Though the Toronto Real Estate Board (TREB) has complied with the Competition Bureau’s order to make its home sales data available to the general public, it has brought up concerns about privacy. John DiMichele, TREB’s chief executive officer, mentioned in a recent news interview that “the element of privacy in our opinion hasn’t been settled completely, yet.”
DiMichele mentioned that he is concerned that brokers’ remarks — a section in the Multiple Listing Services (MLS) database where brokers and agents can provide comments for other agents —are being posted publicly online. These comments were not supposed to be available from sales data feed that TREB recently made available.
“If someone is receiving this data, we have a duty and responsibility to find out if it is coming out of our system because [those brokers’ remarks often] will say things like elderly gentleman, hard of hearing, knock loud, or children home alone between 3 and 5 p.m.,” said DiMichele. (The comments help agents to schedule viewings in a more efficient and safe manner for both the seller and the prospective buyers). DiMichele is also concerned because access codes and secure properties could be included in those notes.
Although, DiMichele didn’t mention how he came to know about those messages being revealed, he did say it was brought to his attention only recently.
He also avoided discussing what kind of actions should be taken towards those companies that were disclosing those notes, or those that make sales data available without password protection.
“I can’t comment on specific cases, but if people are doing these things, we are certainly going to contact them, if they are contactable because right now my understanding is that some of these websites don’t have identifying information,” mentioned DiMichele.