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Have Yourself a Little Privacy this Holiday, says Privacy Commissioner of Canada

With the growing popularity of interconnected toys and gadgets, Canadians need to be smart about protecting their personal information, says Canada’s privacy guardian.

OTTAWA, December 18, 2009 — As Canadians of all ages receive gifts this holiday season that will enable them to connect with each other and go online, they need to be smart about protecting their personal information, says Canada’s Privacy Commissioner, Jennifer Stoddart.

Companies are encouraging young users to become more involved in their toys and gameplay. Where this used to mean special membership cards and fan magazines, today young Canadians are being encouraged to visit dedicated product sites, sign up for mobile applications and even join social networks with other fans.

“Not long ago, a phone was just a phone and a stuffed toy was something to cuddle with. Now many mobile devices are telephones, computers and cameras, all in one. And many stuffed animals come with codes that allow kids to register them online, so that they can play games, feed and care for them, and even chat and play with other kids,” says Ms. Stoddart. “And while such toys and gadgets can be fun, we want people to enjoy them without putting their privacy and personal information at risk.”

The issue is more important than ever with the growing prevalence of instant messaging, social networking and the uploading of content such as photos and videos.

Ms. Stoddart’s Office has come up with tips to help Canadians enjoy their new toys, while also protecting their personal information.

Protecting your privacy as you enjoy your new gadgets and toys. For parents, specifically:

Understand new toys and their capabilities – It is important to understand the capabilities of new toys and how your children will use them. Speak with your children about how they will use the toy and, where appropriate, agree on guidelines and limits.

Pay attention to privacy settings and parental controls – Privacy settings on social networking sites control what people see about you. Only allow friends to see your page, your posts, your photos and your applications. Parents, if you depend on parental control software that is installed on your desktop, remember that, those controls won’t be in place on new mobile devices.

Remember, with Wi-Fi, children can access the Internet from anywhere in the house – And if their new toy/gadget has wifi capabilities they can also use it to access the Internet from locations and networks outside your supervision and control.

Protecting your privacy as you enjoy your new gadgets and toys. For everyone:

Think before you click –The Internet is a public arena, and photos and comments you post are permanent. Even if you delete them from a web page, they could continue to exist in archived pages, in your computer’s cache or on the computers of other Internet users who may have copied them. If you don’t want certain people to see something, now or in future, don’t post it!

Pick and protect the perfect password – Your information is only as safe as your passwords. Use different passwords for different systems; make sure they are strong (eight characters or more and a variety of letters and numbers); never share them with anybody, and change them regularly.

Know your friends – Online, you can’t be 100 percent sure to whom you’re talking. Don’t accept friend requests from people you don’t know in real life.

Protect your identity – Fraud and identity theft is a growing problem and the Internet is the least private of spaces. Don’t post or e-mail personal details such as your social insurance number, phone number, home address or birth date.

Be wary of e-mail or instant messages from unknown people – Don’t open online messages that seem odd or are from someone you don’t know. They could contain a virus or let a hacker gain access to your computer.

For more information visit and

The Privacy Commissioner of Canada is mandated by Parliament to act as an ombudsman, advocate and guardian of privacy and the protection of personal information rights of Canadians.

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For more information, contact:

Colin McKay
Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada
Tel: (613) 947-7226

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