The privacy commissioners of Canada and British Columbia have launched an investigation into a Victoria-based company that performs background checks on tenants and others.

In a joint statement, they say Certn is being assessed to ensure compliance with the federal Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act and B.C.'s Personal Information Protection Act.

The commissioners say they will investigate whether "consent provisions" in both laws are being followed, and whether the data it collects is being used appropriately.

Certn's website says that instead of using "outdated" manual screening for clients, it performs background checks using "100 per cent online automated checks," and can conduct criminal record checks, identity checks, and employment verification in more than 200 countries.

The company issued a response late Tuesday, saying it is fully cooperating with the investigation and is providing all requested information.

The statement goes on to say, "Our background screening services are only initiated with express consent from tenants and with the utmost regard for privacy.

Privacy Commissioner of Canada Philippe Dufresne says in a news release that personal information collected about potential tenants must be collected with consent and must be accurate because it "may ultimately impact an individual's ability to find a place to live.”

B.C. Privacy Commissioner Michael Harvey says there's a balance between the privacy rights of individuals and the needs of businesses to collect information about them.

"At a time when hundreds of thousands of British Columbians are facing affordability and housing challenges, striking this balance and ensuring that people’s privacy rights are respected in the rental space is critically important,” he said in the release.

Privacy commissioners investigate B.C. firm that does background checks for landlords. #CDNPoli #BCPoli #Certn

Officials with Certn say they will work collaboratively with the commissioners to address any findings and continue developing innovative ways for prospective tenants to obtain verified credentials across Canada.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published June 3, 2024.

Keep reading