Bell Canada is asking the CRTC to be flexible in what it will accept as proof of a customer’s consent to collect personal information after a 2003 decision provided for only three acceptable ways of doing so. In a November 29 Part VII application, the country’s largest telco suggests that a variety of ways of collecting explicit consent should be allowed so long as there is both "positive affirmation" from the customer and a record of that consent is retained for as required. Dave Elder, Bell Canada’s privacy czar, explains that the company is urging the regulator to accept any method of collecting explicit consent that meet these two "pillars." The current rules, he says, aren’t broad enough to encompass a system that solicits consent orally and keeps a record of that consent without further confirmation. "We would think that any consent methodology that might be available now or in the future that fulfills those essential requirements should be authorized," Elder tells Network Letter. "The companies submit that any consent methodology that may be available, currently or in the future, that would satisfy these two requirements, should satisfy the express consent requirement found in the CRTC restriction on confidentially of customer information. It is a far more efficient use of time and resources - for customers, the commission and for TSPs - to establish express consent requirements that are based on clearly identified principles, rather than maintaining a regime where the Commission must approve each and every particular express consent method that TSPs may want to employ," reads Bell’s Part VII application. In Telecom Decision 2003-33-1, the commission allowed for the collection of express consent via three methods as alternatives to written consent: oral confirmation verified by a third party, electronic confirmation through toll-free number, and a web-based application. The Bell Part VII argues that while these methods have offered greater flexibility to collect express consent than previous rules, they present challenges nonetheless. Elder explains that third-party verification of oral consent is particularly troublesome because a significant portion of the company’s business is still conducted over the telephone. He adds that it’s awkward and time consuming, not only for the company, but for the customer as well to jump through the hoops demanded by the commission. "We thought it would be simpler to ask someone for their consent orally and making an audio recording of that that you could retain in case there was ever a challenge that that person didn’t give their consent," he says. Elder says the application doesn’t have as its goal to change the current explicit consent rules as dictated by article 11, but to allow for additional avenues by which customer consent can be collected. The telco’s application comes as Rogers Wireless Inc. has come under fire for allegedly using negative option consent, and is now under investigation by the federal privacy commissioner’s office. Michael Krauss, a communications consultant, launched a complaint against Rogers Wireless in September. Elder, who wouldn’t comment on the Rogers Wireless case, says all telecommunications carriers are subject to the article 11 terms of service restriction "either directly by tariff or indirectly as a condition of forbearance. And if they’re adhering to that standard, I don’t know why you would have an issue under PIPEDA because the article 11 is as you can see express consent, you can’t share it without express consent. So I don’t see where there’s room for a complaint based on implied consent."