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To provide a backdrop to the priority setting exercise, we proposed six potential privacy themes based on an
environmental scan of the OPC’s current and past work, media reports and academic literature. We draftedbackground papers t
o describe the themes and attempt to capture the issues that, in our opinion, significantly
affected Canadians’ privacy. The proposed themes and short summaries were as follows:
Economics of Personal Information
Online, there are innumerable services that we can access for “free” (e.g., email, search engines, and
social media sites). The unstated business models underlying these transactions are premised on
users trading their personal information (i.e. usage, contacts, interests, surfing experience etc.) for
benefits or access to services. In essence, personal information has become a commodity—and
finding ways to profit from our information has become big business. But what happens when
privacy-protective alternatives become less readily available, either at exorbitant prices or get
pushed out of the market altogether?
Government Services and Surveillance
Government is adopting new technologies and increasing information sharing between different
departments, levels of governments and in some cases private-sector organizations, in a bid to
improve programs and modernize service delivery to Canadians, while those same technologies are
used to conduct more surveillance for program integrity, public safety and national security
purposes. But at what point does enough, become enough, from a privacy perspective?
Protecting Canadians in a Borderless World
In a globally networked and integrated economy, personal information and data can move quickly
and effortlessly around the globe, including in countries that have weak privacy protections or none
at all, potentially compromising the privacy of Canadians abroad. How can we effectively protect
personal data flows in a virtual world that knows no checks or borders?
Reputation and Privacy
The Internet has had a profound impact on personal reputation management. We ourselves create
our online reputation by posting social media profiles, photos, online comments, etc. Our digital
trails can also paint a picture of us, sometimes unbeknownst to ourselves, and others can shape our
reputation as well. Once personal information makes its way online in one context, it can be
extremely challenging to remove it or keep it from being used in different contexts. Though we grow
and change over time, unfortunately the personal information we post online does not.
The Body as Information
The information generated by our bodies is uniquely personal, and as such it can be highly sensitive.
As more and more information about our bodies is collected and digitized through wearable
computing devices and connected with other online and offline information about us, the impacts on
privacy can be profoundly game-changing. While we may seek out this information for our own
medical or recreational purposes, what are the implications for our future insurability or