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Direct Collection of Personal Information

What Is the Direct Collection of Personal Information?

Direct collection of personal information is when an organization or individual gathers personal information directly from a person, usually through forms, interviews, surveys, or online data entry fields. 

This contrasts with indirect collection, where information is gathered without someone’s active participation, such as through third-party sources or observation.

Direct collection of personal information is often governed by privacy laws and regulations, requiring whoever is collecting the information to disclose why they are collecting information, obtain consent from the people at the source of the information, and ensure the security and appropriate use of the data.

Third-party definition 

The collection of personal information from the person or the people to whom the information relates. – Government of Canada

What Does Direct Collection of Personal Information Look Like?

Examples of direct collection of personal information include:

  • Filling out registration forms. When you sign up for a new service or website, you typically provide details like your name, email address, and sometimes physical address or phone number.
  • Surveys and questionnaires. These might ask for personal opinions but can also include demographic information like age, gender, or income level.
  • Interviews. In-person, telephone, or video interviews where you provide information about yourself.
  • Online purchases. When buying something online, you generally give the seller your shipping address, contact information, and payment details.
  • Social media profiles. Information you voluntarily provide in your profile on platforms like Facebook, LinkedIn, or Twitter.
  • Subscriptions and sign-ups. For newsletters, email lists, or other online services.
  • Customer feedback forms. Where you might provide details about your experiences with a product or service.

What Does Indirect Collection of Personal Information Look Like?

Indirect collection of personal information involves gathering data without the individual’s direct involvement or explicit consent. 

This type of collection can occur in various ways, including: 

  • Data aggregation from third-party sources. Purchasing data from data brokers who compile information from multiple sources and using public records such as voter registrations, property records, or court files.
  • Online tracking and analytics: Tracking user activity through website cookies to understand browsing habits.
  • Location tracking. Gathering data from GPS, Wi-Fi, or cell tower triangulation to track an individual’s location over time.
  • Social media monitoring. Analyzing social media posts, likes, and shares to gather information about individuals’ interests, opinions, and networks.
  • Inferred information through AI and algorithms. Using algorithms to make inferences about personal preferences, habits, or likely behaviors based on collected data points.
  • Surveillance cameras and facial recognition. Using cameras in public or semi-public places, sometimes coupled with facial recognition technology, to identify individuals without their direct input.

Privacy: Direct vs. Indirect Collection of Personal Information

Direct collection of personal information is better for consumers’ privacy. 

This is because, with direct collection, consumers are generally aware of what information they are providing and can exercise some control over it. This is especially true in cases where consent for data collection is required.

With indirect collection, consumers may not be aware their information is being collected. For example, many people are not aware that data brokers collect information about them from various sources and sell it to third parties. 

Direct collection also allows consumers to ensure that the information provided is accurate and up to date, which can be important in contexts like healthcare or financial services.

On the other hand, the accuracy of indirectly collected data can be a concern, as it might be outdated or not fully representative of the individual. 

Indirectly collected data might also be taken out of context or used in ways the individual did not intend or foresee.