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Effects of Informal Online Regulatory Regimes on Privacy


Brock University



Project Leader(s)

Natasha Tusikov, Adjunct Professor, Department of Sociology


Internet intermediaries – notably Google, PayPal, and eBay – that facilitate the hosting of information and transactions among users have become key actors in online anti-counterfeiting efforts. These intermediaries are valuable regulators not only because of their global platforms and specialized services, but also because of their capacity to set and enforce rules over users through contractual terms-of-use agreements. Further, some intermediaries, namely marketplaces, collect significant amounts of personal data on their users to facilitate their business. Marketplaces use this data to identify users selling counterfeit goods on their platforms. They also disclose the data to third parties that act on behalf of rights holders of intellectual property concerned about counterfeit products.

The researchers examined the potential effects on Canadians’ privacy of informal online regulatory regimes that are undertaken by globally operating Internet firms. In particular, the researchers explored how intermediaries may disclose their users’ personal data to third parties in relation to online anti-counterfeiting efforts and the potential effects on Canadians’ privacy. The paper speaks to two of the Office of the Privacy Commissioner’s priorities, namely businesses’ collecting, using and disclosing information and companies’ codes of practice relating to privacy.

In addition to examining intermediaries’ terms-of-use contracts and the nonbinding agreements, the researchers conducted 18 interviews with intermediaries, technology-related trade associations, intellectual property-related trade associations, privacy-focused civil-society organizations, and lawyers/scholars focusing on privacy and Internet law. Further, the researchers drew upon 20 previously unpublished interviews, conducted between 2012 and 2013 with brand-protection companies, intellectual property-related trade associations, and lawyers specializing in intellectual property rights protection. Finally, recommendations were made to strengthen privacy and transparency in regards to the non-legally binding enforcement agreements and, in doing so, develop a space for public participation.

Project deliverables are available in the following language(s):


OPC Funded Project

This project received funding support through the Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada’s Contributions Program. The opinions expressed in the summary and report(s) are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect those of the Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada. Summaries have been provided by the project authors. Please note that the projects appear in their language of origin.

Contact Information

Dr. Natasha Tusikov Assistant Professor, Department of Sociology
STH-407A, Brock University
1912 Sir Isaac Brock Way
St. Catharines, Ontario

Telephone: 905-699-5550, ext. 4762

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