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Privacy Commissioner launches public consultations on privacy implications of cloud computing

Consultation process, including June discussion forum in Calgary, to shed light on privacy issues raised by emerging technologies

OTTAWA, February 11, 2010 — The Privacy Commissioner of Canada announced today upcoming consultations with Canadians on privacy issues related to cloud computing practices.

“Businesses and individual Canadians are increasingly likely to make use of cloud computing technologies,” said Privacy Commissioner Jennifer Stoddart. “And yet, they are often unaware that their activities could be affecting their own privacy. Our goal is to learn more about these issues, so that Canadians, in turn, can also become better informed.”

This is the second public consultation aimed at exploring technological trends that are likely to affect the privacy of Canadians. Last month the Commissioner announced that a similar process will focus on the online tracking, profiling and targeting of consumers by marketers and other businesses.

Cloud computing typically refers to the provision of web-based services using hardware and software managed by third parties. The services, including online file storage, social networking sites, webmail and online business applications, are generally located on remote computers. They are available over network connections, regardless of the user’s own location.

Proponents of cloud computing say it gives business and private users free or low-cost access to powerful computer resources, without having to purchase these resources themselves.

Critics, however, warn about potential privacy risks. Users, for instance, could lose control over their personal information stored in a cloud, including where it may be stored, who has access to it, and how it may be used, retained or disclosed. Data, moreover, may be stored on computers located in different countries, where it is subject to local laws.

The consultation will give the Office a comprehensive understanding of the privacy issues raised by cloud computing technology and will contribute to the development of new public education and outreach materials. It will also help shape the Office’s input into the next parliamentary review of the Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act (PIPEDA).

The consultation process begins today with a call for participation by interested parties. The Office is inviting written submissions of up to 15 pages in length, which will be accepted until April 15. The Office is also seeking expressions of interest from individuals wanting to take part in a formal discussion panel, to be held in Calgary in June. The intent is to canvass a broad range of views from business, government, academics, consumer associations and civil society.

Consultations on the privacy issues raised by the tracking, profiling and targeting of consumers by marketers and other businesses were announced January 18 and will take place in Toronto in April and Montreal in May.

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:

Anne-Marie Hayden
Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada
Tel: (613) 995-0103

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