CIBC attacks scrapyard operator; Finance Minister launches investigation

A couple of items on the continuing CIBC missing faxes story in today's Globe and Mail:
Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce accuses scrapyard operator Wade Peer of deliberately leaking confidential CIBC customer data and of violating Canadian privacy laws.
The bank's allegations, made in court filings yesterday, come just one business day after the bank publicly praised him for the way he protected confidential customer data that the bank had mistakenly faxed to him for more than three years.
Mr. Peer is seeking $3-million (U.S.) in damages from the bank in a Maryland court, claiming that the volume of faxes sent to his business, AllStar Sportsline Properties, by CIBC branches prevented him from communicating with his customers. As a result, he claims in the suit, his business failed.
In their brief, CIBC lawyers said: “Mr. Peer provided The Globe and Mail (a mass publication Toronto newspaper) and the Canadian tele-
vision network CTV with confidential financial information about CIBC's customers — either from his own copies of the faxes or, as Peer now claims, from the materials his counsel had already placed on this Court's website.
“[Mr. Peer and AllStar] have already shown that they will misuse CIBC's confidential customer information. . . . None of this conduct can possibly be justified as a matter of fairness or common sense.” . . .[Read the full story in the Globe and Mail]
My colleague Gord Pitts takes a look at the reputational risk issues for the bank:
It's a bank's worst public relations nightmare — a challenge to its image of trust and confidence. It gets even worse when the accuser is an ordinary Joe, a plain-spoken scrap yard operator from West Virginia.
Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce has responded by playing the heavy in its public relations standoff with Wade Peer, the scrap dealer who was mistakenly sent faxes of bank customer information.
Crisis management experts say this strategy contains risks in reassuring the public, which is more likely to sympathize with Mr. Peer than with a major Canadian bank already coping with challenges to its reputation … [Read the full story in today's Globe and Mail]
And finally, the CIBC situation is fodder for the paper's editorial writers:
How does a bank know when its internal communications system is in awful shape? When its employees are faxing customers' confidential documents to scrapyards in Maryland and West Virginia. When they continue to fax those documents to the same 1-877 number for three years, despite the persistent pleas of the scrapyards' operator, Wade Peer, that they stop doing so. When, even after the story appears in The Globe and Mail and on CTV exposing this shocking breach of privacy on the part of Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce, Mr. Peer receives two more such faxes, one from an Edmonton CIBC branch and one from an Ottawa branch.
And how does the bank respond? It orders all its branches not to transmit customers' personal information by fax machine, indicating that even now, three years later, it has no clue where the originating problem is and how to remove Mr. Peer's fax number from the bank's files. (The basic problem is simple enough to spot: If you hit a digit in the bank's 1-877 number twice by mistake, you get Mr. Peer's number.) CIBC says it will still send faxes to those customers who want to receive them. Brave customers.
The bank's chief privacy officer, Ron Lalonde, has posted a letter on CIBC's website that begins: “I want to personally apologize and share with you my deep concern regarding the breach of confidentiality of client information reported in the media.” He then spends the rest of the letter blaming Mr. Peer — a victim in this case, a man who was forced to launch a lawsuit against the bank last spring because the mail hadn't stopped — for not complaining often enough that he was being besieged. “We heard nothing further regarding this issue from the individual for more than two years,” Mr. Lalonde writes, “and thus believed that the company was no longer receiving CIBC faxes in error.” Did no one at the bank, particularly the chief of privacy, consider the matter worth a follow-up phone call or two? …[Read the full story in today's Globe and Mail – subscription required]

Steve Maich in the blogosphere

Another former National Post colleague of mine, Steve Maich, has a blog:

Money is what you’ll read about here, and in my column in Maclean’s magazine. This weblog and the column are both called “All Business”, but if you think of business stories as stultifying, dull grey lumps of prose laden with impenetrable numbers and white guys in suits, well I hope I can change your mind. There’s a reason why they call it the “Almighty dollar.” Hopefully, this corner of the web will provide a little colourful commentary and a little insight on where that power comes from, where it’s going, who’s wielding it, and why you ought to care

CIBC works on damage control in wake of fax foul-up

My colleague Sinclair Stewart and I teamed up for this story in today's Globe and Mail:
Top officials at Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce huddled over the weekend in an effort to stem the fallout from an embarrassing glitch in which the confidential information of hundreds of customers was mistakenly faxed to a junkyard in Virginia.
Chief executive officer John Hunkin, along with chief privacy officer Ron Lalonde, retail banking head Jill Denham, and other members of CIBC's “business recovery team” met at the bank's Toronto headquarters Saturday morning to discuss ways of defusing the controversy and fine-tuning their communications strategy . . . [Read the full story]

CIBC bans faxes; privacy commissioner investigates; more leaks

The Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce has taken the remarkable step of banning the use of fax machines for any transmission of customer information in the wake of revelations that confidential data for hundreds of its customers had been faxed to a scrap yard operator in West Virginia.
The Toronto-based bank issued the ban in the early afternoon — shortly after the scrap yard operator, Wade Peer, received two more faxes from CIBC branches, each of which contained confidential customer information.
Peer said one fax arrived at his office at about 11:15 a.m. ET Friday from a CIBC branch in Edmonton. The other arrived about an hour later from a CIBC branch in Ottawa. Both faxes contain names, social insurance numbers, phone numbers, and bank account details for CIBC customers in those cities.
Peer said he has received hundreds of similar documents since July 2001, despite alerting bank officials immediately about the problem and at several intervals since then.
Also Friday, Canada's Privacy Commissioner Jennifer Stoddart launched an investigation to determine if the CIBC violated Canadian privacy laws.
“This is virtually unprecedented in terms of scale in the private sector anyway,” Stoddart told CTV in a telephone interview from Ottawa … [Read the full story and watch the video report]

CIBC sends confidential customer data to West Virginia scrapyard

The Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce has been faxing confidential information about hundreds of its customers to a scrap yard operator in West Virginia for more than three years, and he says he can't get them to stop.
Wade Peer says he has been overwhelmed since 2001 by internal CIBC fund transfer request forms containing the social security numbers, home addresses, phone numbers and detailed bank account data of several hundred bank customers.
“Had I been a bad guy, I could have got credit cards in their name, I could have assumed their identity. I could have transferred money out of their bank accounts and they'd never know that it happened,” Peer said at his 30-acre scrap yard in the rolling hills of West Virginia . . . [Read the CTV story and watch the video ]

A FAQ on the CIBC privacy breach

I've received a pile of e-mail on the CIBC privacy breach, most of it from CIBC customers. Here's my answers to the Frequently Asked Questions in those messages:
Is there a class action suit being launched?
I don't know. If you have a lawyer or know of one, ask him or her.
How do I find out if my information was faxed incorrectly?
So far as I know, the bank has no list of customers who had their confidential customer data sent out of the country. Wade Peer and his lawyer do not have a list, either. Mr. Peer does have a file folder full of documents that contains confidential CIBC customer data but neither he nor his lawyer would show me the contents when I asked.
The only documents Mr. Peer received, though, were for one specific kind of transaction and he has only been receiving CIBC documents since July, 2001. The transaction forms are for a transfer of funds into a CIBC RSP or a CIBC RIF. (They are not for automatic contributions to RSPs but for unique, one-time transfers).
How would this affect me if my personal information is listed on these faxes?
It may not affect you at all for the simple reason that the information appears, by lucky chance, to have fallen into the hands of a responsible individual, Mr. Peer, who either shredded the documents he received or placed them in a locked filing cabinet in his office.
What actions should I take as a client of CIBC's?
I can't help you with that one. You should consult with your CIBC branch manager and other advisors, such as your lawyer.
Is anyone doing anything about this?
Yes. Canada's Privacy Commissioner opened an investigation Friday and, as of Sunday night, had a message at her Web site for CIBC customers.

Tyler Hamilton jumps into the blogosphere

My friend Tyler Hamilton ,who used to work where I do now, at the Globe and Mail, is over at The Toronto Star, Canada's biggest daily newspaper, where he writes about technology and business. Tyler just jumped into the blogosphere with both feet.
” I've come to realize that blogs aren't about what other people think. It's freestyle thinking, a cathartic ritual jotted down in text so I have proof that what I thought at some point in time really happened,” Tyler wrote in his first post. “Those who visit might like it, might not, doesn't matter, really. Maybe a month from now I'll be hooked. Maybe this will be my first and last entry. I guess we'll see…”
Like my friend Mark Evans (who also used to work at the Globe and now works where I used to, at the National Post), Tyler is great on telecommunications stuff. He's got posts at his blog already on Bell Canada and Nortel.

Wi-Fi comes to Hamilton's airport

Hamilton International Airport said last week that its entire passenger terminal is wi-fi enabled, a significant plus over its major regional competitor, Toronto's Pearson International Airport. So far as I know, Wi-Fi access at Pearson is pretty much restricted to special lounges and is not available where it would be most valuable, in the waiting areas outside the departure gates. WestJet and CanJet are the two major carriers that offer service to Hamilton's airport. Opti-Fi Networks is the company that is wiring (or do we say, de-wiring) the Hamilton site.

Toronto — most expensive airport in North American to land your jet

Lester B. Pearson International Airport in Toronto is the most expensive airport in North America — and second most expensive in the world, behind one in Tokyo — to land a plane in. Airport operators typically charge airlines a landing fee to cover the costs of putting a plane down on the tarmac. But at Pearson, the cost for a average-sized jet (an Airbus 300) is more than $3,300 (U.S.) and that's nearly double what it costs to land at the second most expensive airport in North America, New York's LaGuardia. Atlanta, the busiest airport in North American, charges less than $150 for the same service that Pearson charges more than $3,300 for.
Last week, my Globe and Mail colleague Brent Jang reported that Pearson's operator – the not-for-profit agency known as the Greater Toronto Airport Authority — had floated the idea of bumping those landing fees by a further 18 per cent. As one source on the story told me, if Pearson went ahead with that increase — and it appears from Brent's article that they are backing away — that would have meant that landing fees would have doubled at Pearson since 2002.
Of course, even though airlines pay these fees, it's passengers who are ultimately dinged for them in higher ticket prices. And since Toronto is Canada's busiest airport — 50 25 million passengers a year — and acts as a hub for much of the country's domestic and international traffic, that means that costs of air travel in Canada are higher than many other jurisdictions.
And while Toronto was tops, Vancouver, Calgary and Edmonton all placed near the top end when it comes to landing fees.
This data — a selected chunk of which is reproduced in the table below — was compiled by a University of British Columbia researcher, working for a group called the Air Transport Research Society.
I used some of that data in a CTV National News piece I did on Pearson's plans to open a new $2-billion airport east of Toronto in Pickering, Ont. In the following table, all dollar figures are in U.S. currency.

  BOEING 747-400
(524 seats)
(266 seats)
(50 seats)


New York – LaGuardia
New York – JFK
Newark NJ


Washington, D.C.
San Francisco
Los Angeles
St. Louis

[What they said] BBC World Service goes RSS

From David Weinberger's Journal of the Hyperlinked Organization (otherwise known as JOHO) blog:
Joho the Blog: BBC World Service goes RSS

BBC World Service goes RSS
This is way cool — a major news service (hey, we're talking The Beeb here!) distributing its news by letting us view it wherever and whenever we want. And in lots of languages.
Here's an informal email (lightly edited) from Ian Forrester:

BBC World Service have gone public with RSS 1.0 feeds
I'm proud to say we at the BBC World service have launched RSS 1.0 (RDF) feeds to the public and automatic discovery of the rss feed is also in place.
There is no help or notification page of any type yet because we are tackling the problem of working with many different languages. The multi-language rss reader and aggregator market is still very much in flux it would seem. We are very much relying on automatic discovery at this stage, as not to confuse our audience.
We chose RSS 1.0 because of its universal acceptance throughout the blog/we…