Aeroplan apologizes, withdraws survey after criticism

Click to play video 'Aeroplan withdraws survey amid criticism' Aeroplan withdraws survey amid criticism
Canada's largest loyalty rewards program, Aeroplan, has cancelled an online member survey and has agreed to destroy the findings after complaints about the content of the survey itself. Sean O'Shea reports – Apr 2, 2018

Aeroplan has apologized for an unusual member survey which asked collectors to weigh in on issues such as immigration and asked whether men have a “natural superiority over women.”

“We apologize to any members who were offended by the questions in the survey, which we had not properly reviewed internally,” said Christa Poole, senior manager of external communications for Aimia Inc., which owns Aeroplan.

“After looking into it, we found aspects of the survey that don’t meet the standards we hold ourselves to in terms of the kind of information we gather in order to provide the best program for our members,” Poole said.

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Lacey Willmott, an Aeroplan member from Waterloo, Ont. who took the survey, said the questions started off fairly straightforward before digressing into some odd queries.

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The survey asked whether immigration “threatens the purity of the country” and whether marriage and having children is “the only real way of having a family.”

“That struck me as odd. I thought: what does this have to with shopping habits and why is Aeroplan sending this out in a survey? What are they collecting this information for?” Willmott told Global News in an interview.

Willmott said she felt particularly concerned about the Aeroplan survey in light of recent reports about the sharing of personal data on Facebook and how manipulation of that data by Cambridge Analytica may have influenced results in the 2016 U.S. presidential election.

“I did think it was pretty shocking wording. You can ask whether someone supports immigration without posing it as, ‘Does immigration effect the security of our country?'” she said.

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Concerns about the 80-question survey, originally reported by the CBC, point back to the company that helped create it: Montreal-based research firm CROP.

CROP asked similar questions last year in a survey for Radio-Canada, the French-speaking arm of the CBC. Those survey results, published online, did not prompt a similar controversy.

Willmott is pleased with Aeroplan’s reaction and decision to delete any information collected through the survey.

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“It is great that they are getting rid of the data,” she said. “I think Aeroplan took this seriously.”

Willmott added she believes it’s important for consumers to be skeptical when offering up any information online.

“It’s good to question what kind of data we are sharing — and why, and with who?” she said. “It can be very problematic because of the way it is regulated.”