It is the season of annual reports (on Tuesday, the Ontario
Information and Privacy Commissioner released her report). On Wednesday, the Privacy
Commissioner of Canada released her Annual Report to Parliament, as well as a graphic novel for youth, and five new decisions
on formal complaints. More on the formal complaints in future
The theme of the Office of the Privacy Commissioner (OPC) was
youth issues. In her message, the Commissioner stated:
Teenagers are expected to make mistakes – it's
a natural part of growing up.
The fact that electronic records of many of the mistakes of
today's youth will persist for decades to come is cause for
Indeed, a host of perils threaten the privacy and personal
information of children and youth – one of the reasons
that we have made them a key focus of this report.
Not only are the young usually the first to embrace any new
kind of digital communication, they are also often unsuspecting
about the potential privacy intrusions that can accompany such
Other highlights of the report are:
Breakdown of Complaints. As in the previous
three years, the leading complaints to the OPC involve allegations
of inappropriate use or disclosure of personal information. This
category comprised 32% of complaints. Consistent with prior years,
complaints about gaining access were the next largest category at
26%. This is an area that is completely avoidable with appropriate
procedures to inform individuals of their rights and quickly
identify when someone is making an access request.
Mandatory Breach Notification. The OPC called
pending, proposed data breach notification amendments to the
Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents
Act (PIPEDA) out of date (before even being passed). I
discussed these amendments previously here. The OPC is calling for strengthened
enforcement options. The OPC did not comment on how this can be
reconciled with the ombudsman model of the OPC or whether this
could lead to judicial challenges of OPC decisions, thereby taxing
the OPC's resources.
Youth Social Networking. The OPC discussed the
major findings in the investigation into a youth social networking
site, which I previously posted about here, and discussed the importance of youth
outreach. The OPC continued the sustained attempts of privacy
commissioners across Canada to debunk the myth that youth do not
care about privacy (their understanding of privacy issues might be
different but they care about data use).
Surveillance and Options. The OPC discussed an
investigation into a childcare program, which allowed parents to
watch the children in the program via a webcam. The OPC expressed
concern regarding the indiscriminate surveillance of children and
the potential effects (although poorly researched) that it may have
on children's development. Importantly, even though the OPC had
reservations regarding the appropriateness of the webcam, the fact
that the complainant had options to find spaces at other local
daycares meant that the use of the webcam was not without consent
(once the organization improved its security practices and manner
of obtaining consent).
Digital Literacy. The OPC continued lamented
that Canada does not have a digital literacy strategy, unlike other
countries. The OPC is doing its part with youth outreach and the
new graphic novel. Although, you gotta feel sorry for the poor
phone; for all his teaching effort, he gets powered-off!
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