receive calls from Statistics Canada. As a government agency that is required by law to conduct surveys, Statistics Canada is not subject to the national Do Not Call List. Statistics Canada is mandated by the Statistics Act to conduct surveys and censuses to provide Canadians with accurate information on our society, economy and people.

What is the law regarding the use of phone numbers by Statistics Canada?

Under the Statistics Act, Statistics Canada has the legal authority to access information for statistical and research purposes only. By law, the agency must keep the information it acquires secure and protected. Statistics Canada has formal agreements with data providers to ensure that necessary protocols are in place to protect the confidential information of all Canadians.

In 2014, Statistics Canada reported its intention to update the content of its Residential Telephone Number Register more frequently due to the growing number of Canadians using cellphones. A Privacy Impact Assessment for this register was provided to the Office of the Privacy Commissioner, who is kept informed of any issues related to Statistics Canada's use of cellphone numbers.

What are the limits on the collection of telephone numbers?

Statistics Canada fully understands that some Canadians may be concerned if contacted on their cellphone by parties that are not immediate friends or family members.

Statistics Canada treats as confidential all telephone and cellphone numbers it acquires under the authority of the Statistics Act.

Information collected under the Act is used only to support mandated statistical programs of Statistics Canada. The information is not used for any other purpose, nor distributed to other parties, even within the Government of Canada.

How does Statistics Canada ensure the confidentiality of Canadians' telephone numbers?

At Statistics Canada, the confidentiality of data is governed by the Statistics Act, the Access to Information Act and the Privacy Act, as well as the agency's policies, directives and supporting systems and tools on the collection, protection and use of administrative data.

Statistics Canada employees and deemed employees are sworn to secrecy and subject to fines and/or imprisonment, should they reveal confidential information.

The telephone or address information of Canadians acquired by Statistics Canada is never provided to any other agency or person, even those within the Government of Canada.

Date modified: