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Playing your part in protecting privacy

Commissioner’s Privacy Awareness Week message to Canadians

We hear it all the time: if the service is free, you are the product. This is true with legacy media such as television and radio, which attract and charge advertisers based on their ratings, but is especially the case in the digital economy.

In the digital age, the world is at our fingertips, and the price of that convenience is often the sharing of personal information. But what are the risks of that tradeoff, and are people aware of them before they make the choice to share?

The theme of this year’s Privacy Awareness Week is Back to Basics: Privacy Foundations. And in Canada, you have a fundamental right to privacy. That is because personal information is a core part of who we are as individuals, and respecting privacy rights is essential to our dignity and to the enjoyment of other fundamental freedoms.

The Privacy Act and the Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act lay out rules that government institutions and private-sector organizations dealing with individuals’ personal information must follow in order to protect their privacy.

Organizations must be accountable for the ways that they collect, use, and disclose information, especially when dealing with those who are more vulnerable.

Customers are not solely responsible for the protection of their privacy but there are actions that individuals can take to protect themselves. A good starting point is our Guide for Individuals: Protecting Your Privacy, which provides an overview of federal privacy laws.

I encourage individuals to develop the reflex to ask questions when organizations ask for your personal information. If you feel you are being nudged or encouraged to provide more information than is strictly necessary for your transaction (for example, a business needs to know your address to send you a package, but does not need to know your age), ask why they want to know and what they will do with the information. The business should be able to answer those questions to your satisfaction.

If you do not feel that an organization is properly handling your information, speak up! Businesses are far more likely to pay attention to an issue when their customers are raising concerns. See our tips for how to raise your concern with an organization.

Please visit the OPC’s website, which has a wealth of useful information about your privacy rights.

Privacy is a fundamental right and it takes all of us working together – leaders, regulators, consumers, and citizens – to make sure that this right is respected and valued, to create a world where we can benefit from the convenience that technology affords without having to look over our shoulders while we do so.

Philippe Dufresne, Privacy Commissioner of Canada

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