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When sharing personal information, less is more, Privacy Commissioner of Canada says

Countdown to Data Privacy Day activities raise awareness about online threats to privacy and highlight the importance of limiting personal information sharing

Ottawa, January 23, 2012 – “Less is more” when sharing personal information online says Canada’s Privacy Commissioner Jennifer Stoddart.

The Commissioner is delivering this message as part of her Office’s countdown to Data Privacy Day, which is marked annually by organizations around the world on January 28.

“We are living in a digital age, where our online activities can easily be tracked, stored, shared and analyzed, and we are under constant pressure to share more personal information,” notes the Commissioner. “But given the power and complexity of today’s technologies, we should all be thinking less is more when it comes to sharing personal information on the Internet.”

Canadians are the world’s biggest Internet users, logging an average of 43.5 hours of online browsing per month, almost twice the global average, according to a recent global ComScore report on Internet use and online trends. However, many do not fully understand the implications this has for their privacy. Once their personal information is on the Internet, they have very little control over who sees it, how it is used, or how long it will be available. “By sharing less personal information, we can help limit our exposure and the risks of our personal information being misused, abused or disclosed without consent.”

So, whether we are social networking, using an app on a mobile device, or signing up for discounts and deals, we need to think carefully about the personal information we are putting into cyberspace.

“Less is more” is also good advice for businesses and organizations that collect personal information notes Commissioner Stoddart. “Collecting and holding excess data raises the risks for your customers, but it is also costly for your business,” she warns. “It increases your risk of data breaches—which can be damaging to your reputation and expensive to clean up.”

This week, the Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada joins governments, privacy professionals, corporations, academics and students from around the world, in marking Data Privacy Day, an annual international celebration designed to promote awareness about privacy and education about best privacy practices.

In support of Data Privacy Day, the Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada will be engaging in a number of activities in the week to leading up to January 28, such as the launch of some new youth privacy tools, and presentations to youth, public servants, businesses and staff. The Office has also produced some new resources, such as posters and graphics which can be used to raise awareness of privacy in any organization. For more information on the Office’s Data Privacy Day activities and resources, go to www.priv.gc.ca.

The Privacy Commissioner of Canada is mandated by Parliament to act as an ombudsman and guardian of privacy in Canada. The Commissioner enforces two federal laws for the protection of personal information: the Privacy Act, which applies to the federal public sector; and the Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act (PIPEDA), which applies to commercial activities in the Atlantic provinces, Ontario, Manitoba, Saskatchewan and the Territories. Quebec, Alberta and British Columbia each has its own law covering the private sector. Even in these provinces, PIPEDA continues to apply to the federally regulated private sector and to personal information in interprovincial and international transactions.

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For more information and/or media interview requests, please contact:

Anne-Marie Hayden
Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada
E-mail: Anne-Marie.Hayden@priv.gc.ca

NOTE: Journalists are asked to please send requests for interviews or further information via e-mail.