Skip to main content

Indirect Collection of Personal Information

What Is Indirect Collection of Personal Information?

Indirect collection of personal information is the process of gathering personal data about individuals without directly obtaining it from them. It is what happens when information is collected through other sources or means, often without someone’s knowledge. 

Indirect collection raises privacy concerns around transparency and consent. Individuals might not be aware that their information is being collected and used.

Third-party definition 

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

What Does Indirect Collection of Personal Information Look Like?

Examples of indirect collection of personal information include:

  • Data collection from external sources. Acquiring data from data brokers who gather information from a variety of sources, as well as utilizing public documents like voter lists, real estate records, or judicial archives.
  • Online behavior monitoring. Using cookies on websites to monitor user activities and discern patterns in web navigation.
  • Location tracking. Obtaining location information through methods such as GPS, Wi-Fi signals, or triangulation of cellular towers to track the movements of individuals over time.
  • Social media analysis. Examining social media interactions, such as posts, likes, and shares, to compile data on people’s interests, viewpoints, and social connections.
  • Predictive analysis using AI. Employing algorithms to deduce personal tastes, routines, or probable actions from gathered data points.
  • Video surveillance and recognition technologies. Deploying cameras in public or semi-public areas, sometimes integrated with facial recognition technologies, to identify people without their direct involvement.

What Does Direct Collection of Personal Information Look Like?

Direct collection of personal information involves obtaining information directly from the individuals themselves.

Examples of direct collection of personal information include:

  • Registration forms. When registering for a new service or website, you often enter information such as your name, email, and possibly your physical address or phone number.
  • Surveys and questionnaires. These may request your personal views and typically gather demographic data such as age, gender, or income.
  • Interviews. Whether in person, over the phone, or via video, interviews involve sharing personal information.
  • Online purchases. When making an online purchase, you usually provide the seller with your shipping details, contact information, and payment methods.
  • Social media profiles. The information you choose to share in your profiles on platforms like Facebook, LinkedIn, or Twitter.
  • Subscriptions and sign-ups. Signing up for newsletters, email lists, or other online services often requires submitting personal details.
  • Customer feedback forms. These forms may be used to collect your insights and experiences regarding a product or service.

Privacy: Indirect vs Direct Collection of Personal Information

Direct collection is better for privacy than indirect collection because it typically involves higher levels of transparency and more explicit consent from the data subjects. 

With direct collection, individuals have clearer information about what data is being collected and why, and they have the opportunity to consent or refuse data collection. They also have more control over what information they share. For example, they can choose to provide only certain details. 

On the other hand, with indirect collection, individuals are often not aware that their data is being collected, nor do they know how it will be used or stored, which can lead to privacy concerns and potential misuse.

When consumers provide information themselves, they can also ensure that it is accurate and up to date, which can be crucial in certain contexts such as financial services or healthcare. 

Conversely, data collected indirectly may not always be accurate or may be taken out of context, potentially leading to erroneous conclusions about individuals.