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Increasingly, we are putting our personal information online in order to gain access to the benefits of Web 2.0: We list and rank our favourite books on vendor sites, and in return we get recommendations for books we might never have heard of otherwise. We indicate which high school we attended on our Facebook profiles, and in return we reconnect with long-lost friends.

But after we hand over that information, is it still ours? Can we change it, take it back, move it somewhere else?

Alec Saunders has drafted a Privacy Manifesto for the Web 2.0 Era that spells out four fundamental principles:

“Every customer has the right to know what private information is being collected….
Every customer has the right to know the purpose for which data is being collected, in advance….
Each customer owns his or her own information….
Customers have a right to expect that those collecting their personal information will store it securely.”

Imagine if we all took these principles to heart whenever we’re online – wouldn’t companies need to respond?

At present, while most businesses have usually been criticized for their disregard when it comes to their customers’ information, some companies are responding to customers’ desire for more control over their personal information. In fact, these companies are recognizing that handing control of personal information back to the customer could benefit the company as well.

Data portability, the idea that you can take your data from websites you currently use and transfer it seamlessly to another website, is gaining ground. The DataPortability Workgroup announced today that Google and Facebook, two companies which hold a remarkable amount of consumer data, have just signed on.

For the data portability movement, the participation of Google and Facebook means the idea has legs. Not surprisingly, we at the Office of the Privacy Commissioner are interested to see where it goes from here.

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