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Evolving technologies creating new privacy risks for youth: annual report

The Privacy Commissioner’s 2011 annual report on private-sector privacy issues, tabled in Parliament today, examines some of the concerns facing what some have called the “Internet generation.” At the same time, the Commissioner is launching a new graphic novel to help youth better understand and navigate the privacy risks of the online world.

OTTAWA, June 5, 2012 –Young Canadians are facing a host of privacy risks that previous generations never had to worry about – from “nanny cams” to cell phone monitoring to a permanent trail of their online communications, says the Privacy Commissioner of Canada.

Youth privacy issues have emerged as a significant concern and are highlighted in the Commissioner’s 2011 Annual Report to Parliament on the Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act (PIPEDA), Canada’s federal private-sector privacy law. The report was tabled in Parliament today.

“While the young show agility in using any new kind of digital communication, and recognize the importance of protecting their privacy, they are also often unsuspecting about the potential privacy intrusions that can accompany novel technologies,” says Commissioner Jennifer Stoddart.

“All of that online communication creates a permanent record – and that could carry risks to their privacy and to their reputations. Not just today, but perhaps even more in the future.”

The Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada (OPC) has made youth issues a major focus of its outreach and public education initiatives. The OPC has developed a number of education materials, including presentation packages for school and community use, a teen-oriented video and a tip sheet for parents.

Graphic Novel

Today, the Privacy Commissioner is also launching another important tool – a graphic novel called Social Smarts: Privacy, the Internet and You, which will help younger Canadians to understand and navigate privacy issues in the online world.

“This graphic novel – a first for our Office – was developed with feedback from youth. We hope it will help young people to understand the risks to privacy when it comes to social networking, gaming and texting,” says Commissioner Stoddart.

The new graphic novel can be downloaded from the OPC’s youth website.

Investigations

The annual report also describes an OPC investigation into a complaint about a daycare’s use of webcam monitoring. A parent objected to the fact that the webcam feed was being recorded and felt that appropriate privacy safeguards were not in place.

During the investigation, the daycare centre agreed to take steps to add privacy safeguards. The centre also deleted its saved video files and modified its systems to no longer record the video stream. It implemented a privacy policy requiring all parents to sign a form consenting to the webcam monitoring and required parents using the webcam service to sign a contract agreeing to not record the webcam feed and to keep confidential their password allowing access to the video. As such, the OPC concluded that the complaint was resolved.

The annual report also details findings related to investigations of three complaints against Facebook, as well as a wide-ranging complaint against a youth-oriented social networking site, Nexopia. The investigation results were announced earlier this year.

The OPC accepted 281 formal complaints under PIPEDA in 2011, a 35 percent increase from the previous year.

About the OPC

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 organizations engaged in 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 (media only), please contact:

Valerie Lawton
Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada
E-mail: Valerie.Lawton@priv.gc.ca

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