Privacy Commissioner of Canada’s Annual Report & More!


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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 posts.

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 deep concern.

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 novel technologies.

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data breach notification amendments to the Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act (PIPEDA) out of date (before even being passed).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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