Canada: Behavioural Advertising

Last Updated: December 16 2011
Article by Ariane Siegel

On December 6, 2011, the Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada (OPC) released its Guidelines on Privacy and Online Behavioural Advertising. These Guidelines outline best practices relating to online advertising in order to assist advertisers, websites, browser developers and other organizations involved in online behavioural advertising in complying with Canada's federal private-sector privacy statute, the Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act (PIPEDA). Below is a brief background on behavioural advertising, the steps previously taken by the OPC in this regard, and an outline of the new Guidelines.


What is Behavioural Advertising?

Behavioural advertising is a form of advertising or marketing that targets specific consumers based upon their behaviours and preferences. Online, behavioural advertising is facilitated by numerous tracking tools that permit organizations to collect consumer data and link such data to advertisements.

One such tool is a cookie. A cookie is a small file that websites automatically install on users' computers to keep track of online behaviours. Cookies can collect various types of information, including Internet Protocol (IP) address information; pages visited; length of time spent on each page; advertisements viewed; articles read; purchases made; entered terms, such as search terms; user preferences; operating system; and geographical location. Cookies are useful for online advertisers, as they can reveal information pertaining to users.

Other popular behavioural advertising techniques involve the use of marketing platforms that gather the disclosed interests and passions of users in order to provide those users with targeted advertising. Some search engines can track users' search queries and collect information about their surfing patterns and habits, while some social networking sites allow advertisers to access the information provided by users themselves in order to help direct advertising campaigns to specific demographic groups.

Consultations and Investigations by the OPC

Following public consultations held in the spring of 2010, the OPC released a report on the subject of online tracking, profiling and targeting, and cloud computing. The report outlined, among other things, the benefits and risks of online behavioural advertising, as well as the self-regulatory measures in place. The OPC looked particularly to privacy issues arising as a result of online tracking, profiling and targeting. In particular, the report set out two significant issues: the blurring of the public and private divide and its effects on reputation; and the need to protect children online. The OPC's report may be accessed here.

Subsequent to the release of this report, the OPC undertook specific research and outreach activities, as well as policy development, in relation to online tracking, profiling and targeting. The release of its latest Guidelines on Privacy and Online Behavioural Advertising comes in the wake of such initiatives.


Personal Information and Application of PIPEDA

The OPC's Guidelines on Privacy and Online Behavioural Advertising propose that, given the scope and scale of information collected by cookies and other such tracking devices, as well as the means currently available for aggregating disparate pieces of data, it is reasonable to consider that personalized information collected online by advertisers, although potentially anonymous or anonymized, might eventually be linked to an individual. Thus, the OPC has taken the position, in its Guidelines, that the information involved in online tracking and targeting will generally constitute personal information for the purposes of the application of PIPEDA.

Consent — Fair and Transparent Practices

The Guidelines propose that the collection of user information, such as an individual's web browsing activity and the effecting of online behavioural advertising practices, must be fair, transparent and compliant with the privacy requirements set out in PIPEDA. Specifically, the OPC proposes that, in order to bring online behavioural practices in compliance with PIPEDA, advertisers should seek to obtain user consent to the collection of information. The OPC suggests that such consent may be obtained through the use of an opt-out mechanism, provided such mechanism is clear and understandable, performed at or before the time of collection, immediately effective and persistent, and easily accessible. By way of example, the OPC identified a variety of communication methods, such as online banners, layered approaches, and interactive tools.


Finally, the OPC considered the difficulty in ensuring meaningful consent from a child to online behavioural advertising practices. The OPC suggests in its Guidelines that, as a best practice, organizations should avoid tracking children's online activities and should not track users on websites aimed at children. The Guidelines do not specify who is considered a "child."

The OPC's Guidelines on Privacy and Online Behavioural Advertising may be viewed here.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

To print this article, all you need is to be registered on

Click to Login as an existing user or Register so you can print this article.

Similar Articles
Relevancy Powered by MondaqAI
In association with
Related Topics
Similar Articles
Relevancy Powered by MondaqAI
Related Articles
Related Video
Up-coming Events Search
Font Size:
Mondaq on Twitter
Register for Access and our Free Biweekly Alert for
This service is completely free. Access 250,000 archived articles from 100+ countries and get a personalised email twice a week covering developments (and yes, our lawyers like to think you’ve read our Disclaimer).
Email Address
Company Name
Confirm Password
Mondaq Topics -- Select your Interests
 Law Performance
 Law Practice
 Media & IT
 Real Estate
 Wealth Mgt
Asia Pacific
European Union
Latin America
Middle East
United States
Worldwide Updates
Registration (you must scroll down to set your data preferences)

Mondaq Ltd requires you to register and provide information that personally identifies you, including your content preferences, for three primary purposes (full details of Mondaq’s use of your personal data can be found in our Privacy and Cookies Notice):

  • To allow you to personalize the Mondaq websites you are visiting to show content ("Content") relevant to your interests.
  • To enable features such as password reminder, news alerts, email a colleague, and linking from Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to your website.
  • To produce demographic feedback for our content providers ("Contributors") who contribute Content for free for your use.

Mondaq hopes that our registered users will support us in maintaining our free to view business model by consenting to our use of your personal data as described below.

Mondaq has a "free to view" business model. Our services are paid for by Contributors in exchange for Mondaq providing them with access to information about who accesses their content. Once personal data is transferred to our Contributors they become a data controller of this personal data. They use it to measure the response that their articles are receiving, as a form of market research. They may also use it to provide Mondaq users with information about their products and services.

Details of each Contributor to which your personal data will be transferred is clearly stated within the Content that you access. For full details of how this Contributor will use your personal data, you should review the Contributor’s own Privacy Notice.

Please indicate your preference below:

Yes, I am happy to support Mondaq in maintaining its free to view business model by agreeing to allow Mondaq to share my personal data with Contributors whose Content I access
No, I do not want Mondaq to share my personal data with Contributors

Also please let us know whether you are happy to receive communications promoting products and services offered by Mondaq:

Yes, I am happy to received promotional communications from Mondaq
No, please do not send me promotional communications from Mondaq
Terms & Conditions (the Website) is owned and managed by Mondaq Ltd (Mondaq). Mondaq grants you a non-exclusive, revocable licence to access the Website and associated services, such as the Mondaq News Alerts (Services), subject to and in consideration of your compliance with the following terms and conditions of use (Terms). Your use of the Website and/or Services constitutes your agreement to the Terms. Mondaq may terminate your use of the Website and Services if you are in breach of these Terms or if Mondaq decides to terminate the licence granted hereunder for any reason whatsoever.

Use of

To Use you must be: eighteen (18) years old or over; legally capable of entering into binding contracts; and not in any way prohibited by the applicable law to enter into these Terms in the jurisdiction which you are currently located.

You may use the Website as an unregistered user, however, you are required to register as a user if you wish to read the full text of the Content or to receive the Services.

You may not modify, publish, transmit, transfer or sell, reproduce, create derivative works from, distribute, perform, link, display, or in any way exploit any of the Content, in whole or in part, except as expressly permitted in these Terms or with the prior written consent of Mondaq. You may not use electronic or other means to extract details or information from the Content. Nor shall you extract information about users or Contributors in order to offer them any services or products.

In your use of the Website and/or Services you shall: comply with all applicable laws, regulations, directives and legislations which apply to your Use of the Website and/or Services in whatever country you are physically located including without limitation any and all consumer law, export control laws and regulations; provide to us true, correct and accurate information and promptly inform us in the event that any information that you have provided to us changes or becomes inaccurate; notify Mondaq immediately of any circumstances where you have reason to believe that any Intellectual Property Rights or any other rights of any third party may have been infringed; co-operate with reasonable security or other checks or requests for information made by Mondaq from time to time; and at all times be fully liable for the breach of any of these Terms by a third party using your login details to access the Website and/or Services

however, you shall not: do anything likely to impair, interfere with or damage or cause harm or distress to any persons, or the network; do anything that will infringe any Intellectual Property Rights or other rights of Mondaq or any third party; or use the Website, Services and/or Content otherwise than in accordance with these Terms; use any trade marks or service marks of Mondaq or the Contributors, or do anything which may be seen to take unfair advantage of the reputation and goodwill of Mondaq or the Contributors, or the Website, Services and/or Content.

Mondaq reserves the right, in its sole discretion, to take any action that it deems necessary and appropriate in the event it considers that there is a breach or threatened breach of the Terms.

Mondaq’s Rights and Obligations

Unless otherwise expressly set out to the contrary, nothing in these Terms shall serve to transfer from Mondaq to you, any Intellectual Property Rights owned by and/or licensed to Mondaq and all rights, title and interest in and to such Intellectual Property Rights will remain exclusively with Mondaq and/or its licensors.

Mondaq shall use its reasonable endeavours to make the Website and Services available to you at all times, but we cannot guarantee an uninterrupted and fault free service.

Mondaq reserves the right to make changes to the services and/or the Website or part thereof, from time to time, and we may add, remove, modify and/or vary any elements of features and functionalities of the Website or the services.

Mondaq also reserves the right from time to time to monitor your Use of the Website and/or services.


The Content is general information only. It is not intended to constitute legal advice or seek to be the complete and comprehensive statement of the law, nor is it intended to address your specific requirements or provide advice on which reliance should be placed. Mondaq and/or its Contributors and other suppliers make no representations about the suitability of the information contained in the Content for any purpose. All Content provided "as is" without warranty of any kind. Mondaq and/or its Contributors and other suppliers hereby exclude and disclaim all representations, warranties or guarantees with regard to the Content, including all implied warranties and conditions of merchantability, fitness for a particular purpose, title and non-infringement. To the maximum extent permitted by law, Mondaq expressly excludes all representations, warranties, obligations, and liabilities arising out of or in connection with all Content. In no event shall Mondaq and/or its respective suppliers be liable for any special, indirect or consequential damages or any damages whatsoever resulting from loss of use, data or profits, whether in an action of contract, negligence or other tortious action, arising out of or in connection with the use of the Content or performance of Mondaq’s Services.


Mondaq may alter or amend these Terms by amending them on the Website. By continuing to Use the Services and/or the Website after such amendment, you will be deemed to have accepted any amendment to these Terms.

These Terms shall be governed by and construed in accordance with the laws of England and Wales and you irrevocably submit to the exclusive jurisdiction of the courts of England and Wales to settle any dispute which may arise out of or in connection with these Terms. If you live outside the United Kingdom, English law shall apply only to the extent that English law shall not deprive you of any legal protection accorded in accordance with the law of the place where you are habitually resident ("Local Law"). In the event English law deprives you of any legal protection which is accorded to you under Local Law, then these terms shall be governed by Local Law and any dispute or claim arising out of or in connection with these Terms shall be subject to the non-exclusive jurisdiction of the courts where you are habitually resident.

You may print and keep a copy of these Terms, which form the entire agreement between you and Mondaq and supersede any other communications or advertising in respect of the Service and/or the Website.

No delay in exercising or non-exercise by you and/or Mondaq of any of its rights under or in connection with these Terms shall operate as a waiver or release of each of your or Mondaq’s right. Rather, any such waiver or release must be specifically granted in writing signed by the party granting it.

If any part of these Terms is held unenforceable, that part shall be enforced to the maximum extent permissible so as to give effect to the intent of the parties, and the Terms shall continue in full force and effect.

Mondaq shall not incur any liability to you on account of any loss or damage resulting from any delay or failure to perform all or any part of these Terms if such delay or failure is caused, in whole or in part, by events, occurrences, or causes beyond the control of Mondaq. Such events, occurrences or causes will include, without limitation, acts of God, strikes, lockouts, server and network failure, riots, acts of war, earthquakes, fire and explosions.

By clicking Register you state you have read and agree to our Terms and Conditions