New technologies, old questions – Canada’s efforts on privacy protection

Posted on May 8, 2011 by


The Privacy Commissioner of Canada recently published a report called Report on the 2010 Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada’s Consultations on Online Tracking, Profiling and Targeting, and Cloud Computing.

There are two laws in Canada dealing with privacy protection: The Privacy Act and PIPEDA, the Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act.

While the Privacy Act applies to the personal information handling practices of federal government departments and agencies, PIPEDA is Canada’s private sector privacy law. PIPEDA applies to organizations that collect, use and disclose personal information in the course of commercial activities.

PIPEDA in particular reads like one of the many child of the mother of all Guidelines of privacy codes, the OECD’s 1980’s Guidelines for Governing the Protection of Privacy and Transborder Flows of Personal Data and its fundamental fair information practices: accountability, identifying purposes, consent, limiting collection, limiting use, disclosure and retention, accuracy, safeguards, openess and individual access.

Having read this and also frequently reading European, in particularly German, papers on the matter, it is refreshing that the Canadian report has incorporated a nice idea to make it more transparent and understandable to the minority of readers that are not lawyers: “Louise and David’s World” – a real life internet activity scenario, a stage set up, of two (imaginary) Canadians, Louise and David, doing  all those things a 21-year-old college student and her younger brother are indeed very likely doing.

From the report: ..” Louise and David are typical Canadians. They are among the millions who connect to the Internet every day to shop, talk to others, play games, or, like Louise, conduct business. They see the advantages of life online, and as younger Canadians, Louise and David have integrated the virtual world into their real-world experiences. They do not remember a time of paper files, typewriters, fold-up maps or lining up to buy movie tickets. They live an on-demand life, with instant access to all sorts of information—what their friends are up to, where they can find the best deals, and who their favourite rock star is dating. They run their social lives online; they upload their photographs, videos and opinions; and they feel part of a community that spans the globe. If they are old enough, they pay bills, apply for credit, or run businesses. Music, videos, films, books, clothes, newspapers, games are a click away. And access to much of this is free, at least in the monetary sense.”

That is an intellgent approach in order to prepare the stage for a report on consultations on Online Tracking, Profiling and Targeting, and Cloud Computing, simply because it is a real-life approach.

Posted in: Observation