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De-identification and anonymization are central to any privacy debate and more research and

guidance are needed to provide clarity on preferred solutions.

Cybersecurity is a top preoccupation for organizations, governments and individuals.

Economics of personal information

“All companies are becoming information brokers. A phone company is no longer

just a phone company.”


“I’m OK with profit but tell me what’s happening with my information.”

-Focus group participant

“Most Canadians feel that it is at least somewhat likely that their privacy may be

breached by someone using their credit/debit card (78%), stealing their identity

(78%), or accessing the personal information stored on their computer or mobile

device (74%).”


2014 Survey of Canadians on Privacy

This proposed theme, along with “Government Services and Surveillance,” provoked the liveliest discussions

both at the focus groups and stakeholder meetings.

Focus group participants expressed concern about not having enough control over their online information.

They felt uninformed about what their personal information was being used for and by whom and felt privacy

policies were generally incomprehensible. They were aware that free online services are offered in exchange

for personal information, and that companies use the personal information they collect to offer personalized

content such as customized marketing. Some were accepting of this practice while others felt that it should be

possible to go online without having personal information collected and sold. Identity theft was

overwhelmingly seen as the biggest threat of online activity.

Much of the stakeholder discussions focused on the value of personal information and the dynamics of the

exchange individuals make when they share their personal information with organizations to obtain a product

or service. Some felt that the power relationship between individuals and organizations was skewed in favour

of industry, and since online engagement is becoming less of a choice for individuals, more regulation is

needed over this commercial sphere. Others emphasized the benefits of the online business model to

individuals and society such as access to free and innovative services, convenience, economic growth, fraud

prevention, and economies of scale.

The efficacy and suitability of PIPEDA’s consent model was questioned in the context of big data, the Internet

of Things, and the mobile environment. We heard near consensus that consent is not working in large part

because insufficient information is provided to allow individuals to exert control and provide meaningful

consent. Some felt that even if individuals were given more information, other measures, such as greater

accountability and more robust governance processes, may be required in order for individuals to have

greater control over their personal information. However, others were of the view that the consent model

provides individuals with the right tools to exercise control, provided PIPEDA is used to its fullest in both spirit

and intent.